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You’re in front of your computer reading an email that a colleague sent you. You get to the end and read the whole thing through once more—and, even after that, you’re still left with one big question: What does this person want you to do with this?

We’ve all been on the receiving end of those messages. They’re written unclearly and don’t contain a direct ask. So, you’re left wondering how you should respond—or if a response is even required at all.

You already know just how frustrating it is. But, chances are, you’re also guilty of sending them every now and then.

Every email you send has a purpose, which also means it should have a clear call to action. So, remember these four key things when wrapping up your messages, and you’re sure to increase your response rate.

1. Be Clear

First things first, what you need from that person needs to be made explicitly clear. What next steps should he or she take after reading your email?

Does he need to provide input on a presentation or project? Does she need to answer a particular question? Does he need to approve something?

Make your ask apparent with a direct and succinct question. So, instead of ending your email with something like, “Thoughts?” wrap things up with a more specific question like, “Can you provide notes on pages 13 and 14?”

2. Provide a Deadline

You’re eagerly awaiting a response, yet you’re not hearing anything back. You’re ready to write that person off as an irresponsible flake. But, ask yourself this: Did you set a deadline?

People are busy, and—much like you—their inboxes are probably stuffed to the gills with tasks and to-dos that are far more time-pressing than your request (which can apparently be addressed whenever).

That’s exactly why it’s important to include a deadline for when you need a response by. That way, that person can adequately prioritize your message with all of the other things that are on his or her plate.

3. Make it Easy

The easier you make it to respond, the more likely you are to get exactly what you require. So, make sure that you arm that person with everything they need to reply to you promptly—without having to invest too much elbow grease.

Need feedback on a document? Make sure you include a link or attachment, so they don’t have to dig for it themselves. Or, rather than asking for advice on how to approach a situation, outline your plan of attack and simply ask if that’s the way to go.

These may seem like small changes. But, they can make a big difference in your email response rate.

4. Provide an Out

There are some people that will just never get back to you—no matter how well-written your call to action is. Including an out in your email ending will prevent you from being stuck at a standstill when they neglect to respond.

This can be included with your deadline. So, for example, you could end your email with a note such as, “If I don’t hear back from you by Wednesday, I’ll proceed with the report as is.”

If Wednesday rolls around and your inbox is still filled with the sound of crickets? Knowing you gave an appropriate heads up means you won’t feel stuck—or guilty for moving on.

When everybody’s inbox is constantly overflowing with new messages, it can be tough to ensure that your own request gets a response. Use these four tips, and you’re that much more likely to get the information you need.

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