Can one word change how often people reply to you? Also, 7 other things worth your time.

For obvious reasons, I’ve spent some time over the last year or two trying to figure out what little stylistic tricks prompt people to open and read emails.

Here’s a tactic I learned along the way; maybe more applicable to individual emails than an email newsletter, but interesting nonetheless. What if simply changing the initial word you use in your emails could significantly improve the odds that people will be prompted to reply?

The folks at Boomerang, in a report reprinted on Quartz, combed through more than 300,000 publicly available emails (most of which had been included in threads on various online forums over the years) then pulled out the most commonly used opening words and studied the response rates.

They found five words that started at least 1,000 of the messages in the trove:

  • Hey

  • Hello

  • Hi

  • Greetings

  • Dear

Across all emails, it turns out that simply using the informal, three letter opening "hey," prompted more responses: Exactly 64 percent of emails that opened with that word received replies. 

"Hello" and "hi" didn't fare too badly either: they had 63.6 percent and 62.7 percent reply rates respectively.

From there, however, everything dropped off. 

"Greetings" resulted in a 57.2 percent response rate, and the traditional opening, "Dear," led to a 56.5 percent response rate. 

Those openings still beat the average of all emails across the entire trove, however, which had a 47.5 percent combined response rate.

So, does that mean you should open every email you send with "hey?" 

Probably not; it might be too informal for some cases. And it might get repetitive to the point of cliche.

Plus, there are other really good practices you might include in your emails to increase your response rate, such as using the recipient's name in the greeting (at least sometimes), and writing in an emotionally intelligent manner.

But all things being equal, if you're not already opening the occasional email with the greeting "Hey," you might give it a try--and pepper in some "hi" and "hello" openings, as well.

I’ll let you know Monday how using “Hey” as the subject line here worked out.

7 other things worth your time

  • Want to live longer? A new study from Ohio State University suggests something contrarian: start out adulthoold with a BMI in the normal range, and then gain wait — not enough to become obese, necessarily, but clinically overweight. (OSU)

  • Obnoxious New Yorkers who fled to suburbs are driving neighbors nuts, according to a bunch of people who live in New Jersey, Connecticut and upstate NY.

Bonus: What time is the Super Bowl? (In the good old days of digital media, you could get a lot of clicks by using that six-word phrase as a headline). Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET. Go Bucs!

Thanks for reading. I’ve touched on this email study before at Inc.com.  If you’re not yet a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter—with thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers.  

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