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The virtue of being concise

June 19th, 2013 by Bob Bly

Subscriber SM isn’t happy with me.

A week or so ago, he e-mailed and asked me a yes/no question
about his career.

I immediately e-mailed him the answer, which was one word: “Yes.”

I was proud of getting to the point so succinctly. But my answer
made SM unhappy. He wrote:

“Thank you for your one-word reply. It is obvious to me now that
I have to spend $$$$ with you to be a friend.

“I must tell you I have spent Aussie dollars on two of your
books The Copywriters Handbook and How to Write and Sell Simple
Information. Obviously an e-mail with a few words of hope or
incouragement [sic] must be too much.”

As a professional writer for 34 years, I feel compelled to point
out to SM that being concise in writing is a virtue. Its main
benefit is an important one: it saves the reader time.

I like to think I have mastered the art of concise writing, and
I have to tell you that many of my subscribers who e-mail me
have not.

They send long, convoluted e-mails in which they have buried a
point or question somewhere, then expect me to do the work to
dig it out.

Since I am incredibly busy, I won’t. My usual reply is: “Can you
ask me your question in fewer words, please?”

I think what bothered SM was that I wasn’t more chatty and
leisurely in my e-mail to him.

He also thinks his having bought a couple of my books (on which
I earned a total of about $2 in royalties) obligates me to spend
a certain minimum amount of time with him. Obviously he feels I
did not take enough time in answering his question.

What he does not understand is that I get a large number of
questions and requests by e-mail daily.

I do answer every one, which is something that, as far as I can
see, most of my peers do not do. And I answer them as soon as I
get them.

But to answer them all, I necessarily have to keep my responses

Otherwise, I would be spending the whole day answering queries,
for which I am not paid, and would have no time to write copy
for my clients, for which I am paid.

I am generally cordial to my readers (unless they are rude to
me) and I have warm feelings toward them – and I want them to

So I gladly answer short questions without charge … just as I
would do for any friend.

But I do not believe I am required to be your unpaid mentor or
coach. Do you?

And since I don’t offer paid coaching or mentoring, you will
have to look elsewhere for a private teacher.

I am often asked, “Many of your colleagues offer paid coaching
programs and make good money from it. Why don’t you?”

The reason is simple: I don’t enjoy coaching. And that’s it.

If someone needs advice or instruction, they can either read my
books – or if that’s not enough, I will happily recommend a
coach to them – someone I know and trust.

I don’t know about you, but the whole reason I am self-employed
is so I can do the things I like to do – which is write – and
avoid things I don’t like to do.

Isn’t that what you desire, too?



This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 at 1:33 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 responses about “The virtue of being concise”

  1. Jen @ Daycare In Demand said:

    I am impressed, Bob, that you take the time to respond to everyone – particularly given the value of your time. (As you say, I don’t think too many people do this.) Shame on that reader for expecting even more from you!

  2. Jim Logan said:

    And you took 569 words to explain how you’re concise???

    Sorry, I just found that funny.

    Full disclosure: I own four of your books and love them all. In the past seven years, I’ve exchanged a couple emails with you and had one brief call…more than I could have hoped for and all greatly appreciated.


  3. Bob Bly said:

    Jim: it took that many words not to explain how I am concise but to persuade the reader why HE should be concise also.

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    I like the way you write it.

  9. Charlene R. Smith said:

    I too got that kind of email few days back. In that there are few question but they not yes/no questions. Their some writing questions in it and the address on it shows some essay blog address. I searched in internet and found that it is essay writing service blog and they are doing survey on students.

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  13. Anna John said:

    This article is very meaningful. It’s so sad that some of the writers face problems like this. I liked the way you handled it. You did it very cleverly. Good job. I hope that it will not happen to you again.

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