If it seems like most of your emails travel into the ether, you’re not alone. The average office worker will receive an estimated 95 emails a day, according to a recent study. Combine that with impromptu meetings and business lunches that extend well into the afternoon, and it’s no wonder most of your emails are met with radio silence. Full schedules aside—and this is going to sound harsh—sometimes, your emails just don’t look pressing enough to garner a response.
Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and founder of business etiquette consulting firm The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says that most people don’t know how to compose a proper email, with “being too pushy” the most common faux pas.
So, how do you get noticed without going overboard? Here are the six things you need to do:
Craft a strong subject line
Is there anything less appealing than opening an email titled “Re: no subject”? Think about the type of email you would be most inclined to open. Using all caps is overly aggressive and comes off as desperate, but a quick “following up” followed by the subject of your request in a few words should suffice.
Format the body text
There’s no strict formula to what works, but it’s generally safer to keep it short. Immediately open with a cordial and neutral line, and then let them know you are following up. Don’t refer them to your request “as seen in the email below.” That assumes they have the time or desire to sift through the thread. Instead, reiterate your request in two lines or less, thank them for their time, and close with a phrase that gently nudges them to respond like “looking forward to hearing your thoughts” or “let me know if you have any questions.”
And finally, make sure the body copy does not exceed the length of the screen. The shorter it is, the more likely you’ll get a response.
Gauge your relationship with the receiver
The tone of an email to a close coworker will not be the same as that to a prospective client. Being overly formal over email with someone you share after-work drinks with can feel stuffy or even condescending, but speaking in colloquialisms with someone you barely know looks amateurish. When in doubt, be brief but not curt, advises Whitmore.
Edit multiple times
Your receivers could interpret a grammar or spelling mistake as a sign of carelessness. If you don’t care, why should they? Rudimentary yet sometimes overlooked, address your receivers with their names spelled correctly. To avoid hitting the send button before you’ve cleaned up the copy, write emails in another document and omit addresses from the email window until you’re ready to hit send.
Send at the right time of day
You’ll find several theories as to when you are most likely going to garner a response, like mid-morning when energy and focus are said to be at their peaks. But it’s also wise to think about times that are the least effective: Fridays after 5:00 p.m. is a general no-no, since people tend to mentally check out and prefer not to be reminded of work then. Plus, your email will get lost in the sea of emails your receiver accumulates over the weekend.
Send a follow-up on Sunday night, on the other hand, and your email could make it to the top of your receivers’ inboxes. They will see it, sure, but Monday morning is a time of chaos, so they might put it off until later in the week.
Keep emails to a minimum
Our industry thrives on polite reminders, but be careful not to inundate or harass. If you don’t hear back after the first—maybe second—follow-up, assume it’s a pass on your request, or that it’s a low priority at the moment. Depending on the nature of your email, give the receiver room to breathe—anywhere between a couple of months to a year. Ask again, but this time with new information or a fresh angle. After all, you don’t want to sound like a broken record.
This story originally appeared on Vogue.
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