10 nifty tricks to make sure your colleagues actually read your emails

Straight to the point but not lacking emotion – crafting an email your coworkers really want to read can be tricky. Here are 10 hacks to help you nail it.

Even if you’ve tried waking up at 4am, given forced mindfulness a go or changed the way you eat in the name of optimum productivity, sometimes you’re not the one standing in the way of a completely ticked off to-do list. Sometimes it’s a colleague – and their penchant for ignoring your emails – that’s causing the bottle neck.

As irritating as it might be when your messages don’t receive a reply, take some time to do a quick audit of the emails you’re sending. Are they long? Void of emotion? Do they waffle on? If you answered yes to any of the above – and even if you didn’t – try one of these genius email hacks on for size.

We guarantee your reply rate will go through the roof.

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1. Keep it short and sweet

No matter how important the subject of your email is, avoid your urge to send your coworker novel-worthy prose. A 2015 study from Boomerang revealed that messages with fewer than 125 words have more than a 50% chance of receiving a reply – so keep it brief.

If you’re struggling to cram everything you want to say in one email, write a draft, read it over and then cut back from there, or break down key info or context into bullet points. Just like you, your coworkers are short on time, so if they see a 15-paragraph email in their inbox they’ll probably ‘file it’ away for later. Read: Ignore it forever.

2. Nail your subject line

Would you open an email that says “Need advice” or “I was wondering if I could get your opinion on this report I’m writing for a presentation tomorrow at 1pm…”? Or would you put it in the “too hard” or “too vague” basket? Chances are it’s the latter – and your coworkers would do it, too.

If you really want to grab your colleagues’ attention, keep your subject line clear and concise and full of action. For example, instead of a long-winded request, try “Invoice approval required today” or “Question about Tuesday’s presentation”.

Let your recipient know exactly what you need and they’ll be more likely to respond.

3. Don’t spam them

Ever heard the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? Turns out it applies to platonic work emails, too. If you have multiple email threads going on with the same person – and you’re still waiting on them to reply to every single one – condense everything into the one email.

Instead of sifting through their inbox, they’ll see everything you want from them in one message, which they can then go through and respond to. Before you send multiple messages, ask yourself if you could call or instant message them instead to lighten up their mental load.

4. Have an intention

Before you send an email, ask yourself what you’re really saying. Have you beaten around the bush by adding in too many niceties – like “Hope you’re super well after your holiday did you have a great time?”

If you have to question whether your email gets the message across, it probably hasn’t, so go back and make your point known.

5. Front-load your email

Okay, so you’ve deleted the niceties but you still haven’t said what you want. The solution? Put what you want first. It can be tempting to write an email as if you’re relaying a story back chronologically, but it’s much more effective to say what you need to say in the first few sentences.

For example, if you’re emailing someone to book a meeting, try: “Hi Alice, Hope you’re well. Can we book in a meeting for 9am Wednesday? Would love to run you through the budget for the next quarter.”

6. End on a call to action

This helps to reinforce what you want and it also conveys a sense of importance or urgency – the ultimate duo when it comes to getting a reply.

Saying “If you could get back to me by 11am tomorrow that would be great” or “Please read this report today” reminds them of the action they need to take.

7. Don’t write like a robot

While it’s important to keep things clear and concise, don’t take all of the emotion out of your email. In the same Boomerang study, researchers found that emails that contain positive language receive up to 15% more responses than emails with no personality.

Don’t be afraid to have a joke or two – just don’t let it get in the way of your goal.

8. Time it right

If you know your colleague is more productive in the morning than the afternoon, schedule your email when you know they’ll be paying attention.

If you’re not sure, studies show that emails sent in the morning or around lunchtime get a higher response rate, since people are arriving or returning to their desk.

9. Do you really need to send it?

Does your colleague work in the same office as you? Is there no way you’ll get the message across without sending three emails, each 500 words long? Try talking to your coworker instead, either on the phone or in person.

Technology makes it too easy for us to communicate via email, chat or SMS – but sometimes a good old fashion talk is just what you need.

10. Don’t be afraid to follow up

Written the most reader-friendly email on the planet but still hearing radio silence? Follow up. Sometimes no matter how great your subject line is, people get busy and things fall through the cracks.

By sending a follow-up email you’ll go straight to the top of their inbox and they’ll know you’re awaiting their reply.