Turns out, seven of the eight professional emails I write can be boiled down to one of two phrases: “Will do” OR “Sounds good.”

Sometimes I’ll write an email at work, and a sick sense will set in that what I’m writing is too long, is awkward, clumsy, unnecessarily hefty.  Not unlike a thirteen-year-old boy.  I’ll fumble around, revising, editing, and reworking until what should be a simple, toss-away reply is a tortured affair, hacked at and mangled.  Not unlike the home haircut of a thirteen-year-old girl.

Enter the go-to words.

Example 1:

Yeah, I was thinking that it would be helpful to have exactly that information, so I’ve already begun keeping track of those sources.  To that end, I’ll keep moving forward, just as you request, unless I hear from you otherwise.  Assuming that’s what you had in mind (as per your previous email).  All systems seem to be go, Carol.  All systems seem to be go.

In other words:

Will do.

Example 2:

Yes, 4:30 on Thursday works well for me, too, providing something out of the ordinary doesn’t come up and keep me officebound.  4:30.  Thursday.  I’ll be here.  Looking forward to it.  As always.

In other words:

Sounds good.

I’ve been so grateful to have these two go-to phrases on hand (especial thanks to my lawyer brother Dan for giving me “sounds good” after I shared the discovery of the ubiquitously useful “will do”) that I sometimes have to resist the urge to use them when they aren’t appropriate.

Example 3:

I see what you’re saying, Bob, but I have two serious concerns with that approach: (1) it doesn’t seem to fully respond to the allegations in the opposition concerning Rule 23(b), and (2) it doesn’t adequately convey that this is an issue that’s already been decided on the merits.  If we don’t address these two issues, I really think we’ll be shooting ourselves in the legal foot.  And that, Bob, would be a real, real problem.  For both us and our presently ambulatory, still two-footed clients.  Don’t you??

In other words, NOT

Sounds good.

I share “will do” and “sounds good” with you for two reasons: (1) actually useful professional tips are super helpful and, it turns out, hard to come by (anyone have ideas on how to organize my case files?), and (2) I’ve been thinking a lot about verbosity.  And brevity.  Specifically, my verbosity and my lack of brevity.

“Brevity is the soul of wit,” a man told me at church a few Sundays ago, just before he walked away.  “Don’t I know it!” I called back, and then I went home and wrote a blog post 2x too long.

WHAT is my problem?

I gave my sister my favorite book on writing style for her sixteenth birthday yesterday (every teenager’s dream, I know), Trimble’s Writing with Style.  As I flipped through it to revel in its greatness, I saw this sentence (or one very like it): “You should write as though you’re paid for every word you delete.”


To which I feel the need to—I mean I know he’s right and I could be—everyone knows Dickens was paid by the word and he was—I can be better, probably?  Maybe?  On a good day, if the winds—550 words, 552—fine.  Fine.  Fine!

In other words:

Will do, Trimble.  Sounds good.