The (Not So Difficult) Trick To Get Your Emails Read

To stand out in a flooded inbox, you need to begin with the end.

We spend hours sorting through the 150 billion or so emails that ricochet around the Internet every day. So which ones get the click?

Popular email clients like Gmail show the first 50 or so characters of the body copy in the inbox view. So a clear subject line and a concise, actionable lead sentence will make it most likely to get chosen.

Here's how to craft a clear email that will make the recipient click and actually read it once they do.

The Less fluffy words, the more actionable the message

As Kuhcoon CEO Andrew Torva writes at Medium, our email habits are in need of an epic defluffling. We type out our ideas when we should really be making phone calls. We send essays to our colleagues rather than actions. But we can lose the fluff. To do so, let's look at this fluffilisitic message, with annotations care of Torva:

Hey Andrew I just wanted to email you and tell you about an interesting opportunity. (FLUFF!: Don't tell me what you are going to tell me, just tell me.)

It's great to meet you, my name is John Smith from Abc Inc. (Have we met?) I spent a lot of time following your work and I really think that we can do some great business together. (FLUFF!: No one likes a brown noser, you're wasting my time here I'm 5 seconds into this email and now I'm deleting it.) Our company is from New York and we are funded by x,y,z. (FLUFF!, sorry doesn't matter: what do you want with my time?) We are working to do X. (Finally.) We do it better than Facebook because 1,2,3. (FLUFF!: I'll be the judge of that.) I know a lot of people say X, but on the contrary we believe Y. (FLUFF!: how can you help me or what can I do for you?) I'd love to set up a call with you. (Probably not happening.)

Instead, we need to write like a time-pressed chief executive might. Let's remember that executive comes from the Latin for carry out, so let's trim our emails down to the info that let's both parties carry an action out. Then you get something crisp like this:


I'd like to help you solve problem X. I do Y and Z suggested that we connect. Are you free to chat on Thursday at 2pm?

The conciseness works because it's thoughtful; you're taking into account the reader, the user experience, if you would, of the person on the other side of the message.

If we're trying to carry strategies out—as our "executing" suggests—then we make it as easy as possible for the action to move forward. As Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne notes, suggesting a specific time is better than asking, "How about next week?": pitching an exact time solves the problem of the other person having to think of when to connect.

Writing better emails, like forming better habits, is about sanding down points of friction.

Hat tip: Medium

[Image: Flickr user Andrew Taylor]

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  • It's ironic that I just read this article and found it quite fluffy. I do generally love the theme of your magazine, though :) It's very difficult to capture attention via email, because it is very difficult to create desire via email, hence if you cannot create desire you will not get the chat on a Thursday. If You say; are your free on on Thursday at 2 pm -you are making it very easy, convenient and comfortable for the person to say 'I'm afraid I'm not'. If I must to reach to out someone in this way, which I usually do not! -I would apply a Socratic Question Technique - (asking a question you already know the answer too!!) - for example " Andrew, John Smith told me about you closing off the Matrix contract. A client of mine does what Matrix does in Kuala Lumpur. John was saying you would like to hear about this company; I'm flexible throughout Thursday morning if you call me on 000000000 - When they call, tell them about the company and what you do for the company

  • "Pitching an exact time solves the problem of the other person having to think of when to connect."

    Disagree with this. Suggesting a single exact time is entirely presumptuous and would either lead to an immediate "no" with no opportunity for a re-do or a "no" that forces the recipient into a back-and-forth to figure out a time that works, which runs counter to the point of this article.

    Better to suggest a few alternatives.

  • Cory Charron

    Don't matter what you write (fluff or no fluff).

    Spam is not ham and I would hit the delete key in both cases.

  • Kami Guildner

    Hallelujah! I love the short punchy email! I delete so many emails everyday at the glimpse of title. Great advice Drake! Keep the awesome content flowing! Love your articles!