5 rules for sending email that gets a (good!) response

Work Wisdom

5 rules for sending email that gets a (good!) response

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but we send a lot of email. According to Statista.com, it’s estimated more than 280 billion emails will be sent this year. And that number is expected to increase to 333 billion by the year 2022.

These statistics simply mean we need to be effective at sending and responding to email. It can be a great communication tool in our business and personal lives. But it can also be a major frustration — especially when we send an email and don’t receive a reply. Is it because the email wasn’t received? Or was received, and the recipient is working on a reply? Or is the recipient just ignoring us? None of us want to be a pest and send another email.

One of the other reasons that we might not receive a response to our emails is because the recipient doesn’t know what to do with it. We can help alleviate some of the frustration by setting the proper level of expectation upfront. Here are 5 things you can do when sending emails to help get replies:

1. Make sure the subject line is clear. Adding a request for critical information to the email that just announced there’s birthday cake in the breakroom is a recipe for having your email accidentally deleted. A good habit to develop is when you change the subject, change the subject line.

2. Add a time tag in the subject line. If you receive dozens (maybe hundreds) of emails, the subject line often acts as a filter. If the subject doesn’t look urgent, it doesn’t get opened right away. Consider adding the words URGENT, TIME SENSITIVE, or DUE MONDAY to let the reader know how to prioritize your message. But a word of caution: Don’t abuse it. If you make everything URGENT, readers will start to tune you out.

3. Keep it brief. Today’s business world is busy. Our plates are full. We need to be respectful of people’s time. Email shouldn’t be treated like a memorandum. Messages need to be concise. Most email software programs have formatting features, so use bullets and numbered lists when it makes sense.

4. Use the CC field appropriately. The CC (or carbon copy) field is designed to let others know about the information in the email but it doesn’t require them to act. If you cc someone, they aren’t expected to reply. If you’re looking for a reply from someone, they need to be in the TO field of the email.

5. Be a good email recipient. This falls into the category of practice what you preach. If you answer emails on time, concisely, and include the right people, it’s more likely others will reciprocate. The last thing you want to do is hold someone accountable for not answering an email — and be guilty of it yourself.

We’re still developing the rules for email
It’s amazing. Email has been around for decades and there are still relatively few universally accepted rules about using it (BESIDES NOT WRITING IN ALL CAPS). But there are some common-sense guidelines we can practice to get our emails answered quickly. They involve setting the right expectations with email recipients and setting a good example.

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