ShortmailShortmail.com is a free service that tries to save you from looking at long emails. Every message sent or received through the service must be limited to 500 characters or less. That’s about 100 words.

It’s a good idea, and good luck trying to get it to catch on. If everyone on our list of 9,331 email contacts used it, we could easily zip through the mail. The problem, of course, will be getting people to get their message across in 100 words or less. (Abraham Lincoln once apologized to a follower after a long speech, saying: “I would have made it shorter but I didn’t have enough time.”)

Shortmail messages can be public or private. If public, they’re more like tweets. In fact, signing up requires a Twitter account. If you don’t have one, it takes about a minute to get an account and it’s free.

If someone sends an email longer than 500 characters, Shortmail sends them a message saying: “Hey, your message is too long for Shortmail” and tells them to edit it. This may be insulting to your boss or future customer, so our approach is to use the Shortmail “compose” window to see how long our emails are, and get in the habit of writing shorter ones. At least that’s what Joy’s doing. Bob never writes long emails. Doesn’t read them either. If someone sends a long email to your new Shortmail address, you still get it, but it goes directly into an archive folder.

Shortmail is a great idea, but for a really concise message, put the whole thing in the subject line and end it with “EOM,” for “end of message.” If you do that, people don’t even have to open the mail. More info at shortmail.com

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