How To Send Emails People Want To Read

You send out lots of emails — but does anyone actually read them? How do you get recipients to open emails from you and respond?


Erica Dhawan, author of “Digital Body Language,” helped create The Digital Communications Crisis report. The 3,000 person U.S. workforce study found 70% reported poor digital communication to be a problem. And lackluster communication resulted in an average of four hours wasted per week. That adds up to $188 billion annually wasted across the U.S. economy.

A solution? Find ways to get recipients to open emails and respond to them.

Craft Subject Lines That Entice Recipients To Open Emails

Subject lines are the most critical aspect of digital communication, says Sam George. George is the author of “I’ll Get Back To You: The Dyscommunication Crisis.”

If a recipient doesn’t read your email right away, “it will be filed, delayed, and perhaps lost,” he said.

Experiment with subject lines that — depending on the audience — are witty, engaging, personalized or marked urgent.

Credibility and timing are also factors. For example, don’t send an email with the subject line “Urgent” late at night when the project it addresses isn’t due for another week, Dhawan says.

Structure Emails Properly To Get Responses

A question in the email or subject line is essential because it requires a response, George said. Pose questions in emails that ask for a yes or no answer.

Asking for “input” or “what they think” is a bad idea, George said. “Instead, ask whether they agree or disagree with you.”

Michael Smart, founder of Michael Smart PR, says specify right from the top of the email that you are looking for a yes or no on the proposal within. Next, give context, and the pros and cons, he says. “Ask your question at the end,” he said.

Use a direct and specific call to action. Smart offers these examples: “Can I send you more information so you can make a more informed decision? Can we meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. or Wednesday at 1 p.m.?”

Save multiple or complex questions for subsequent emails.

Mention First Names At Least Three Times To Get Recipients To Open Emails

People scan their emails and text messages. “The mention of their name will keep them glued to the screen,” George says. First names can be used in subject lines too.

People are 27% more likely to open a personalized email, says Dynamic Yield Research. Plus 62% of consumers feel “happy” and “excited” to respond to a personalized message.

Smart said when crafting an email, especially a cold sales or marketing one, “keep your focus entirely on the recipient. Remember, it’s not about you and your own needs.”

Create Visual Impact For Emails

When you receive a long email as one huge text block, it feels overwhelming, Dhawan says.

However, if you receive that same information broken down into smaller sections with subheads and bullet points, it becomes clearer and easier to understand, she says. “The visual impact of a message can drastically change how (people) respond to it,” she said.

Recipients are overwhelmed by poorly crafted emails, Smart says. So, use spelling and punctuation checkers to avoid grammar mistakes. Your emails “will stand out when you construct it with the primary intent to make a reply almost effortless,” he said.

Follow Up To Get Recipients To Open Emails And Respond

George says 67% of people jump to a worst-case scenario if their message is not returned. It’s important, though, to give recipients enough time to get to your email. Follow up if you don’t hear back within 24 hours, he advises.

But it’s important you don’t nag when you follow up. Don’t simply forward the email or inquire “Did you get my email?” George said. Doing so might trigger a defensive response. No one likes to be hounded, especially about email.

“Simply resend the email with a different subject line,” he said.


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