How to send emails that get responses

How To Send Emails That Get Responses

Boomerang is a service which Rachel and I have used for years to enhance our ability to manage email. The two main features of this service are:

  1. Have an email return to your Inbox if the recipient doesn’t reply. Every time I send an email and I’m expecting a reply, I’ll set it to come back to my Inbox after a certain time (depending on the urgency, sometimes in a couple of hours, or the next day, or a week later). After I send the email, I can forget about it completely until either the recipient responds or the deadline comes in which case that message comes back to my Inbox and I can follow-up on it.
  2. Get an email out of your Inbox, but have it come back later. Sometimes you have an email that you don’t need to deal with right now, but you have to deal with it. In my personal inbox, I Boomerang all of my bills for Saturday morning, as I pay them over the weekend. Or if I have a hotel confirmation email, I’ll Boomerang that so it comes back to me the day I’m checking in.

A third feature of Boomerang which I use, but not very often, is sending messages later. I primarily use this if I’m working on the weekend and don’t want an employee to feel obligated to reply on the weekend, then I’ll write my emails and have them sent on Monday morning instead.

Boomerang has other features, too, but this post isn’t an extensive review of Boomerang. What I wanted to share with you is some conclusions the Boomerang team has made after evaluating way too many emails:

Hey, How Do You Start Your Email?

Can your opening line impact response rate? According to Boomerang, using “Hey” as an opener will increase response rate by nearly 35% – or are you more likely to use “Hey” when you’re emailing someone you’re already familiar with, and therefore are already more likely to get a response? Of course, if you’re pitching an advertiser or introducing your brand to an influencer for the first time, go with something more professional than “Hey.”

Most Effective Email Openings

Avoid the Spam Folder

We know what Spam looks like, so don’t write your email like a Spammer. Odds are you’re not doing these things, but here’s what you want to avoid:

Your Email May Get Flagged As Spam If You...

Remember When You Were 9?

Mrs. Bertram taught me everything I need to know to get the best response rate from my emails (and now you know the answer to my security question, “Who was your 3rd grade teacher?”). For the best chance at a reply, write at a 3rd grade level. You’re probably already doing this as third graders use fewer sentences in each paragraph – the same as what’s recommended for writing copy for the Internet (short sentences, fewer sentences per paragraph, bulleted lists).

Email Reading Grade Level vs. Response Rate

Word Count

If you write a novel, I’ll probably Boomerang your message to read later – and I’ll probably do that a few times, then probably not respond. The sweet spot is 50-125 words. But if you go to 200, 300 or more words, don’t worry – response rates are pretty level until you hit 1500 words or more.

Message length vs. Response rate

Don’t Send on Mondays

Emails sent on Mondays tend to include more typos are and less positive versus emails sent later in the week.

one typo in the subject line can decrease response rates by 15%

The most positive emails are sent on the weekend!

Email Positivity by Day

ABC: Always Be Closing

If you’re still with me and trying to optimize responses to your emails, the last bit is your closing. “Thanks in advance” puts pressure on the recipient as you’ve already thanked them for doing the thing you asked. Of course, only use this if you’re asking for something. Whatever you do, DO NOT use “Best” – not only because it hurts your response rate, but also because nobody talks like that. Or, skip the closing and just sign your name.

Most Effective Email Closings

Boomerang’s Respondable

Boomerang Respondable

Writing the perfect email is like perfecting your golf swing: head down, knees slightly bent, feet lined up where you want the ball to go (I’m sure there’s more, but I haven’t golfed in years). My point is: there’s a lot to remember. Luckily, Boomerang has Respondable. As you write your email, Respondable will score your message on the likelihood of it being replied to. Respondable scores your message on

  • Subject length – 3-7 word subject lines are most effective.
  • Word count – as mentioned above, aim for a message length of 50-125 words.
  • Question count – Asking 1-3 questions in your email gives you the best chance of getting a response. But if you ask more (4+) questions, response rates start to decline.
  • Reading level – same as above, shoot for a 3rd grade reading level.
  • Positivity – don’t be too negative, or too negative either. Emails that are slightly positive or slightly negative in tone have the best response rates.
  • Politeness – Emails deemed to be more polite tend to have higher response rates. Being polite in your email could include attempts to minimize or apologize for imposition, or using language that reflects gratitude or positivity.
  • Subjectivity – the ratio of opinions to facts in your message. Facts are important, but nothing generates conversation more than opinions. Sending a subjective email where you take a stance or give an opinion (that a recipient might affirm or disagree with) increases response rates

You don’t need Respondable by Boomerang to increase your response rates – just remember these points from above. But if you’re looking for instant feedback on your email and the likelihood that you’ll see a response, get Boomerang – and take advantage of the other Boomerang features, too!


Eric Nagel is a business-savvy technology executive with experience in programming and online marketing going back to 1999. He is passionate about developing applications that allow businesses, teams and individuals to achieve their goals through automated tools and access to actionable data.

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