Modern life has vanquished attention to detail, especially in emails.
There is truly nothing more irritating in the grand game of software engineering, aside from the agile methodology, than having someone — especially management — ask you the same question over and over again.
This is particularly irksome if you’ve already sent on the information several times in an email, embedded it in some kind of glamourised wiki page¹, or just printed it out on a piece of paper and nailed it to the largest monitor in the project manager’s double sized cubicle².
What I blame, aside from the usual management excuse of “I don’t have time to read email” and the generally anti-technology traits inherent in the hierarchy of management in general, is the inability of the majority of the non-technical drones scuttling around the modern workplace to have an attention span longer than that of an average fairground goldfish.
For, and here’s the nub of it, the majority of management skim read any emails and concentrate only on the first and last sentences of any paragraph. This, as you may now realise, is why they prefer everything in dumbed down bullet points or, most often, contained in a PowerPoint³.
Any sufficiently long piece of prose is dismissed en masse, with the essential meaning being taken only from the first and last few words of the whole.
It’s not that they’re really too busy to read and digest anything at all, we know that’s an excuse that’s all too commonly trotted out, after all.
What I do suspect, however, is that the lack of understanding and grammar comprehending skills of their collective cerebral cortexes has atrophied away to an alarming extent thanks in part to their continued exposure and repeated to Comic Sans and the endless animated slide transitions that keeps them transfixed during the elongated meetings that they regularly attend.
Once you’re aware of this, if you do want to put across an important point to management, it really is best to adhere to the following email guidelines,
- Put everything in short sentences.
- In a series of bullet points.
- But with no more than three at a time.