How to Write Effective Email – Tip 3

Come up With a Reason Why Should They Help You

Most of my tips are geared towards asking someone for something. But Tip 1 has good general advice, and the next one, the last one, will too. Back to the tip …

Come up with a reason why the person should do whatever it is you’re asking of them. This tip is tricky for two reasons. One, it isn’t always necessary. You don’t need to give a friend a reason to help you. People who are asking me for help with friends or relatives who were murdered don’t need to give me a reason (but they would do well to follow the other tips). You’ll have to decide. I sometimes do this if I’m emailing someone who is a total stranger and if I think they won’t be inclined to help me.

Two, if you do it in a clumsy or ham-fisted way it will backfire. Don’t overstate it. Don’t say anything like “You’ll get rich!” or anything else you can’t convincingly prove. Don’t be pompous, like, “you’ll be making the world a better place.” Saying something really, genuinely honest is usually the way I go. If it sounds self-serving that’s not good, but it’s almost unavoidable sometimes, so if I’m being self-serving I acknowledge that in some way.

But if you can’t come up with a reason why they should help you, imagine what they’re thinking.

Tip 1a. Get to the point.
Tip 1b. Be Honest About What You Want
Tip 2. Give them What They Need to Give You What You Need

Finney checking out Buddy eating and wondering “what does he have?” Buddy invariably has something better because I’m trying to fatten him up, and Finney, unfortunately needs to lose weight.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “How to Write Effective Email – Tip 3

  1. (Hand raised) “May I ask a question, Ms. Horn?”

    First, I think your e-writing tips are excellent. Isn’t there a little book there for you?

    Second, I get a few comments a day on my blog in different languages. They’ve already slipped by the spam filters so they might be from real people whom I do not want to offend – but I have no idea what they’re talking about. Do you have that problem? What do you do about it?

    Kind regards,

  2. I delete anything in another language. I assume it’s spam. In my case I figure people see I’m American and therefore an idiot when it comes to languages so they wouldn’t try to communicate to me that way.

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