How to write emails that don’t irritate

"Hello, Hi, Hiya, How’s it going, Howdy"– just a few of the many ways to greet people but they all come down to the same thing – a quick greeting, an easy opener, writes Kay White, a communication and mentoring expert at Way Forward Solutions.

What’s in a greeting?

According to my trusty dictionary, a greeting is “a polite word or sign of welcome or recognition.” Simple, quick and powerful.

So many people struggle and feel as if they’re banging their head against a brick wall as they wait for people to get back to them or take action from sending out an email.Sound familiar?

OK, well first, a quick question for you. You wouldn’t just burst the door open to someone’s office, blurt out what you want to say and then slam the door shut as you leave would you? Well, if you would, then that’s a whole other article!In the main, you’d walk in and say “Morning, how are you?” or “Hey John, have you got a minute?” It constantly amazes me that people fire off emails and do it without a single “Hello” or “Good morning” and then wonder why they get mixed – if any – responses.

How to irritate on email

It’s the quickest way to irritate, to unsettle and to invite the other person to simply make you wait or ignore you.Never underestimate the power of giving people a sign of “welcome or recognition” to ease them – and you – into your message.

It takes about 5 seconds to type a few words of welcome or greeting and then to add a friendly, polite sign off at the end.I call it ‘topping and tailing’ things or ‘adding subtle accessories’ to your messages. Again, think about your emailing like going into someone’s office – you are, after all, appearing on his or her screen. You’ve got nothing to lose by taking those few seconds and so much to gain.

It makes a real difference to the way your message lands and how it makes the reader feel – and crucially – what they do once they’ve read it, if you top and tail it. If you want to engage people into action – whatever action that is – then a ‘polite word or sign of welcome or recognition’ is a quick and easy win.

Notice the difference in how you feel reading these two real-life examples:

  • When can we get together to discuss XYZ? The deadline’s coming up, let’s find a date. John


  • Morning Jane, hope all goes well with you. When can we get together to discuss XYZ? The deadline’s coming up, so let’s find a date. Best wishes, John

What about this bald statement, again a real-life example:

  • I need to understand more about this before I can agree it. When can we speak?


  • Hi there Jane, thanks for sending this across and I’ve read through it all.I need to understand more about this before I can agree it.When can we speak? Regards, John

There’s a myriad of things you can do – and not do – to get people into action and to respond to you in a way that makes sense to both you and them. One of them is to use an easy opener in your emails.

Which emails do YOU ignore, or park for later?

Think how many emails you send and receive every day and now notice which ones you find easier to respond to and why.I bet you the easier ones are from people who take just a few seconds to give you a bit of recognition before they ask, or tell you, what it is they want. Those few seconds can save you so much crucial time and energy.Why wouldn’t you?

By the way, if you’re still not convinced, try this. One of my clients said that if she receives an email just saying “Will you get XYZ to me by 5pm?” for example with no opener, no please, no thanks, then that person waits extra-long for her response.As she herself says “If they haven’t got time to be polite, I haven’t got time to respond to them. They can just wait.”

The author, Kay White, invites FreelanceUK readers to a complimentary training call, on Thursday October 24th, entitled 'How on EARTH do I tell them that?,' designed to help business owners go about communicating the 'tough' tricky stuff to their colleagues, suppliers or clients.

Editor’s Note: Further Reading –

How to write emails that will always be read

How to write emails that persuade and convince


10th October 2013

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