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Follow Up Email - The Most Effective Way To Get A Response

Most of us lead very high-paced, busy professional lives. We send and receive dozens of emails each day. All of our tasks and action items may feel extremely urgent, so how can we know when to apply pressure and indicate urgency appropriately? When is it appropriate to send a reminder or follow up on an approaching deadline?

Following up on an urgent matter

You sent an urgent email and did not receive a reply. You need to remind your recipient of an imminent deadline. You need to know the answer to a question you previously asked. These are all too common situations in any organization. While it is important to indicate urgency, it is equallly so to do it in a professional, polite manner. 

Both your culture and your recipient's will influence how you write a follow up email. Some cultures tend to send longer emails (such as India, Japan, or Germany), while others prefer shorter, more concise emails (such as Israel or the United States). Some cultures tend to be more direct (such as Russia, France, or Israel), while others will express urgency in more indirect, implied ways (for example, Mexico or Peru). However, there are some safe guidelines you can follow to stay polite across cultures and emphasize a sense of urgency.

Recipe for following up

Review the following guidelines to send a follow-up email:

1) Provide context

What was the topic of your previous email again? Summarize what the email was about and what you need from them.

  • 🚫 Hey Max, I guess you’re super busy so you missed my previous email.
  • ✅ Hi Max, I wanted to quickly follow up on my previous email regarding the new website.

2) Add a clear Call To Action + a specific deadline

Formulate a clear question or request with the specific information that you need from them and an accurate timeframe.

  • 🚫 Can you reply to me ASAP???
  • ✅ Did you get a chance to look at the URLs we sent? We will need them by Friday.
  • 🚫 It would be great if you could find the time soon so that we can get on a brief call and discuss this project before the event.
  • ✅ Can we have a quick call this week? I am available Mon-Fri from 9 am to 2 pm.

Phrases to start your call to action:

  • Can you please...?
  • Could you please...?
  • Would you mind + gerund (ex: updating, reviewing, sending, etc.)?
  • Please send / reply / respond with...

Vocabulary to specify the action:

  • update me on the status of task A?
  • loop me in on the progress of task A?
  • circle / come back to
  • return to
  • send (over)
  • complete / finish up
  • set up
  • provide us with
  • schedule a meeting / call

Specifying a deadline:

  • by day / date / deadline
  • We will need this by day / date / deadline
  • We have a deadline on day / date that we need to meet.
  • We need to meet our deadline by day / date.
  • This task's due date is day / date.
  • Our timeframe for finishing this task is day / date.
  • We (only) have until day / date to complete this.

3) Emphasize next steps

Encourage your recipient to act by emphasizing the next steps. Instead of focusing on how they are blocking the project, highlight how their help will contribute to moving on.

  • 🚫 Without your approval, we can't set the site live.
  • ✅ We’ve done the final content review on the site and it’s ready to go once you give the heads up from an SEO perspective.

Phrases to emphasize next steps:

  • As soon as we have that we can ...
  • When we receive this we can ...
  • After we get this we'll begin ...
  • Upon receiving this piece we will be able to ...

4) Keep it short

Try to include all the previous steps in the simplest way possible. Use short phrases and easy vocabulary to keep it as short as possible. Avoid apologizing when you follow up –it's not your fault that they didn't reply. Instead, focus on solutions and stay friendly and professional.

  • 🚫

    Hi Max,

    I apologize for bothering you again. May I know the progress of the documents that I urgently need? This document is critical, and we could not proceed with our next steps without it. We really need this document asap so we won’t miss the deadline. The team really needs it. Please help us.

    I am sorry for causing any inconvenience, and please do share it at your earliest convenience.

    Thank you!

  • ✅ Hi Max,

    Quick follow up on the employee reports we need for the Best Workplaces application. Can you please send them over by Thursday afternoon?

    As soon as we have them, I'll send them over to make sure we can participate in the contest.

    Thanks so much for your help with this!

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