How to Email Busy People To Get a Response

Email alone could be a full-time job. Every day I’m wading through my emails, quickly tossing the ones that are clearly spam but also deleting emails that I don’t want to take the time to read.

I’m busy. We are all busy. And for most of us, spending time going through our emails during the day isn’t all that much fun. In general, it’s a process we want to get through as quickly as possible, and we don’t care how many emails we throw away to get there.

So, how can we write email messages to busy people that they will notice, read and respond to? Believe it or not, there’s a trick to this.

Tip 1: Get Straight to the Point

Don’t start your email with, “Hello, how are you?”. That’s a perfect way to get people to delete your email without reading another line (I trash these types of emails all the time). Busy people don’t have the patience to read an elevator pitch or small-talk-type questions.

Also, don’t say, “I know you’re busy, so I wanted to…”. Again, this is an excellent way to get your email tossed without a second thought.

Instead, be direct right from the very beginning.

  • “I’m reaching out because…”
  • “I need your insight on…”
  • “I need 5 minutes of your time to…”

The quicker you get to the point, the better.

Tip 2: Your Subject Line Matters

An email’s subject is like an article’s headline: The better it is, the more likely people will read it. Like the first sentence of your email, your subject line should be short and precise. The best subjects succinctly summarize precisely what you will say/ask in the email. Don’t try to “trick” the email recipient, or you’ll reduce your chances of getting a reply.

For instance, here are a few good subject lines to try:

  • I need 2-minutes of your time, please!
  • Interested in lunch next week?
  • John, meet Sam, my colleague
  • My webinar is in two weeks – RSVP quick

Tip 3: Keep Your Email Short

Nobody wants to read long emails, especially busy people. The shorter your email, the better. It will take you less time to write it and may also encourage the recipient to read it because the email’s length doesn’t immediately appear like a significant time commitment.

Whenever I write an email, I always proofread it for two things:

  • Spelling and grammar
  • Words I can eliminate

This process reduces the size of the emails I send by 20 to 30%. The fewer the words, the more likely the recipient will read them. In an email, less is more. Before sending each email, re-read your message and remove words (and whole sentences) that aren’t critical.

Tip 4: Use Bullet Points

Bullets help break up paragraphs into easy-to-read sections of text. Using bullets in emails accomplishes two things:

  • Bullets are easier to read than paragraphs
  • Psychologically, we want to read organized pieces of data

This means that bullets are more likely to be read than large paragraphs of information, just like keeping your emails shorter. Looking at big paragraphs appears daunting and time-consuming. Bullet points, however, are visually pleasing and easier to digest as we read. This also makes emails more scannable.

I like to keep each bullet point about the same length. It’s easier to read. Bullet points should also be high-level rather than detailed and lengthy, when possible. I never make bullet points longer than two lines but always strive for one-line points.

The more readable our emails are, the more likely they will be read.

Tip 5: Be Specific

Your “ask” should be specific and clear. For instance, don’t invite the person to “jump on a call” to “collaborate” or talk, etc. You’re emailing because you want something from the other person. Their time. Their insight. Whatever it is, your job is to be as specific as possible with what you want and ask for it directly.

For instance:

“I wrote the most comprehensive article about discrimination in the workplace and would love it if you added it to this blog post [insert link]

Here’s a link to what I wrote: [insert link]”.

Tip 6: Time Your Email

Let’s face it: If you send an email on a Friday afternoon, it probably won’t be looked at until Monday. Or, it might get lost in all the weekend emails and trashed without opening it. So instead, send emails when you know the recipient is likely to be working.

I always like to send emails first thing in the morning because many people are going through emails that come in overnight at that time. However, this doesn’t mean you must get up early to write emails. You can write emails during the day and tell Gmail to send the email later by scheduling the email.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: Canva.


Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.