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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.

35 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.

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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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  16. Trae Murphy said:

    Sad truth is, few only know this. Some of them think they’re entitled to your time. When in reality, they really aren’t. Except if they paid you to hire your services or there’s a contract involved. Other than those reasons, they shouldn’t be demanding for your time. Don’t stress yourself too much, Bob. Here, these articles about work-life balance might help you. 🙂

    Best of luck to your career!

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