Is your inbox overflowing? There’s a trick that can help you take control. It’s called the 5-sentence method. How does it work? When you receive an email, no matter how long it is, you keep your response to just 5-sentences or less.

Some people that use this method like to add an explainer as part of their signature. Something to the effect of, “All responses to emails regardless of the subject or the recipient will be five sentences or less.”

Five sentences are considered the sweet spot because shorter emails can seem terse and longer ones lose people’s attention.

You could cut it even shorter and set your response level at four, three, two sentences. That may be a bit of a challenge for many people unless you’re a really succinct writer.

When you’re writing emails to others, it doesn’t hurt to think about ways you can make it easier for them to reply. Instead of asking vague questions, be very specific. Ask questions that can easily be answered with yes, no, where, what time, how much, etc… Consider giving options like:

  • “Shall we meet Thursday or Friday?”
  • “I’d like three ideas for our next fundraiser.”
  • “What time should I pick you up?”

When writing to someone for the first time, email expert Guy Kawasaki says you need to convey the following:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why are you asking me?
  • Why should I do what you’re asking?
  • What is the next step?

Scan over your sentences to look for words that can easily be cut without changing your meanings. Even if you can’t cut every email down to five sentences at first, give it a try.