(Originally published November 2017)

Do you wish writing didn’t take you so long? Or that you could dash off an email without having to think so hard about it, and labor over it? We spend so much time on business email writing, it’s no surprise it’s a pain point.

And if it is a pain point for you, kudos to you for caring! Far too many emails are dashed off with little thought for how well they’re communicating what’s intended. Sadly, that leads to even more time spent writing and reading as we’re trying to understand each other, so back and forth we go. If you want to write faster, that probably means you’re taking some time with your emails. Thank you!

Still, if you can write faster, you can deal with all that email in less time so you can focus on higher priority tasks while at work. And learning to write faster might help you stay sane at work…

How writing faster can keep you sane

The amount of time employees spend on email alone is staggering, if you start taking a look at research (of which there is plenty). For example, I just read an article saying we’re spending one-third of our time at the office reading and responding to emails: one third! That same article says 30% of the time, the emails aren’t urgent, but we’re working in a workplace culture that demands immediate replies and therefore causes anxiety, making us feel like we have to answer right now or else. Dealing with all that email traffic also takes a toll on productivity because we can’t stay focused in the midst of all those interruptions.

You’re trying to exercise those figurative muscles so you get faster and stronger. So focus on the quantity.

When you write faster, you can cut down on the time you spend crafting your replies to non-urgent emails. (And when you write better, you can cut down on the time your coworker spends reading those replies!)

2 ways to be a faster writer, especially for business email writing

Sadly, I don’t have a secret to spill or a pill to sell you to help you be a faster writer. I only have my own experience to go on, but hey, at least I know it works! If you want to get faster at business email writing, try these two tips:

Tip 1: Write, write, write: I tell my sad story about being forced to write as fast as possible in this blog post, so I won’t repeat it here. But I will repeat that advice: The best way to become a faster writer is to write and write and write. Not to write well! Not to write anything noteworthy! Only to write. If you don’t have to go through the kind of experience I did, I’m glad, but let’s figure out another way for you to make yourself write often and fast, because this really is the very best way to become a faster writer. Here are two ideas to consider:

  • You could assign yourself the task of writing 200 words once a day (or 100 or 300). That could be journaling, writing emails to friends or family members, working on an essay or personal blog, or perhaps taking part in NaNoWriMo with people attempting to write a book in a month. You don’t have to write a book, but it would force you to write daily.
  • Time yourself when you’re writing, and see if you can write something before the timer goes off. That could be business email writing or a report or something else. Make the focus on the speed. If it’s something that matters and not just a throwaway practice document or email, know you’ll go back to it later to edit and proofread if necessary (and then do).

Or is there another way you could make yourself write for speed on a regular, almost daily basis? I can’t stress enough that it’s by writing fast that you get faster!

Tip 2: Focus on quantity, not quality: Speaking of going back to it later, you must let go of expectations about the quality of your writing if you’re striving to write faster. Right now, you’re doing the equivalent of lifting weights or running miles. You’re trying to exercise those figurative muscles so you get faster and stronger. So focus on the quantity. If you’re writing for yourself only, that should be easy, once you let go of expectations and let yourself focus on quantity. And if you’re writing more to get faster using real emails or documents, plan to edit and proofread later as we’ve said.

Bonus tip: Get this ebook on better business emails. 

Email isn’t going anywhere. Even if it does get replaced by chat or messaging tools, you still have to write, so maybe I should say writing for work isn’t going anywhere. You can’t fight the email onslaught, but you can make your part in it easier to bear by getting faster with these tips!

P.S. If you want to take a deeper dive into the issue of time spent on business email writing and reading, and what it’s doing to our psyches, read this. It’s eye-opening…and sad.

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.