How many times have you opened up an email draft and started mindlessly typing, “I hope this email finds you well”? In moments where I’m struggling to think of an opening line, I occasionally find myself grasping for this old standby. Sure, it’s cliché, but it gets the job done, right?
Well, is “getting the job done” your goal with every email? Probably not. You probably want your emails to stand out a bit. And if it’s a particularly important message, where you’re asking for something or trying to make a sale, for example, you definitely don’t want to start off with an opening line that bores your reader at best.
So what can you do instead? Here are a few strategies for starting your emails, along with some example language, so you always have an alternative to, “I hope this email finds you well.”
1. Introduce yourself.
If you’re emailing someone who doesn’t know you—or who may not immediately recognize your name—the first thing on their mind when they click on it won’t be, “Gosh, I hope this stranger hopes I’m well!” It’ll be, “Wait, who is this?” So answer that question for them immediately. That way, they can focus on the rest of your message without having to wonder if you met at that one holiday party with the open bar or if you’re one of the 20 people who started at the company last week.
Keep it brief—usually one sentence or less will suffice—and stick to introducing yourself as it’s relevant to the recipient. For example:
- I’m Karthya, the new social media coordinator working under Alyssa.
- I’m an account executive with Magik Inc, and I’m wondering if you’d be interested in learning more about our new line of crystal balls.
- My name is Paolo, and I’m a software engineer at Tech Co.
- We met at the Las Vegas Video Editors Conference last month.
2. Give more specific well wishes.
One of the problems with “I hope this email finds you well” is how generic it is. So if you do care how your reader is doing, consider making it more personal—or at least more specific. For example, maybe you know your coworker has a big presentation coming up. If it’s someone you’re close to, and you know they’re dealing with a family situation, you might ask about that. Otherwise, you can reference a more common shared experience like the holidays, the summer, the weekend, the end of the quarter, or a global pandemic.
- I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy during the latest COVID wave.
- How’s everything going with your mother? I hope you’re both doing well.
- I hope you’re as ready for the weekend as I am!
- I hope you’re wrapping things up ahead of the holiday and excited for your break!
- I hope your pitch to the new client is coming together nicely!
3. Pay your recipient a compliment.
Everyone likes to be recognized for something they’ve done well. So if you loved your coworker’s designs for the new marketing campaign, think the new hire has been doing a great job getting up to speed, or saw that your client’s company recently launched an impressive new product, tell them! It starts your email off on a positive note and shows you’re engaged with them personally.
- Awesome job on the presentation last week! That’s the first time I’ve fully understood someone talking about quantitative analysis.
- I’ve been so impressed with your work so far! When we both have the time I’d love to learn more about how you’ve been making those Excel macros.
- Congrats on winning the award for best advertisement of 2022!
- I saw that your book is coming out soon. Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it.
4. Make small talk.
This strategy is best when you’re emailing someone you already have a rapport with, or at least a known shared interest. Quickly ask about or mention something you know the reader cares about.
- Did you catch the game last night? When are they going to trade Andrews already?
- First off, let me know when you’re ready to rant about the finale of The Bachelor with me.
- How’s Mr. Bones doing? I can’t wait until we can introduce him to Luna.
- Did you see the new report on the Google algorithm update? Here’s the link.
- Have you heard Beyoncé’s new album yet?
5. Set the priority level for your message.
You’ve got a million things to do besides send this email, and the reader likely has just as many things to do besides reading and responding to it. So make things easier on them by immediately telling them how important this message is and/or how quickly you need a response. For this strategy, it’s especially important to think about who you’re emailing and what kind of relationship you have with them. Think your message through carefully before you tell your boss, a client, or an executive at your company that something needs to be their first priority.
- Could you take a look at the following over the next few days and let me know what you think by Thursday?
- Please take a look at this by EOD.
- Nothing urgent, just wanted to debrief on yesterday’s meeting when you’re available.
- No need to respond, just wanted to let you know Slack isn’t working for me.
- I need your input on this ASAP.
- We’re leaving for happy hour in five minutes! Meet us by the elevator if you want a ride.
6. Jump right in.
In other words, just get to the point of your email. Research shows that emails between 50 and 125 words are most likely to get a response. So if you want to save time for both you and your reader and decrease the likelihood that they get overwhelmed by the length of your email, skip the pleasantries. As long as it won’t come across as rude, just say what you need to say and hit send.