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This email will change your life

It’s a week later and that reply you’ve been waiting for still hasn’t arrived on gold-leaved compliments. I know how that feels. I write emails for a living, whether for new jobs, finding new clients, complaining to customer service that my shipment is taking too long, or begging Rogers to extend my phone bill grace period.

You too, don’t you?

This is about another kind of email. The email that makes people want to reply. The kind that your new boss will put down his coffee (or whisky) to read. This is about writing not good emails, not great emails, but fucking amazing award-winning digital poetry.

Okay, maybe not that #winning, still, hear me out.

All those email listicles that start with “X ways to write ridiculously good emails…” and then make you pay $19.99 for a copywriting course? Screw. That. BS. I’ve read all of them, and by all, I mean until the second page of Google.

I’ve been to the search Darknet and survived, and none of those listicles saved me.

There is only one rule to writing emails that get replies you want.

Know your recipient.

Okay, second rule, no spelling mistakes or profanities, but your courtesy can’t be that bad.

Example: I’ve gotten free shipping and refunds from single emails, just by being nice to customer service staff. Don’t make their day crap, it already is, be a shining light of grace and niceties and they will remember you. Trust me, please and thank yous with ‘!!’ mean everything.

Another example: Want a famous blogger to sponsor you? Read their popular posts, explain your product in less than a paragraph, and compliment them before and after on a specific subject from their posts. Didn’t work? Tweet, comment, or direct message them after your email. Say how much you value their sponsorship or review. Even if you might not get through the door immediately, you’re definitely going to be remembered.

That’s how I get my gigs.

How do I tackle the beast then? A job application?

Honestly, I’m a 60–40 on that. I’ve applied for many positions I couldn’t care less for but needed a job, and I was mis-qualified. Let’s not talk about those. Let’s talk about your dream job, or at least a job you can see yourself doing for longer than 6 months.

Remember, your favourite companies are full of busy people. Everyone you write to is busy and generally dislikes emails. They spend 2–5 seconds reading your header to judge if your email is trash-can worthy. (We’ll get to eye-grabbing subject lines later.)

Write something you want to read, and in no more than a few precise paragraphs. Imagine yourself as your reader, you want an email that is relevant, and if it makes you laugh, even better. If the email takes you an hour, and you write 5 paragraphs, that’s 4 too long. If it takes you an hour but clearly expresses your love for the career, how your top 3 skills can solve a certain problem, and how you met company so-and-so at an event in 5 lines, send that baby. Don’t forget your contact details!

Okay, my email is amusingly precise, how do I write a subject line that screams Black Friday promo?

You don’t.

Promos, unless from big brand names are often treated as junk. Your email has to be concise, and easy to search for. Always put your name in the subject, especially for job applications. Ms. Frustrated HR will love you for it. Be courteous and state your position and reason for the email. “My Name — Full-Stack Dev Job Application, can start next week” beats “Full-Stack Dev application” any day. If you met previously at an event, think casual coffee meet: “Great meeting you at X event, let’s meet to discuss X soon?”

Recheck your typos and attachments, and send it. Don’t be precious, don’t chew your fingernails, cry happy tears if you have to. Pat yourself on the back and don’t forget to follow up!

Longtime traveller, UX explorer and chilli lover. INFJ.