Sending the Perfect Email


Do you write long, complicated emails with numerous clauses and impressive vocabulary? Do people reply to them? Have you already stopped reading this?

According to a new analysis by Boomerang, an “email productivity software” product, there’s a magic sweet spot when it comes to getting people to read and reply to your emails. The Atlantic reports that there are several golden rules to follow:

1. Write like a 3rd Grader: No. Seriously. If you’re a communications professional, you’ve probably toiled for what seems like hours looking for just the right analogy or a new synonym for “deliverable.” Stop. According to the report, emails written at a 3rd grade reading level, “provided a whopping 36% lift over emails written at a college reading level and a 17% higher response rate than emails written even at a high school reading level.” In short, “use shorter words in shorter sentences.”

2. Hit a Goldilocks tone of emotion in your email: Your message shouldn’t be so neutral that it seems you don’t really care that much about the content, but it shouldn’t be so overboard either that one might think your life hangs in the balance as you wait for the reply. A hint of negativity or positivity is your best bet.

3. Ask a couple questions, but no more than three: You want to engage your audience, but don’t make them do too much work, either. Boomerang reports that, “an email with 3 questions is 20% more likely to get a response than an email with 8 or more!”

4. Take a stand: Even if you’re just trying to convey the basic facts of a situation, taking a position will strengthen the likelihood that people respond. Boomerang noted that subjective emails generate a 50% response rate, while the merely objective content only sees a 42% response.

Boomerang also reported that an email length of 50-125 words and 3-4 word subject lines are ideal to garner responses more than half the time, but the response rates decline fairly slowly as you drift from that optimal window, so trust your gut on this one.

Ultimately, in an era when people’s email inboxes are just as full of spam and junk as their actual home mailbox, putting a little time into figuring out how to make sure people read – and respond to – your email is worth it. Following simple steps can ensure your success. And maybe we can take a cue from political candidates we all decry for constantly “dumbing down” complex issues – at least when it comes to getting a response, it looks like they may be on to something!