How to write letters to be answered?

Original author: Mark Suster
  • Transfer


Each of us receives many letters. Yes, and sends no less. When we draw up an important letter, we expect that they will answer or do what we asked.

However, if you count the number of incoming letters and multiply by the time it takes to read and answer everything, you will be in shock. A working day is simply not enough for you.

There are simple tricks that will increase your chances of getting an answer. If you follow these tips, you will be grateful.

Translated to Alconost .



1. Write briefly and to the point


People often write too much. When I am writing an important letter, basically I’m thinking not about what else to add, but about what I can throw out. When it comes to email, less is better. If you doubt whether you need to write something - do not write.

2. Place the most important request at the beginning


Many send letters without a “call to action”. Try to write so that the reader understands what you are trying to achieve. If you do not expect any response, report it immediately: "the information in the letter is just for your information, no action is required."

It is not always possible to describe a complex question succinctly. If you have a lot of text, please indicate your request at the very beginning.

When I write a super important letter indicating the required dates, I highlight the basic information in red and bold. Example: I am writing an invitation to participate in an event. I will highlight in red the date of the event, the date by which you need to confirm participation, and the location of the event. All this information will be at the very beginning of the letter.

3. Break large letters into paragraphs


When letters get too long due to the abundance of details, I break them down into paragraphs (as in this post). A well-structured text helps to understand what is at stake. In addition, it will be easier for the reader to quickly scan the letter and find the necessary data. If the recipient opens your letter and sees a huge block of text, he will most likely wave it off and switch to the rest of the mail (re-read point 2 - if you write all the most important in the beginning and highlight in bold, the recipient will at least remember what you wanted).

4. Write to someone alone


It is very important. This is the main reason why I took up this text. I often see people who write to everyone right away. For example, the CEO, who writes to the whole board: “please help me deal with Google” or “take a look at the list of potential investors and tell me what you think.”

Even if people are well motivated, they are unlikely to respond to the appeal to the group. Any sociologist can confirm this.

In the comments, Martin Peacock wrote that this is, in general, a known effect:

Imagine that you received a letter saying: “Hey Sarah, I would like to ask you for a small service ...”, or even: “Sarah, I will be hosting an event on February 17 and want to know if you can come” . You understand that this letter is addressed to you personally. If you do not answer, you will fail your interlocutor.

When you send a letter with the text: “I would like someone to help me ...”, everyone will decide that someone else will help. Yes, there are people who respond to such letters. But there are far fewer of them than those who respond to personal appeal.

Believe my experience - I have tried both options for many years.

The easiest way to do this: write the general part of the letter, which will be the same for everyone. After that, create some text variations. Add the name of the person you are contacting. I often attribute something personal at the beginning of each letter and / or change the data related to the question.

Of course, this is more difficult than writing one letter for everyone. Therefore, in case the issue is not very important, I am doing a mass mailing. However, when it comes to something serious, I write personal letters.

I found an application that should make my task easier. It is called ToutApp . I met its creator and tried the demo version. I liked how it was made and what it can do.

5. The subject of the letter should be significant.


The title of the letter means no less than the text of the tweet or the title of the article. We are a generation of runaway readers. We look at the headers of letters to understand which of them need to be opened. A few days later, if the letter was not read, it most likely went missing. If you do not recall him, he will never be answered.

So write the headlines so that your letters are read!

I am writing something like:
  • small but very important request
  • important introduction: company a / company b
  • places at the Future TV roundtable end - confirm participation this week
  • small question - can you help?

Or something like that. Once again, I don’t always write perfect headlines - I often click “send” without thinking. However, if this is an important letter, the fate of the answer depends on its title.

6. Time of day matters


Do not send important letters on Friday evening (only if you have a very urgent matter). I usually write the letter at the end of the week, and send it on Monday morning. I want the letter to be at the top of the list, not at the very bottom. Many start their day with checking mail (although productivity experts advise against this!)
I was told that ToutApp can send emails on a given schedule.

By the way, if I write a blog post on Saturday, Monday morning I will remind you of this on Twitter - for the same reason.

7. Lather, rinse and repeat


When I was younger, I suffered if my letters were not answered. I myself then received few letters and could answer everyone.

Over the years, I realized that some people are overloaded and cannot process everything that comes to them. The higher your position, the more difficult the requirements, the more work, and so on. The older we get, the more responsibility we have outside of work, and the less people sit until 2 in the morning to answer each letter.

So just send your request again. I usually press "reply to everyone" so that the recipient sees that this is a second letter on the same topic. I don't blame anyone. This is stupid. If I speak with important people, then putting them in an uncomfortable position is the last thing I achieve.

I just write something like: “I know that you are very busy. I hope you do not mind that my letter will again fall into your field of vision ”and I repeat my request.

After waiting a while (so as not to look like a annoying beggar), I send a letter for the third time. And I say: “I apologize for the repeated letter, I did not want to be intrusive. However, I hope that you will have two minutes for me until next Wednesday to ... ".

Translator Comment: I would like to add one more tip from personal practice. If you need to write a letter in a foreign language that you do not speak fluently - do not waste time and do not torment yourself by squeezing out wordings and phrases that have been remembered since school time. Immediately write a letter in your native language, and then translate it with a good, trusted translator. In this case, you will get "what I wanted to say," and not "how it was formulated."

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About the translator
Translation of the article was done in Alconost.

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