Thanks in advance

My most important email (8 years ago). Plus how to close. And, 7 other things worth your time.

The most important and fortuitous email I ever sent in my life ended with these words:

“If you're up for it, great; if not, no hard feelings.”

This was how I closed the out-of-the-blue message I sent in 2012 to my now-wife, Karen. We’d dated in college, but we hadn’t talked for years. Here I was, basically cold-emailing her to ask her out.

Fast-forward eight years, and she and our daughter and I would tell you it was a pretty good last line for an email, given the net result.

That said, it’s probably not the best way to end all emails.

In fact, a while back I came across a study that examined 300,000 emails (most of them found on threads on various online forums over the years), and advised best practices.

Among them: How should you end an email if you want people to reply? Specifically, what words should you use?

The most-commonly replied-to phrases, along with their reply yield rates, were as follows:

  • "Thanks in advance," with a 65.7 percent reply rate

  • "Thanks," at 63.0 percent

  • "Thank you," 57.9 percent

  • "Cheers," 54.4 percent

  • "Kind regards," 53.9 percent

  • "Regards," 53.5 percent

  • "Best regards," 52.9 percent

  • "Best," 51.2 percent

Compare these to the baseline response rate for all emails, which was 47.5 percent. The difference is remarkable. 

A few potential explanations for “thanks in advance” pop out.

First, it's an expression of gratitude.

Second, there's the “in advance” part, suggesting that it's a foregone conclusion that your next act will be to earn the gratitude of the email's sender.

Sneaky. I like it.

Yes, it's clear you could take this too far. Send every email with a “thanks in advance” closing, and you're likely to get a lot fewer replies.

Anyway, I was tempted to end today’s newsletter saying that I hope you'll try this closing in your next email, and promise to let me know how it goes.

Then, I’d end today’s newsletter, wryly, by saying “thanks in advance.”

But honestly, truth is, you can do what you want.

Instead: If you're up for it, great; if not, no hard feelings.

7 other things worth your time

  • I’m sure you’re aware that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. It already feels too late to express condolences before the political fight over the Supreme Court begins. So, I’ll share this article I wrote about her a few years ago — one of the most popular and most-shared things I’ve ever written, which was based on an essay she wrote about “advice for living.” (Inc.com)

  • Actually, this is worth looking at too: All of the other justices shared tributes to their “dear friend,” Justice Ginsburg. (Buzzfeed News)

  • A woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to White House, has been arrested at New York-Canada border. (Associated Press)

  • A firefighter battling the El Dorado fire in California, which was sparked by a pyrotechnics from a gender-reveal party, has died. (LA Times)

  • A grim milestone: More than 200,000 Americans have now died from Covid-19, about 21 percent of all the world’s fatalities. (NBC News)

  • An Alaska dentist who sedated patients unnecessarily so he could bill the government for it — and extracted one patient’s tooth while riding a hoverboard in some kind of bizarre stunt — was sentenced to 12 years in prison for dozens of charges including Medicaid fraud. (Anchorage Daily News)

  • 10 ideas about how travel will change as a result of coronavirus in the years to come. Idea #1: “We’ll rethink Europe.” (WSJ)

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I wrote about the “thanks in advance” thing for Inc.com a while back. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. And now, you can also get it by text at (718) 866-1753.

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