6 Tips for Writing Emails That Get Answered

Updated January 29, 2016

I got to thinking about the emails that land in my inbox and what I tend to respond to and what I don’t respond to. Helping others is absolutely one of my favorite things to do, but unfortunately, there’s just no way I can respond to everything.

I don’t know how it works for you or for others who get a fair amount of email, but here are some things that make me more likely to respond.

1. Be super brief

When I open an email that is paragraphs long, I feel overwhelmed. I try to sail through my emails as fast as humanly possible which puts me in sprinting mode. A loooong email makes me feel like I’m grinding to a halt. When that happens, I tend to resent it and then I delete. I’m not saying that’s good, I’m just sayin’.

2. Cut to the chase

A lot of emails I get provide a lot of background. I understand this tendency because I am the QUEEN OF GIVING TOO MUCH BACKGROUND. I’m trying to work on this. But when I read emails, I really prefer only the essential background details. If I need more background, I can ask.

3. Use numbered lists

I like numbered lists, as in, if you have 3 questions for me, I’d much rather they be clearly identified by a “1, 2, 3” instead of being buried in a lot of text. I don’t do so well with questions buried in text. I tend to miss them. That leads me to…

4. Tell me what you want

Sometimes I get emails and by the time I get to the end, I have no idea what the sender wants from me. Do they want advice? Do they want me to check out their site? Are they just sending encouragement? Are they telling me in a not-so-direct way they hate me? This makes it really challenging to know how to respond.

5. Use automated email messages carefully, or not at all

There have been times when someone has emailed me, I emailed them back and then I got an automated response like, “Thanks for emailing me. I get a lot of email so I may not be able to respond to you…” This is always a turn off. Other than a vacation reply (make sure you turn it off when you return), I’m not a fan of automated responses. If you’ve ever used automated responses in the past, like on the contact form on your site, do some testing to make sure you’re not accidentally sending automated responses you don’t intend to.

6. Make it easy for me to answer

If I can answer an email with a quick “Yes” or “No” or “I wrote about that here…” or “Thank you for your note” or “That looks great to me” or “I’d go with Option A over Option B” or something similar, I usually respond. But if you pose a very open-ended question, I often would like to answer but simply don’t have time. Mostly because I probably have to go make dinner.

What if you get a lot of email?

I shared my tips for email management here.

18 thoughts on “6 Tips for Writing Emails That Get Answered”

  1. I was doing direct marketing. The company would send a Friday sum-up email – which was NO summary. It was long, detailed, and had no way for me to simply get to the salient points easily. I routed those to a folder to read later. Later never seemed to come.

  2. I’m really curious if anyone takes the approach that Neil Patel does – he tries to answer every e-mail or comment. He obviously hires someone else to help him out since a lot of responses are not in depth, but they’re something.

    Marketing-wise for a blog, that’s pretty genius since people will come back to your blog even if it’s just to see the response.

  3. Thank you for these great tips, they all make sense but you wrote them in a way that makes me think about what I’m doing and remember to simplify!

  4. Love this list! Personally, I love bullet or numbered lists. I’m trying to keep some of these same tips in mind for my blog posts….trying to keep them scan-able. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Hitting the nail straight on the target is a good thing to do. Also, the numbered list and subheadings are also great. Thanks for the tips.

  6. I think you’re important! 🙂 In fact, around here you’re just known as “Amy.” If I say Amy, my husband knows exactly who I’m talking about. Ha!

  7. Great advice.

    Backstory is such a time-waster. Brings to mind something Rush said a long time: “Before you open your mouth to speak, asks yourself one question: will anyone care?”

    Love lists – glad to know they are helpful and not too abrupt.

  8. Some of the emails are quite legitimate and we might want to help them out. But majority of them are spam. Webmasters can easily know which of them are spam by looking at the way the call for action is communicated. I guess we start recognizing them once we have seen a sufficient number of emails.

  9. Sage advice! I would also add that when I email, I state what may be the best option/idea and ask if they agree or not. Usually, I will say, something like, “if not, then what time/option would be best for you?” Of course, that pertains mostly to coordinating times and/or joint ventures…

    This tends to elicit a response faster than constant back and forth, which can potentially take several emails over several days. Do you use this technique? If not, what other technique can you recommend to cut down on multiple back and forth emails? {see, totally just utilized that device..hahaha!}

  10. Wonderful list! I’m awful with putting in too much backstory.

    Oh, and I went and read your other e-mail tips and, thanks to your suggestions, now have only one e-mail in my inbox. The rest, which I didn’t need/had already taken care, are safely archived. It feels SO good. Thank you, thank you!

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