The Experts’ Guide to the Ever-Elusive Perfect Email

03.17.2017 | Suong Nguyen

Since email went mainstream in the ‘90s, PR professionals everywhere have all labored toward the same goal: to write the perfect email. The good news is it appears we’re not the only ones on this communications odyssey. My LinkedIn newsfeed is often flooded with articles declaring with authoritative certainty that the secret to email nirvana is just a click away. To save you the trouble of reading those articles, I’m throwing my hat in the ring as an expert on email advice from experts to summarize some of the most helpful tips I’ve found so far.

Subject Line

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the subject of your email should be informative and direct. Now thanks to Boomerang, a productivity app, we even know how many words your subject line should contain. According to survey results, three-to-four words elicited the most responses (48 percent). Before you add another word, decide if it’s absolutely critical for clarity or if the recipient will still be able to grasp the main objective without it.


If there’s one thing I can state with absolute conviction after my research, it’s this: No one is a fan of long emails. Much like subject lines, brevity is encouraged throughout an email. Harvard Business Review advocates for channeling your inner drill sergeant when writing emails and delivering the bottom line up front (BLUF). By immediately stating the key facts (who, what, when, where and why), readers will quickly glean the purpose and intent of the email.

As for the ideal length, Fast Company prescribes five sentences to strike the right balance between courtesy and concision. If five sentences seems like a miserly length to you, The Atlantic went so far as to whittle that down to a scant three sentences. However, if a situation requires a more detailed email, remember to use numbered lists and leave spaces between paragraphs since your recipients will likely be reading your message on their mobiles.


And last but not least is the email sign-off. Once you’ve nailed the subject line and content of your email, your final hurdle to clear is the closing. Fortunately, the Boomerang team also reviewed closings in more than 350,000 email threads to determine which phrases correlated with the highest response rate. Here are the top eight closings and their response rates:

  1. Thanks in advance (65.7 percent)
  2. Thanks (63.0 percent)
  3. Thank you (57.9 percent)
  4. Cheers (54.4 percent)
  5. Kind regards (53.9 percent)
  6. Regards (53.5 percent)
  7. Best regards (52.9 percent)
  8. Best (51.2 percent)

It turns out that a little thanks goes a long way, at least when it comes to email sign-offs. When emails with thankful closings were compared to those without, the study concluded, “Closing with an expression of gratitude thus correlated with a whopping 36 percent relative increase in average response rate compared to signing off another way.”

With that, I will thank you in advance for reading my blog post and leave you to your inbox.


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Filed under: COMMUNIQUÉ PR, Planning, Positioning, PR trends, Strategy

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