Emails are so simple and easy to send, however, they are also quite easy to ignore. With more than 120 email messages landing in the average office worker’s inbox daily, ensuring your email message gets read and gets a response can be tricky and complex.
According to a recent study from Adobe, workers are spending 4.1 hours per week checking and interacting with their work emails. Despite the adoption of tools like Slack, professionals are using email more than ever, and what’s more, once we’ve interrupted by checking and reading email, it can take up to 25 minutes to get back on task during the workday.
According to a study from the popular delayed-email add-on for Gmail called Boomerang found that more than 53% of recipients will respond if you keep things simple. As in 3rd-grade simple. The same study in another interesting twist found that if you add just a hint of emotion, showing slight happiness or anger, but not going overboard, you will find people are also more likely to respond.
So, when you draft an email, needless to say, you want it to be impactful and well-crafted so it doesn’t expend even more time. We’ve put together the following valuable tips for writing emails that will get opened and replied to, without wasting yours or your recipient’s time.
Write a Descriptive Subject Line:
Your email subject line should clearly outline the reason for your email so the recipients are compelled to open and reply to your email. Additionally, your email subject line should also be succinct and clear, after all, if your subject line is clear, your email will likely be, too. So, avoid using complete sentences and put only the meatiest part of your reason for emailing in the subject line.
Phrases to Avoid:
- “Touching base”
- “Checking in”
- “Following up”
Example Subject Lines:
- “Meeting information for Monday, 5/1”
- “Question about your blog post about Snapchat”
- “New data: 43% of customer want video content”
Keep it as short as Possible:
Keep it sweet and short.
Researchers found that shorter emails resulted in faster response times, after analyzing over five years of emails. It’s very helpful, especially when you consider that reading and responding to emails can eat up so many hours in our week. Shorter email help the recipient spend less time reading and replying to emails and helps you to get better engagement on your email campaigns, which makes everyone more productive.
One of the most effective tips for keeping emails short is by simply typing them on twitter first. Your email necessarily doesn’t have to be less than 140 character limit, but it’s an effective guardrail for having maximum impact in fewer words. Omitting unnecessary words like adjectives and adverbs, you can keep your emails shorter by using numbers and thinking very carefully about formatting.
Depending on your industry, the ideal email length varies, but you should keep your emails below the 200-word limit. The average screen reading speed is 200 words per minute and aiming to keep email messages under that target is a very good rule of thumb.
Get to the Point, and Quickly:
You might be tempted to enumerate on your credentials or your company in the opening lines of your emails, but you can do that later. Instead, your email should immediately get to the point in the opening lines of your emails, so the recipient immediately understands what’s being asked of them.
The basic format of a successful email should be the following:
- Opening greeting
- Reason for emailing
- Closing greeting
This format is just not more considerate to your recipients, who have a problem maintaining attention for long periods of time; it also compels you to write compellingly and clearly to make the recipient keep reading.
There are a few ways where you can use statistics and numbers in your emails that will make it easier to attract your recipients and also to keep their attention.
Numbers written as numerals (34) instead of words (thirty-four) have been shown to attract reader attention more when they quickly scan what they’re reading online, which research shows internet users are more and more likely to do.
Numbers as statistical data gives your email more credibility. Numbers represent facts, which your reader may be much more compelled to respond to.
Did you notice what we did there? The numbered list probably drew your attention more than writing that out in paragraph format would have. Formatting helps too, more on that later in this blog.
Use Bullet Points:
Use bullet points whenever possible or a numbered list to organize your email structure. Here’s why:
- Bullets help to maintain the reader’s attention by breaking up the formatting of an email.
- You can use fewer words to get the same message across, as bullets don’t require full sentences.
- Bulleted or numbered lists help outline steps clearly in a process that needs to be taken, which is useful for email documenting initiatives or meetings.
And the best way to use bullet points is by using only three bullets. Studies tell that our brains like to be presented with three options to consider. SO, use three bullets or numbered items to write your emails for maximum impact.
Make your Ask Clear:
While some emails have clear asks, some emails don’t have clear asks. Either way, ensure to clearly state exactly what you need from the recipient to make it easier for them to reply.
Remember the email structure we mentioned above?
- Opening greeting
- Reason for emailing
- Closing greeting
Start your email message with the reason you are emailing, give the details to the recipients and “so what?” of your email message, and then end your email message with a clear ask for the next steps. Whether you want them to attend a meeting, edit a blog post, you don’t want any specific action from them at that time, ensure that is the last line of your email.
The final line of your email message is likely to be most memorable, so if the recipient doesn’t reply instantly, they’ll able to easily remember exactly what they have to do next.
Answer the Question “So What?
Just because your email subject line is important to you doesn’t mean the recipient necessarily agrees on it. And you need to ensure that your recipients come away from your email with the answer to the question “so what?”
Psychologist Ellen Langler found that the use of the word “because” made people more likely to comply with the request. So by giving the reason for asking the recipients to do something for you or help you in an email, you make it much easier for the recipients to say “yes”.
