What to Do if You Suck at Writing Emails That Get Replies

Do you write email after email to no avail? Are you wondering why recipients don’t respond and if you are doing something wrong? If so, you are not alone. Email is a unique medium with its own set of challenges. However, there are some etiquette rules and research that can give you insights on how to improve. So here are the basics of what to do to get people to write you back.

Choose the Right Medium

Right Medium

Although it is true that email is one of the most popular ways of communicating, not everyone uses it often. You have to acknowledge that email is not the preferred method of communication for everyone. Instead, aim to find the medium your contacts prefer. Maybe they prefer Skype chatting, Google Messenger, or even WhatsApp. Whatever it is, meet them there. By doing so, you can greatly increase your chances of getting replies and making progress towards a sale or other goal.

Once you are actually in contact with them, there are some email etiquette rules that can help you send the right messages.

Email Etiquette Rules That You Should Follow

Write emails that get replies

When communicating via digital means you face some challenges which are different that when speaking to someone in person. You can’t hear a person’s tone of voice and you can’t take cues from their body language. Unfortunately you are solely relying on what you may know of someone, if you are lucky, and the words on the screen (which can be ambiguous and easily misinterpreted).

So how do you make sure you are coming across in a respectful and positive manner? Here are a few tips.

‘Reply to all’ mindfully

When in a conversation with several members, be mindful of how you reply. You may have experienced the annoying inbox overload which occurs when a message is sent to a group and everyone says thank you by ‘replying to all’. Does everyone in the group really need to see your message? If it is not going to provide value for them, skip the reply to all and send a reply just to the person/people who will find value in it.

Use exclamation points sparingly

Next, do you know someone who is always excited or charged with emotion about everything they write?! Isn’t it a bit annoying!? It’s like…”Are they yelling at me or just overly enthusiastic!?” You get the picture. Be mindful of how you use exclamation points and, in general, use them sparingly.

Be cautious with humor

The next point of caution is on the use of humor. Remember how I said that tone of voice and body language is missing in digital communications? Well much of humor can be understood by a person’s expressions and tone. Without those cues, the joke can be easily misconstrued. Also, some people may have a different sense of humor, especially in other cultures, so you may want to stay on the side of caution and save the humor for after you meet in person and get to know each other.

Be aware of cultural differences

Speaking of different cultures, if you are emailing someone from another culture, do yourself a favor by doing some research first. You will find what is perfectly acceptable in one culture is considered rude in another. For example, while some countries get right to business, others may expect friendly pleasantries first. It is good to be aware to improve the chance of getting replies.


The last important tip is to proofread every message. Be careful before you hit the “send” button because you can’t click “unsend.” If you aren’t careful about how you prepare an email, can you be trusted with the recipients business? Don’t give them any doubts.

Waiting for a Reply?

Write emails that get replies

Now that we’ve covered the etiquette basics, let’s talk about the seemingly endless wait for a reply. You have crafted a killer message, took time to ensure it would come across well, and sent it. They would be crazy not to reply and miss the opportunity you are offering but…they still haven’t replied. How long should you wait before giving up hope?

Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have analyzed email response times from more than 2 million users exchanging 16 billion emails! Quite a test group. They found some interesting patterns about email communication.

  • For one, the maximum time it should take to receive an email response is 48 hours.
  • By the third day, the chances are high that you will never receive a reply.
  • Furthermore, due to mobile devices half of email replies will be sent within an hour if they are to be sent at all. Of course this can vary if you are emailing someone in another time zone.

So the good news is, you shouldn’t have to wait longer than 2 days for a reply. The bad news is if you haven’t heard something after 2 days, you probably won’t.

What if you have already been in communication with someone and the conversation has gone cold? Are there ways to tell if a person has lost interest? Indeed there are.

When emailing, both parties typically mimic each other in the length and depth of the email. So if I wrote you a 5 line email, you are likely to write me back a 5 line email. If you notice that a prospect is beginning to respond in shorter less engaged emails, that is a sign that interest may be declining. Furthermore, pay attention to any changes in the time it takes for a recipient to respond. If delays are growing longer and longer, the conversation is heading toward a close.

What about the length and timing of your email, do those make a difference?

Indeed, the study found both factors are at play. People’s attention spans are getting shorter so you don’t have to write long messages. The average person wants to spend less than 30 seconds reading an email. Note that the average email reply is 5 words long. Over half of emails are 43 words or less and only 30% are over 100 words. So keep it short and to the point. Also the best time to send an email was found to be on a weekday morning, as weekday afternoons and weekends resulted in shorter responses.

When Should You Follow Up?

Write emails that get replies

Next, if you haven’t got a response, when should you follow up and send another email? One question that is important to this decision is… has the recipient read your emails?

If all of your emails are being opened, you can guess that the recipient is reading your messages but they may be busy or have some objection to what you are saying. If they aren’t reading any of them, you can guess they either aren’t interested or don’t check their email often. If they stopped opening your emails, they have probably lost interest. Whatever the case may be, knowing this information can help you respond appropriately. You can decide if it is time to let the lead go, attempt to overcome an objection, or send a last time offer to create urgency.

How do you find out if your emails are being opened? You can use a tool like Yesware or Bananatag which do just that.

Write Emails That Will Get Response Instead

Write emails that get replies

There are several ways to write emails that get positive responses instead of no responses. Here are some tips.

First, engage in peer pressure/social proof by mentioning other people’s names. Mention how well this product has worked for your previous customers. Your recipients will feel more confident knowing that you have a loyal following.

Avoid being vague in an email – always give a reason. The “because I said so” is not a good one. Tell them all of the benefits that they get from investing time and money in your company. Connect the dots for them.

In the subject line, you need to make a good first impression. Write clearly and directly what the email will be about.

In the body of the email, keep it short and simple without boring them. As we said, most people want to read an email in under 30 seconds. It is recommended to only focus on one specific action you want the reader to take and build your message around that.

Don’t Use These Words Unless You Want to be Rude!

Write emails that get replies


Last but not least, here are some words you should probably not use in emails. These can come across as rude even though you don’t mean them to be.

Actually – this comes across as rude and annoying like you know something the recipient doesn’t.

Need – this can come off as demanding or needy; both of which can be off-putting.

You – addressing the reader by ‘you’ can be demeaning and make it sound like they did something wrong.

Fine – this is one of those words that can be misconstrued so it is best to use something like ‘that’s good”

Me – using ‘me’ can make you come across as selfish.

Thanks – show you are really thankful by typing the full ‘thank you’

Sorry – apologies should not be made over email. Give the person a call or meet them in person.

Swear Words – this one is self-explanatory.

Now, we have covered a lot of ground here. Much of it comes down to thinking about your audience and how you present your message. Then, you also have the research which can help you understand more about length, timing and the behavior of your recipients. Lastly, you know the tools and tips to engage rather than repel your readers. By putting this knowledge into action, you can improve your emails, understand how to gauge conversations, and get more replies.