I frequently find myself writing emails or technical documents that include a lot of technical information. However, even when written to "technical people" about technical things, it seems that the length of the email is too long and therefore it goes unread, ignored, skimmed, etc. and I've become known as a long-winded person. I'm starting to get flak for that, and I'd like to understand why or what I can do about it.
How long is too long?
It seems that the length of "too long" is absurdly short; longer than a couple paragraphs is considered too long.
What are the details?
Most of the reason for the long-windedness is an effort to be thorough, reduce known/possible miscommunications (some of which are highlighted below), and deal with the fact that the "technical" people aren't very technical, nor competent. Sometimes the lack of competency is known (I'm instructing someone for the first time in something they've never done), and sometimes it's because they are deficient in prerequisite topics (common in my industry; explained below). Often, I include screenshots with notations, and I leave them large to be easier to read. That increases a page count quickly.
Feedback I get (from bosses and coworkers) is that such lengthy emails/documents are unwelcome and unwarranted, with an emphasis on time spent.
Possible solution: Executive Summaries
I've started to include an executive summary at the front, but I think I've passed the point of no return, and the email gets ignored or stays unread. Part of that is because most people in the industry are overworked, part of that is email culture is to ignore things, and part of that is any reputation I have for being long winded.
Boiling down something to an executive summary may still be too complicated (another problem I deal with), or they feel like I'm being overly vague, arrogant, or condescending. I haven't gotten much feedback about this in written form, but when I do that face-to-face, it's obvious they think I'm being overly vague.
Possible solution: 6th grade reading level
I was once told to keep emails and docs at a 6th grade reading level. Attempting to do this was met with some success, until things became complicated enough that I had to start expanding them. It's not easy to break things down into less complicated chunks, and often that means they wind up being bigger chunks.
Table of Contents
I was handed a project to start working on, and as I went through the existing documentation, I wrote down questions and commentary ahead of a planned meeting to go over these sorts of things. It was ~8 pages, so I used the auto-format capabilities of MS Word to generate a Table of Contents (ToC). This takes all of a minute or two and makes it easier for the reader. However, my boss, who was CC'd when I sent the document, clearly didn't like the ToC and was stuck on that, bringing it up anecdotally in a different meeting with no relation to this project. I think it was because he didn't know how easy it was to make, nor how to use it. I think ToCs are incredibly useful since they are CTRL+clickable.
Clarity vs brevity
I tend to remove pronouns and references in my written works because I find most people can't find the thing I was referring to, and stick on the wrong one. For example, above, I changed
I think they are incredibly useful since they are CTRL+clickable.
I think ToCs are incredibly useful since they are CTRL+clickable.
so that it was unambiguous that I was referring to ToCs. This may come across as off-putting, but I'm not sure.
Lack of "basic" skills
While my industry works with technology, the people in it are usually not very tech savvy. For example, only very few of them (~1/10) know about keyboard shortcuts like CTRL+C, CTRL+V, or that most programs have a search function built into them.
Poor reading/writing skills lead to brain overheating
I also find that people don't know how to use certain punctuation marks and therefore use them wrongly. I've discovered that people use quotes ("") to emphasize something, instead of to satirize it (like I did above for "technical people"). The former should be bolded, while the latter is often referred to as "air quotes". I've also seen people confuses slashes with commas: this is the same/similar, yet people would write a list of items as a/b/c/d, when it should be written as "a, b, c, d.".
I suspect that when presented with technical data in a technical format, or just unfamiliar formatting, the reaction is a brain overload, or anger and resentment that they are unfamiliar with something.
I'm in the US, and all of these problems come from people who were born and raised in the US, almost exclusively within the same geographic region.
How can I more effectively communicate in emails to my coworkers?