5 Things Steve Jobs Can Teach Us About Writing Emails

Just before the release of  Apple’s first IPad, James Murdoch of NewsCorp and Steve Jobs exchanged a series of emails negotiating an e-book deal.   Besides revealing some of Job’s renowned negotiating tactics,  the emails also demonstrate how Job’s simple, strong writing style helped him dominate the conversation.

Natashia Lekic explains, “Their email exchange offers insight into what to do — and what not to do — when writing business emails. Murdoch’s notes are a classic example of how most of us tend to write: long, with multiple ideas and no clear message. Jobs used simple tactics to dominate the correspondence.”

Read the article by Natashia Lekic.


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12 thoughts on “5 Things Steve Jobs Can Teach Us About Writing Emails

  1. I thought this was a really interesting article about how the writing styles differ in emails between Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs. Steve wrote his messages simply, clearly, and affirmatively. Rupert continually used passive voice, rambled on in long paragraphs, and would ask many questions at once without having a clear point. What we are to learn from Steve is to keep emails short and on point, and stay in the active voice. Jobs also ended his email with his request, to include Harper Collins among the list of publishers available on the Apple Book Store before the launch of the iPad. Overall, this article is important for anyone who uses email during their work day to read, as it lays out ways to shorten emails, as well as make them more effective.

  2. I found that the recurring theme in this article revolved around keeping emails straightforward, to the point, and simple. When reading a business email, there is always a clear point or purpose to the email, and that’s exactly why the reader is viewing the message. By eliminating any filler words and unnecessary information, the reader no longer has to waste valuable time searching through the email to find the message pertaining to him/her. The idea that asking one question or making one request per email is the optimal method to obtain an answer was a new concept that I thought was a particularly effective strategy. Asking more than one question, especially when those questions are surrounded with too much wordiness, can lead to confusion for the reader and lowers the chances of the sender receiving the information or answer that they were seeking. An email is an effective and swift form of communication, so the contents of the email should be concise, swift, and effective as well.

  3. I thought the simplicity of the writing style within steve jobs emails was the most important and informative point within this article. I found it interesting that even between two billion dollar executives the basic practice of clear and straightforward business correspondence was still an issue, even enough so this company was unable to make it deal with Apple that would have potentially improved profits. I also thought the importance of keeping an active voice was key in retaining any readers attention. If the reader is actively engaged it allows you to present ideas with clarity without leaving the reader to make presumptions about your text.

  4. In my opinion what made this article make sense and what made it comprehendable was the examples. The comparison between Steve Jobs email and the other wordy one made it clear to me that the wordy one was much more difficult to pick apart and find the main idea. In Steve Jobs you did not have to search for the main idea because he was much more straight forward and there was not any unnecessary information that would just confuse the reader.

  5. I agree with the arguments made in this article because it is much easier to communicate with someone when both parties state clear objectives. In my past experience, I prefer quick and to the point emails as opposed to long, wordy emails that don’t seem to have a clear purpose. I think that more can be accomplished when people state clear and concise objectives while sending emails. The point that I agree with the most strongly is to remove filler words. Some people are under the impression that they must use fancy language in emails instead of more colloquial language. In reality, using words that are easy to understand can help shorten any email, and help make writing more focused and to the point.

  6. I found myself relating to all of the points that Natasha Lekic make in her article. Even in text messages, when someone asks me several questions at once I often only reply to the last one or two. Answering several questions would take a lot of time and a disorganized reply that the person replying probably does not want to do. I also liked her point about keeping the design simple. When taking notes or studying for classes, I find it easiest to organize and go back and read bullet points. The same applies for emails that I receive – it is easier for me to organize the message that I am reading when it is already organized into bullet points. Using the active voice is something that Natasha mentions that I could definitely work on. Using a voice that sounds less timid and clear will benefit me in the professional world.

  7. This article is very informative and useful. Writing an effective email has been a puzzle for me since I came to the United States. My non-native status cause a huge gap between my writing skill and the average writing skill. It is unquestionably true that it took me twice of the time to write an effective email than normal people. Aimless, ambiguous are always the problem I need to face. Compare to Steve Jobs’s emails, my emails seems to include a lot of unnecessary information which will confuse the readers. Steve Jobs’s simplicity writing style is effective. It is important to keep the email simple and address the problem effectively. Murdoch’s emails seems dilatory and it causes confusion to the reader. As mentioned in the article, using the active voice is also very important. Using strong verbs and active voice will strengthen your message and make it clearer to the reader. All the techniques mentioned in the article are useful and should be applied in the writing process.

  8. The article presents a huge topic of writing emails in an efficient format that will get our points across. Even though our generation has grown with phones, Ipads and computers there is still a discrepancy between our skill with tech and how we use it. Even though we all know how to open an email, we don’t necessarily know how to write emails effectively. I think this is due to the huge gap there is between texting and writing emails. The article by Lekic reminds us of etiquette and strategy that we often overlook. The article demonstrates simply how a simpler email with less filler words and less topics can actually be much better. In short, the blog emphasizes quality of quantity. The article below expands on some common mistakes that we millennials make that I think we could easily improve.


  9. The article by Natashia Lekic is very informative about how to write effective emails which would enable a reader to catch the main idea by just scanning it. This requires the email to include just one purpose and the sentences to be simple and without word fillers. One specific purpose with concise sentences make an email seem less overwhelming to the reader and hence increase the motivation to read. The article also highlights the importance of “closing with a request”. The request should be about the main reason for which the writer is writing the email. The main idea is to increase the reader’s chance of noticing the main point even if he is very reluctant to read the email. All these techniques by Steve Jobs which Natashia Lekic has highlighted would significantly save the writer’s time and increase the probability of getting an appropriate response by the reader.

  10. In today’s age, email is the common method of communication within businesses. The article by Lekic brings up excellent points in how emails should have one purpose and be devoid of filler words. The examples of Jobs’ and Murdoch’s emails emphasized how wordiness can lead to confusion; in a worst-case scenario the recipient might completely misconstrue the message. When discussing business that could be worth thousands or millions of dollars, one must be precise yet eloquent in every email sent. I found an article by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg from TIME’s website that provides even further advice on how to efficiently use email in the business world. Along with cutting wordiness, it is recommended to focus on the most recent messages first, clean out the inbox constantly, and respond quickly. These additional points, along with others mentioned in the article, are important to utilize to improve email etiquette.


  11. This article written by Natasa Lekic exemplifies how filler words and lengthy writing can misconstrue the purpose and confuse the reader. She does an excellent job at comparing Steve Jobs’ emails against James Murdoch’s emails. While reading Murdoch’s emails, especially the email under the heading “Have one purpose”, I had to pause and take a second to think about what he was actually trying to ask or tell Jobs. The multiple questions, length, and unnecessary words create too much confusion for an email. The purpose of an email is to be direct and formulate your thoughts in a concise way to send quick information to someone. The article linked below further expands on Lekic’s ideas and offers some helpful tips: slow down, formulate the purpose, and proofread.


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