Inbox Zero is a great, wonderful goal, where you have no emails sitting in your mailbox. It is also fairly unrealistic for an entrepreneur. How often do you have every deal, relationship and invoice wrapped up like so many loose threads tied into a neat bow? I have personally never seen that day. 

Clearing our inbox may be a Sisyphean affair, but we're ignoring another part of the problem: The length of the messages we get. The longer the email, the longer it often takes to get to the actual action item. And as much as fellow communication specialists decry the shortening of our language in texts, emojis, and, well, Slack, we still manage to write emails the length of newspaper articles. Can't we just get to the point? Evidently not. 

Fast Company's Liz Funk recently ran a good (and short!) piece on the rules to briefer stronger emails. It's worth reading in whole, but I particularly like her best rule:

2. Never send an email that's more than five sentences long

That's right. How much more effective would your messaging be if you got straight to the point? It's not a matter of being curt or brisk, but circumventing all the unnecessary fluff that goes into your email discussions. 

Sticking to five sentences means you can't acquiesce when it comes to an "ask", nor can you hide in "maybes" when you actually mean "no". Instead, you are forced to be clear, succinct and respectful of everyone's time - including your own.  

All of Funk's top 3 rules are worth considering, too:

1. Take the number of words you think your email should be, cut that number in half, and that's what your word count should be

2. Never send an email that's more than five sentences long

3. Put the most important information first.

I'd add a few more rules myself:

4. Consider email part of a bigger conversation, not the whole conversation, so it isn't necessary to put every single detail in one note

5. Assume the reader does not have much time to pore over your email

6. If an email is becoming abnormally lengthy, then perhaps email is not the right medium

Most of all, I appreciate Funk's the simple summary of why you should care:

For solopreneurs, freelancers, and sales professionals who make their living pitching, having a perfectly crafted, short email introduction can drastically increase your success rate. For those making an ask via email, a message that is brief and adds value is more likely to receive a response. For everyone else, sending shorter emails doesn't always take less time, but it does stack the odds in your favor for whatever you aim to accomplish.

Isn't that enough to take the five-sentence challenge? I know it is for me.

Published on: May 10, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.