When writing business emails, have you ever noticed how some emails you send get instant responses while others take people forever to respond to you?
It might not be them – it might be the way you’re writing emails.
Here are 7 quick and easy tips to help make sure you get fast responses to your emails so you can be more productive and happier when working. It’s great to get things done, right?
Email is Still Alive and Well
I think I’ve written a quarter million emails or more over my life so far according to my quick math. That’s a lot. Through that, I’ve learned a few things about which emails get responses and which do not.
1. The Subject Line Must Be Compelling
It’s the headline. It’s the attention getter. It makes people want to open and read your email.
Don’t you sometimes see email subject lines where you think, “What is that?” or “Wow, I have to read that” and then you open them?
This is creating a compelling headline.
Since I run a website design company, do you know how many email subject lines I’ve seen that just say “Website” on them? That’s it. Just “Website” and nothing else. That’s boring and when I to find a certain email or see a bunch in my inbox, I’m not sure (at a glance) which client that is about if I don’t see a name I recognize.
And I have a friend who is famous for not writing a subject line in any email he writes. Although that sounds bad and isn’t good business email etiquette, it does kind of make you want to see what the email is about. I’m not saying to do that because it honestly looks really lazy but I am saying it can sometimes work.
To make an email subject line compelling (or even a blog post) where people want to look at it right away, it must make them ask a question instantly.
Some ways to do that and more tips:
- Ask a question: “What Do You Think About This STRANGE Idea?”
- What idea and why is it strange?
- Have an open loop – I did this in the example above. I don’t list the answer but I make them want to read the email to complete that loop.
- Use emotional words: “I’m Happy With What This Client Said”
- What did they say?
- Don’t get too “click-baity” where you oversell the headline and the content in the email doesn’t live up to what you promised.
- Keep subject lines fairly short because you only have about 55-70 characters on mobile devices for subject lines.
- Oh, and when I see a space before an exclamation point in an email subject, I automatically think it’s spam. That doesn’t look professional. I often don’t even read those emails – I instantly delete them. Don’t do this.
And, of course, don’t write the whole message in the subject line – that’s very amateurish and not business/professional.
2. Give a Summary at the Beginning of the Email
This is sometimes called an “Executive Summary” and it explains what the email will be about.
I took film production in college, so this would sort of be like the establishing shot. It’s the shot of the outside of a building usually. It shows what space people are in.
The summary helps frame what the email will be about.
Oh, and don’t just forward something saying, “see below.” Don’t make someone wade through 2-3 other emails to try to ascertain the meaning of it. Give them a summary. This is being polite. This is helping them. When you do this, you get better responses. It’s worth taking 2 minutes to do.
3. Write Shorter Paragraphs. They’re Easier to Digest.
Short paragraphs are easier to read than huge blocks of text. This is probably the most effective tip here.
It’s easier for our brains to read and digest smaller paragraphs because with a huge block, we can’t stop and rest – we have to get through the whole thing or we might lose our place.
Aren’t shorter lines with spaces around them easier to read than big blocks of text?
I’m doing it right now and you’re cruising through this article, right? You feel like you’re moving along fast and it’s easy to read.
You’ll get more people reading and responding this way.
Put a blank line between paragraphs – making it easier for people to read.
Hint: Did you know that SHIFT+Return creates line breaks in both Microsoft Word AND Facebook posts? You need two of them in Facebook to get the requisite space between lines.
4. Put Questions on Their Own Line So People Will Find Them
People scan emails and most communication they see. Their brain is trying to be efficient (that’s one, main purpose of it – to conserve energy). They’re deciding if they should invest time reading it or not or what they have to do.
When questions are on their own line (and you remember to put a question mark at the end, of course), they’ll get noticed and get responses.
5. At the End, Sum Things Up and State Again What Action is Needed
This is just a quick recap and then to remind someone you need information or for them to answer what question you have – in case their mind wandered.
Extra tip… if you’re asking someone to do something, consider adding this line at the end to get a faster response from them: “Let me know how I can help.”
6. Try to Set Your Emails up Where People Can Easily Respond with a “Yes” or a “No” if Possible
This is another effective tip where I’ve seen super quick responses all the time.
If you need an answer, write emails where they can easily with respond with a yes or no, or with options 1, 2, or 3 – that kind of thing.
Again, when your emails are quick and easy to respond to, they’ll answer your emails first and right away.
7. Re-read Your Entire Email
Make sure it’s accurate, that there are no typos, and that you’ve explained all you need to.
And… try to look over your email with fresh eyes. Take a quick break if you have to. Since emotion and body language doesn’t really translate via email, think about the worst possible way the email could be read and then improve it – to help ensure it’s read the right way… with the right tone.
8. BONUS: Quick Email Etiquette Tips
- Even in email, it’s nice to add in a personal note like you would if you were talking to that person face to face – either at the top or the very end. A personal touch can sometimes bring down emotion in a tense situation and it shows you’re a nice person to work with.
- Try to end the email on a high note or even something funny.
- Put URLs on their own, separate line.
- At the top, address everyone in the “To:” line of the email. If other people are included but the email isn’t for them, then don’t address them and put their email addresses in the “Cc:” (carbon copy) field. This way, everyone knows who you’re expecting a response from.
- Make sure you sign your name at the end of your message – especially if the email thread is getting long. That way, people know where you’ve ended your comments.
- You can comment in certain sections of the email (instead of at the top) but make sure it’s clear where your comments are. Doing the ALL CAPS thing or in a certain color may seem like a good idea but then when people reply and the formatting is gone, can we really tell where one person’s comments end and another begins? It’s best to use a separate line if you can and also have the old comments indented so the email is easy to read.
Quick story, there’s someone I know who, for some strange reason, does not have indenting turned on in his replies. It seems like everyone else in the world does this but his emails don’t. I suspect he turned it off… I’m not sure. But since his emails are this way (against the norm), he really makes communication harder on himself and who he communicates with. He has to do extra formatting to make things clear and sometimes, it’s not clear.
So don’t mess with the settings of your email system. Use it how it’s meant to be used and you’ll save yourself tons of trouble.
When you do these things in your email communication and communication in general, you’ll see people responding to your emails first because they’re easy to get through.
I hope this helps everyone.
Did I miss any? Leave them in the comments below.