In a world so obsessed with connectivity, communication, tweets, chats, and accessibility, it’s especially obnoxious to have an email go unreturned for more than a day or two. Here’s how to make sure you’re doing everything as correctly as possible so that that other person knows you expect a response.
1. Make the subject line count.
Avoid being vague at all costs. Don’t use subjects like “Hey, what’s up?” or “Question” and be disappointed when these emails go unreturned. Instead, write a specific subject line that perhaps even politely indicates that a response is expected. Something like “quick question about expense reports” works — it is short, to the point, and suggests that a reply is awaited.
2. Don’t send an ugly block of text.
You’ve gotten emails like these yourself. They’re no fun; before you’ve even read a single word, you’ve seen that it’s a long email, and you’re far less inclined to give it the attention the sender thinks it deserves. Make yourself a friend to your recipient and be no more lengthy than you need to be. If it’s a longer email by necessity, be sure that individual paragraphs are only two to three sentences each. You want to make your email welcoming, not turn it into a chore for the reader.
3. Ask for a response.
This is perhaps best done at the very end of your email. Simply including the words “please respond” in a polite context will be sure to net you more returned emails. You might hear other people suggest bolding or italicizing your request for a response. Don’t do that. It’s cheesy.
4. Offer choices.
If your question only has a certain number of answers to it, lay out those potential answers to your reader. He or she is more inclined to respond if the correct answer is in their somewhere. For example, don’t ask, “Would you like me to buy some dessert for the party tonight?” Ask “Would you like me to buy cookies for tonight, or should I buy cake instead?” This way the recipient only need to reply with “Yes, the first one,” or “No, the other one.” If the correct answer isn’t described in your email at all, well, now they’ve really got to reply to you to tell you what it is.
5. Get to the point!
If it’s not clear to someone within the first two sentences of your email why you’re writing, then you’re doing it wrong. Be simple and basic in the beginning. You can immediately launch into the details or background below that, but try to distill the nature of your email into the first one or two sentences.