Before we all panic about the dumbing down of society, however, it's worth taking an extra moment to think about why you would want to write in a way that a 9-year-old can grasp. Email gets a bad rap these days — in fact, its death has been declared quite a few times — and is often criticized for being inefficient and clunky. Sure enough, looking at more email-writing tips from Boomerang, the key to making your messages better is to keep a focus on simplicity.
To get replies, the company suggests using shorter, simpler sentences — hence the third-grade reading level. Writing this way generally gets a response rate of 53 percent, as opposed to 45 percent for messages written at a high school reading level. Writing too simply also drops your chances of a reply — messages written at a kindergarten reading level get replies only 46 percent of the time. But the worst response rate was for those writing at a college reading level, at 39 percent. Apparently — as many third graders will tell you — no one likes a smarty-pants.
The company also found that being a little more expressive is a good way to get responses. Having an opinion and adding a little emotional tone (positive or negative) gets you better results than being completely neutral.
There's also a sweet spot for how much you should say — get too wordy and people aren't likely to write you back. If you're too terse, you also get a fairly low response rate.
Here's a full list of the tips from the makers of Boomerang:
- Use shorter sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
- Include 1-3 questions in your email.
- Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words.
- Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone.
- Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones.
- Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words.