How To Get People To Reply To Your Emails, Thanks To A Few Clever Tricks

We've all been on the receiving end of an email to our inbox that just didn't quite cut it in terms of style or substance — so we ignored it. It was too long, not punchy enough, or lacking in clear formatting. But are there ways to get people to reply to your emails other than just hitting re-send or prefacing them with a slightly desperate-sounding, "Hey! I'm just following up about..."? It turns out that there might be. So wouldn't it be lovely to adopt some of these techniques and banish bad emails for good?

Over at The Muse, Kat Boogaard, suggests that the key to crafting an email that will get a prompt response is all in the formatting. Boogaard's sample of this formatting magic in action looks like this:

Hey Josh,

Just reminding you that I’m still missing your graph contributions for the report that’s due at the end of the month. Here’s what I still need from you:

  • Client Growth Chart
  • Client Industries Chart

I need these from you by the end of the day on Monday, November 28 at the latest. Thanks!


Why is this such a good email? Boogaard argues that the use of bullet points, short sentences, and paragraphs makes the message easier to skim over. For an even higher chance of getting a response, she also suggests including a deadline — in bold, if you're feeling brave. The main point? "The easier your message is to read and reply to, the more likely you’ll be to actually get what you need," writes Boogaard.

In addition to formatting, here are a few other pointers backed up by research which might help increase your email response rate:

Express Some Emotion


In a study of over 40 million emails conducted by Boomerang, messages that expressed "either moderate positivity or negativity evoked 10 to 15 percent more responses than completely neutral emails."

Mind Your Length


It really depends on what you need to write about, of course, but the Boomerang data also suggested that emails between 50 and 125 words had the best response rates; about 51 percent of those emails that fell in that word count range received responses. In comparison, messages that were 10 words or shorter got a response just 36 percent of the time.

Use Digits In The Subject Line If Numbers Are Required


Write your numbers out in numerals (i.e. 44 as opposed to forty-four). Research conducted by the Nielson Norman Group found that doing so keeps the attention of the reader fixed on an email subject line for longer than spelled-out numbers do.

Always Tell People Why You Need A Favor


If you're asking someone to do you a favor via email, Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer suggests always telling them the reason why. In the 1970s, Langer's "Copy Machine Study" discovered that people were more willing to comply with a request when those doing the asking used the word “because.” This worked even when the justification was unnecessary or nonsensical (i.e. "Can I use the copy machine first because I need to make a copy?") Nearly 93 percent of people granted the request when the word "because" was used.

Although this study was conducted by verbal request (and long before email was a common workplace tool), Yesware theorizes that it might work via email, too. Either way, it's worth a shot — although you might want to make sure your justification makes sense; it might be easier to spot a nonsensical one if it's written out, rather than spoken.

Say Their Name


Content marketing website Copyblogger points out that personalization really helps increase email response. Citing recent studies into the human which suggest that using our names makes us more engaged and trusting of the contents of the message, they suggest throwing a name or two into the subject line of the email: "Hi Mark — Gina from Bustle here," for example. You can try a similar strategy in the closing, too.

Of course there's no totally fool-proof way to get people to respond to your emails — but sometimes, the careful application of a few strategies can make a big difference. After all, no one likes being ignored.

Images; Pexels; Giphy (5)