The Secret of Guy Kawasaki’s 5-Sentence Email Strategy

Yes yes yes, you’re busy and it’s hard to keep up with your email.

But you’re not as busy as Guy Kawasaki — unless you’re an investor, entrepreneur, and author of 10 books — so when he talks about his approach to email, you should listen.

Here’s how he keeps emails short and readable, while still getting his point across.


The Five Questions

Guy says that every email you send should answer five simple questions:

1. Who are you?
2. What do you want?
3. Why are you asking me?
4. Why should I do what you’re asking?
5. What is the next step?

Ideally each sentence should answer one of these questions, but it doesn’t need to be that formulaic. As Kawasaki says, “Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness.”

In other words: Be short without being short.

Kawasaki points out that the answer to these five questions is all an intelligent person needs to make a decision, so making sure they are answered in five sentences should get your point across very clearly.

One Topic per Email


To get your emails down to the five-sentence limit:

  • think about the point you’re trying to make
  • remove any details that don’t directly support that point
  • remove any details that don’t directly answer one of the five questions above.

It’s better to send three short emails about different topics than to send one long email with three unrelated topics.

When you include too many details in an email, you run the risk of it going unanswered. Even if your long email is read, it will take so much effort to respond to, that it will likely just sit in the reader’s inbox.

Make it Easy on the Recipient


Shorter emails promote quicker replies. The more focused your email is, the easier it will be for the recipient to reply to it.

The more work you make it for the person to reply or read the email, the less likely it is to be answered.

Limit Everything But Praise


Exception to the Kawasaki Rule: If the only reason you’re sending an email is to praise someone or offer some kindness, there are no limits. Don’t worry about the length or about answering the five questions.

And do send those mails, too. They’re more important than you think.


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