I received two email messages recently. Each was from someone I did not know. Both posed a single, easy-to-answer question, but it’s amazing how different my reaction was to each.
The first contained nothing but the question and the sender’s name and city. The question challenged something that I had written in an article in Law Practice Magazine. I was surprised at how visceral and angry my reaction was. It wasn’t that the person questioned what I had written. Normally, I would be delighted to discuss an article and hear someone else’s point of view, but the sender didn’t lead up to the question by telling me who she was or why she was interested in the issue. Her email didn’t contain a signature and her email address didn’t give me any indication of where she worked or why she might be trying to pin me down in writing (OK, email) to a particular position on the issue in question.
The second email was also from a stranger, but the sender had given a little more thought to posing her question. She started out by telling me who she was, where she worked, and why she was contacting me. She then posed her request, and ended her email with a signature that included her company’s name, a street address and phone number, and a link to her company’s website, where I could verify who she was. Needless to say, I was much more receptive to responding to her request for information.
We’re all busy, and email can help us accomplish many more things in a single day that phone calls and letters, but it can backfire on you if you don’t take a few steps to help the person receiving the message. Here’s what you can do to make sure your email messages are answered promptly:
- If the recipient doesn’t know you, or if you’ve met only once and may not remember you, introduce yourself.
- State your question or requiest simply, but provide enough background information for the recipient to understand what you want and why you want it.
- Use a professional-sounding email address that identifies you or your law pratice.
- Remember that a brief email can come across as rude if not thoughtfully worded. Use complete sentences and proof-read your message before you hit Send.
- End your message with a signature that includes your full name and the name of your firm. If you have a website, provide a link.
- Include your phone number in your signauture. Often, you’ll get a much faster, and more complete, answer if you provide the recipient with the option of responding immediately by phone.