Why Your Emails Get Replies (Or Don't)

Everyone's as overwhelmed by their inbox as you are—so getting replies is a matter of cutting through the clutter.

Why do some of your messages get prompt replies and others vanish into the aether? As Anna Codrea‑Rado contends at Quartz, the details are in the attention.

Recapping a Carnegie Mellon University study, she observes that :


... people are more likely to respond to information requests—whether important or trivial—if they're easy to address. ... By contrast, very important but complex messages that require a lot of work to answer often don’t get a response.

This confirms something we've discussed before: that if you want to get your emails read, your message needs to be the opposite of vague—that is, it should be as clear, concise, and actionable as possible.

Why? Because people are as busy as they are lazy, so the tasks that require the least amount of cognitive effort will appear as most appealing, standing out among the suffocating stuffedness of an unruly inbox. As we noted before, a business wants its product to be as simple as possible—that way the user will immediately be taken with it—and as a working person in 2013 your emails are some of your most-produced products.

So how do we make our electronic missives so massively simple? Chances are that the point of action that you're trying to share feels a little murky when you first click on "compose," so as inspired by Pixar's story-creating method, we previously devised a free-writing technique to get your message out of your head and sent to your recipient (and they can get back to you):

  1. Start by writing what you think you are trying to say
  2. Discover that the first few lines are wholehearted hogwash
  3. Rejoice in your determination to write something well
  4. Keep your hands on the keyboard, look for the conclusion when it appears
  5. THEN move that conclusion to the top of the message

Hat tip: Quartz

[Shredded Paper: Tom Biegalski via Shutterstock]

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5 Comments

  • Brad+Scott+Yvette+Leigh+Gil

    Some people with big egos and low intelligence pay men to install video cameras in Hotel Rooms and try to get women drunk, then seduce them and make illegal videos to send to the criminals in Syracuse.  This is what Brad does while claiming to be a Christian.

  • Skelly

    I'm pretty sure people are too busy and lazy to go through that process. ;)

  • Brad

    It seems he
    has come a long way from the cell phone industry he was in when we
    first met two years ago!