Whenever you are asking for someone else’s effort and time, ensure to include a “because…” so they can easily understand the true impact their compliance will have.
Ask for a Response in your Subject Line:
Sounds simple, right? However, sometimes all you need to do is just ask for a response. St. Louis-based professional organizer Janine Adams suggests that if your email requires a reply, inform the recipients in the email subject line. “The one thing that gets me to reply to an email is when the email sender puts- ‘Response Needed’ at the end of their email subject line,” says Janine Adams. It’s very effective in getting a response from your recipients.
Being vague won’t help you to clinch that upcoming meeting. People are willing to help or are more responsive if they’ve been given clear directions on how to contribute, based on research by psychologist Robert Sutton. Research from Carnegie Mellon also revealed that people are more likely to respond to email requests that are easy to answer, as opposed to complex email messages that require more mental energy and time to be addressed.
What does it mean?
Finishing your email messages with open-ended statements, i.e. “How is your schedule this week?” or “Let me know what works best for you”, does more harm than good. So instead of taking the time and energy to make the decision for both of you, they opt for “no decision” and you don’t get a reply to your email.
This is why you should finish your email message with a clear and pointed call-to-action (CTA). Meet or not meet? Buy or not buy? Interested or hold off?
Provide a Reason:
A study performed by Ellen Langer, social psychologist at Harvard found that people are more willing to comply with a request when people used the word “because” in it. Even when the reason was quite nonsensical like “Can I use the copy machine first because I need to make a copy?”), nearly all (93%) people complied with the request.
What does it mean?
You’ll be more successful if you provide a reason whenever you ask someone to do you a favor. Yes, in the current world of mile-long to-do lists and 24-7-365 communication, answering an email from someone you don’t know is a favor.
The Boomerang study revealed that using a moderate amount of negative or positive emotion words like delighted, wonderful, hate, pleased, bad, terrible, and furious increased an email’s response rate by 10% to 15% compared to the emails that were strongly emotional or neutral.
For example, if you are sending a complaint, Boomerang CEO Alex Moore says it’s better to say, “I had an awful experience at your store today. The clerk was rude. Please do something to make it right,” instead of just saying something like “Your store experience sucks. Your clerk is a douchebag. Piss off and I sincerely hope you die in agony.”
Mention something you have in Common:
One of the best ways to connect with someone you already don’t know is to highlight something you both have in common. It helps a lot to build an emotional connection. Did you both live in Baltimore at one point? Are you both alums of Colgate University? Do you have a mutual friend? So point it out if you see on their LinkedIn profile that you have something in common.
Reference Positive, Recent News Connected with the Person:
If any positive news about the recipient prompted you to write the email, mention it. You could just say, “Congrats on your award”. Acknowledging their recent win makes them feel good and lets the recipient know that you have an interest in their work.
Use Peer Pressure in your Favor:
Irrespective of how much we just love to think that we came a long way from the cave years, the reality is that a lot of our behavior is still decided on what we used to do during the cave years in order to survive. And one of the very first things we learned during those times is to live in groups, as we weren’t the stronger species in the block. That is to say that we are very likely to bend due to peer pressure and we tend to follow the crowd even if it only on an unconscious level.
In Marketing, you can clearly see this principle is being applied in many situations. For example, a study published in the Washington Post exposed guests in a hotel to placards asking them to reuse towels in the bathrooms. Two cards were put on display: one saying “Join Your Fellow Guests in Helping to Save the Environment”, and another one saying “Help the Environment”. The guests who were exposed to the first card were 25% more likely to reuse the towels.
Its consequence is that we tend to respond quickly to emails sent to multiple people, or those that mention someone in the email message. It is as if it was putting us in a spotlight so we must say something or there will be trouble, just that there won’t be any trouble. So, whenever possible, add more people into the conversation, or, at least, to put some extra names in the body text, and see how quickly you will receive replies.
Make it About Them:
Alright, it is almost sure that if you are sending an email to a person, it is because you want something from him and not the other way around. Specialists have said that we like to talk and hear about ourselves because it feels rewarding and good.
However, on the other way around, more boring and tiresome your message feels when you talk more about yourself and your problems. And it is possible that your email will be just one more thing on their plate if you are specifically talking to a very busy person. All that you don’t want to be connected with is bad news.
So try to come up with a way where you can make your need to sound like something useful and interesting to them. And if you’re trying to sell something, either its an idea or a product/service, then you should focus on their benefits to the recipient, including emotional ones. Try to engage them by putting their expectations and demands as a top priority, and not the other way around.
Just by following these simple yet effective tips, you should be able to increase the chances of getting the recipients to reply to your email more often. They will understand better that you are not their enemy filling their inbox with junk or demands, but someone that has something valuable to say and offer. And it will make your email a top priority for your recipients and your chances of getting a reply from them will increase by a lot.