There are few things in life that are as frustrating as sending out a message and waiting for a response, only to never hear back from the person you’re trying to reach. Whether it’s a voicemail, a text message, or an email, it can be absolutely infuriating to wait patiently for an answer that never comes.
Before you blow up at your reader for not getting back to you, consider that you may actually be part of the problem. There are certain behaviors and writing styles which make us less inclined to even finish reading a message, let alone respond to it, so the next time you’re sending an email, take a moment to reread it and consider whether you might be doing something wrong.
1) What You’re Doing Wrong: Rambling
Email is an effective form of communication that can be short and sweet or long and detailed as necessary. There are plenty of times when a longform email may be appropriate, but that doesn’t mean every character of your longer emails is really necessary. Remember, the longer your email is, the harder it has to work to keep your reader’s attention, and if you lost that then your reader may never responds.
How to Fix It
If you know you’re going to be in it for the long haul with an email, plot yourself a roadmap to success. Don’t just rant about whatever’s on your mind; take the time to outline what you want to say and stick to the script. By staying focused on the task at hand you’ll prevent yourself from wandering into unrelated, uninteresting subjects and may even end up with a shorter email. Either way, your message will be more engaging for the reader.
2) What You’re Doing Wrong: Responding Too Quickly
Responding too quickly? Yes, that can be a problem. It may seem odd to talk about getting back to someone too quickly in a conversation about why people aren’t getting back to you at all, but this could actually be part of the problem. Immediately responding to someone else’s email may be polite, but if the original sender doesn’t reply back to your response it may be because you didn’t actually say anything of substance.
How to Fix It
Make sure your replies make sense. Are you asking a question about the sender’s email? Try phrasing it in the form of a complete sentence or rephrasing part of the email, and specify which part of the original email you’re concerned with.
Let’s pretend that your coworker sent you an email which said “Hey, we need you call IT and ask what’s wrong with the new BYOD policy,” but you’re confused by the phrase “BYOD.” Instead of simply asking “what?” or “what does this mean?” specify which part confused you. “I’m sorry, could you explain what ‘BYOD’ means?” would be a fine response that gets at the heart of the issue.
The other two responses would be ambiguous, and leave your coworker wondering whether you’re confused by the policy, the term “IT,” the request itself, or all three.
3) What You’re Doing Wrong: Making too Many Mistakes
The purpose of language is to help us communicate with one another, but if your emails are riddled with spelling errors and grammatical mistakes you might not be communicating with anyone very well. When people can’t understand what you’re trying to say they’re less inclined to respond or, if they do respond, it will probably be to ask what you meant instead of to answer your own questions.
How to Fix It
Make sure your email is error-free. Proofread it, read it aloud to yourself, or ask a professional to correct your mistakes. Whatever it takes, just make sure your email is written in clear, proper, intelligible English.
Email is a great tool for communication, but it can only do its job if you do yours. Make sure you’re writing emails that people actually want to respond to, and you should start seeing fewer and fewer messages go unanswered.