When you start an email, do you go for the more casual, “Yo, what’s up,” or for the more buttoned-up “Dear Madam or Sir”?
Think carefully. A new analysis of 300,000 emails found that how you start an email can decide whether or not you get a response.
Here’s the best way to start an email
Looking at hundreds of thousands of messages in public online archives, researchers at email app Boomerang found the best way to garner a response is use some form of greeting.
Boomerang’s Brendan Greenley recommended always using an opening in the beginning of an email chain, because emails that included greetings performed overall better than emails that did not have one. Once you’ve sent out your initial introduction email, though, you are free to drop the formality of a salutation.
The study concluded that more casual language was the best way to increase your odds of getting a reply. Here are the response rates based on greeting:
- Hey: 64% — a 34.8% increase over the baseline
- Hello: 63.6% — a 33.9% increase over the baseline
- Hi: 62.7% — a 32.1% increase over the baseline
- Greetings: 57.2% — a 20.6% increase over the baseline
- Dear: 56.5% — a 19% increase over the baseline
- Baseline (all emails in the sample): 47.5%
Formal is taking back seat to conversational
Maybe it’s time to ditch the formal how-do-you-do greetings. The top response for generating an email response was the casual greeting of “Hey,” followed by “Hello” and “Hi.”
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“Perhaps we should move past the era of formal salutations, as messages that struck a more informal, conversational tone from the start got more responses,” Greenley wrote about the findings. “Online communities tend to be more informal, so you might find a different distribution of openings, and different response rates across them, in more formal settings.”
Why do we tend to respond more favorably to casual salutations over more formal language? Greenley cites research on formality in online discussions, which found that we linguistically signal how much we like or know someone through an online salutation. This study found that we tend to use formal language when there is less of a shared context, or when the speakers do not like each other, two characteristics you want to avoid when you want to buddy up to someone. People are less inclined to respond to your networking email when you’re stressing the fact that you’re a stranger.
So next time you need to cold email someone you’ve met through a networking event, try opening that email with a friendly “Hey!”