Concision needs context and compassion


We are constantly pushed to do more, in less time, with fewer resources.

The world is always on. Always pinging us with notifications, alerts and reminders from our bottomless lists and inboxes.

And we respond to this world with a series of short, jerky, reflexive reactions. We’re playing whack-a-mole, but instead of a hammer, we have email, slack and whatsapp.

But the pace of the game has made our messages pointed and brutal. They’re forged from the cold steel of efficiency and function.

It’s not uncommon to receive an email such as:


This is unacceptable. Just get them to do it.


or simply:


but probably most likely:


Sent from my iPhone.

We’ve adopted concision as our weapon of choice, but we’ve abandoned the two ingredient which make it effective: context and compassion.

Our short messages need context, because otherwise they are open to misinterpretation.

Whether tonally, syntactically or thematically – a reduced word count makes it tough to understand meaning and nuance. This is especially true of sarcasm which, by its very nature can be almost impossible to correctly discern.

Anyone on the receiving end of


(no punctuation, caps or context) will know what I’m talking about.

Thankfully, most of our common tools try to preserve as much context as possible by presenting our back-and-forth in a stream we can see.

The second requirement is compassion. Most people are happy to have the facts pretty straight, but they shouldn’t arrive as if fired from an AK-47.

We need to understand the impact of what we’re saying and then use enough of the right words to convey that understanding.

We always can use fewer words – but we’re potentially making our message both harder to understand and less impactful.

And if we’re being less effective with this shortened communication, then our concision is a false economy.

If being short means we’re incurring a debt of misunderstanding which we’re going to have to pay later, we should just take a little more time in the first place.