The Experience
Teach at Jolt

How to Write Emails People Actually Respond To

Bianca Bass
July 1, 2018

I applied for Vogue three times before I even got an interview.

The first time, as an eager intern, I went for a formal approach. I was eighteen and wanted to be taken seriously. But I never heard back.

Unfazed (because they were probably busy, right?), I applied again a few months later, opting for a much more creative approach. Think a Photoshop’d CV in the form of a Vogue cover and you get the idea. But, again, nada.

It wasn’t until the third attempt that, flabbergasted, I decided to just write to a human. And a human (Vogue’s Managing Editor, to be exact) replied.

The experience taught me the importance of email etiquette, and it’s a lesson I’ve carried with me ever since. So, here are all of the tips nobody ever told me, that I’d love to share with you. Here’s how to write emails people actually reply to.

Use a stand-out subject line

First things first, you need to get people opening your emails. When emailing strangers, you may have the tendency to lean towards a more formal, straightforward approach… “Guest post for consideration” or “application for Junior Designer position”, for example. But the problem with taking that approach is that everybody else does, too! To stand out in an overflowing inbox, you need to be the email that reads like a human. A friendly human, at that. A few of the subject lines that always work for me include: “I’d love to interview you!” “Coffee?” “Can we collaborate sometime?” “I’d love to meet about X position”. You get the idea. Make your subject lines concise, human and enthusiastic. Stand out in a sea of boring subject lines.

Get to the point

We’re all receiving more emails than ever (120 a day on average, yiiiikes). To beat the competition you need to get to the point. Stat. FYI, 125 words in total is plenty. And in the rare case you need to say more? Attach it in a Word doc or include a Google doc link (the latter is preferable and way easier if someone’s reading your email on the go).

Make it easy. Super Easy.

Always aim to make your email as easy and low effort to read AND respond to as possible. Call it email psychology, if you will. Send a novel-length email and, just at first glance, your recipient is going to feel like it’s major effort and decide to take a closer look “later”. And we all know later can easily become never. Don’t let that be you.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.


"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Taken by over 18,500 people; Calibrated by 100s of tech employees

By taking this 10-min test I can set myself up for success

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