LSE - Small Logo
LSE - Small Logo

Dipa Patel20

February 16th, 2018

Top tips on how to get a reply to your emails – Duncan Green

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Dipa Patel20

February 16th, 2018

Top tips on how to get a reply to your emails – Duncan Green

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Professor in Practice, Duncan Green, shares some useful tips on how to get your emails answered.

Some of my LSE students are pulling their hair out. A number of them are doing consultancies for various bits of the aid industry. They have composed their requests for interviews, links, suggestions etc, hit ‘send’ and then…. Silence.

So short of doorstepping the unresponsive (which will probably get you arrested), how can you maximise your chances of getting a reply to your email? I tweeted the FP2P hivemind and got dozens of replies, many from the kinds of people students are probably trying to contact. Here’s what they said:

Obvious but important:

Get the grammar and spelling right – it’s amazing how many emails I get with my name misspelt. That doesn’t make you feel like answering

Have a specific question. Don’t say “I am interested in development and am hoping you can help.” (Sarah Lucas)

Timing:

Aim to be on the top of their morning email backlog, so hit send about 7.30am. Avoid weekends.

Tone:

Strike the appropriate balance between informality and formality: ‘Dear Sir’ is likely to be OTT (and they will think it’s a roundrobin) but don’t go the ‘Hey, Bob’ route either – no first names if you’ve never met them! (Shabana Abbas, Sophia Murphy)

Get to the Point:

Get the ask in the subject line. “Request for interview from Financial Times.” (Alan Beattie, but then he does actually work for the FT – an alternative for students might be ‘Professor X suggested I get in touch’).

Brevity! If one has a lot to say, one should place it in an attachment or in the second iteration of emails. (Diane Coyle, Michael Clemens)

Don’t waffle about your values (Lesley King)

The Right Kind of Flattery:

“I have been deeply inspired by your seminal paper/work in …” (Dani Rodrik, presumably tongue in cheek)

If they are super busy, they will have a swiss cheese memory (lots of holes). Try “I will never forget your wise words, and your request to lean on you when the time came.” (Paul O’Brien)

Think about their constraints:

Don’t ask for a chat unless you really mean it. And then say how long you expect the interview to last (take a real estimate, then halve it!). They may find a skype call less disruptive (and easier to end) than a face to face meeting.

And if all else fails:

Pretend to be a funder! Works for me:-) (Nicholas Colloff, but then he is actually a funder)

And some things I wasn’t convinced by:

Don’t say you’re a student? Offer help? Try and incentivize them/convince them it is in their interests to reply? Personally, the ‘we were all students once’ sympathy card works better for me than ‘it’s your lucky day, you get to be interviewed by me.’

Also not convinced by ‘If the person they are trying to contact has a PA, approach the PA first for help.’ Isn’t a PA’s job to stop his boss saying yes to this kind of thing?

Over to you – more tips please!


Dr Duncan Green is Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB, Professor in Practice in International Development at the LSE. His daily development blog can be found on www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the International Development LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

About the author

Dipa Patel20

Posted In: Featured | Fieldwork and Travel | Teaching

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RSS Justice and Security Research Programme

  • JSRP and the future
    The JSRP drew to a close in 2017 but many of the researchers and partners involved in the programme continue to work on the issues and theories developed during the lifetime of the programme. Tim Allen now directs the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa (FLCA) at LSE where many of the JSRP research team working […]
  • Life after the LRA
    The JSRP reached the end of its grant in spring 2017 but several outputs from the programme are scheduled for publication in the coming months. The most recent of these is a new journal article from Holly Porter and Letha Victor drawing on their extensive research with JSRP in the Acholi region of northern Uganda.  The […]

RSS LSE’s engagement with South Asia

  • Reframing the Debate: The State & Disinformation in Sri Lanka
    States often play a pervasive role in the creation and dissemination of disinformation. Disinformation is still the weapon of choice of authoritarian states, rather than just a societal phenomenon precipitated by social media users. Gehan Gunatilleke argues that in Sri Lanka, the true nature and extent of the problem of disinformation can only be understood […]
  • Growing up in a Digital World: Vulnerabilities of Children in Post-Pandemic India
    The closing down of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic meant a complete reliance on online teaching for students to ensure that formal education remained as little disrupted as possible. Simultaneously, remaining at home for extended periods of time meant that children were spending more and more time online, for socialisation and entertainment. This has inevitably […]