If your email has been ignored, a follow-up email can help get your conversation back on track. However, how to write a follow-up email after receiving no response can be tricky, as you'll need to decide both what to say in your follow-up email and how to word it.
Don't worry if you're struggling to find a professional and polite way of reminding someone to respond. In this detailed guide, we describe how to write a follow-up email after no response and provide some practical examples that you can use. Lastly, we'll introduce you to our follow-up email template that allows you to follow-up on on an email faster than ever while still being polite.
What is a follow-up email?
A follow-up email is an email to a recipient you've already contacted once before.
There are many reasons why you may want to send a follow-up email, including:
- Alert a recipient to a previously sent email
- Request information, a reply, or response
- Remind someone of an important time or date (for an event, for example)
The purpose of a follow-up email is to act as a reminder or prompt for a previous email you've sent. It's not to initiate a conversation but to reinvigorate it and generate a response.
The most effective follow-up mails are short, sweet, professional, and (most importantly) to the point.
Don't waste time or words; advise the experts: The US-based team of researchers analyzed over 2 billion emails and found that readers tend to skim over-long emails.
While they found that half (50%) of emails receive a response within an hour, others could be left for long periods. The worst offenders? Older adults take the longest time to respond and write the lengthiest emails.
Researchers also found that emails sent during the morning of the working week were most likely to receive a response. However, those sent in the afternoon and over the weekends were less likely to receive a response. Why? Researchers may have discovered the answer…
Why don't people respond to emails?
Ever wondered why people don't respond to your emails immediately?
We receive so many emails that we "triage" them, say researchers. This involves quickly checking them and then deferring them until a time when they can be appropriately handled.
Recipients may mark or tag emails, file them away or simply leave them unopened in their inboxes. Workers spend up to 28% of their time reading and responding to emails, so we understandably develop strategies to speed up the process. Academics found that 16% of us deferred responding to emails at least once a day.
What type of emails are we ignoring? "Users are more likely to defer emails when handling them involves replying, reading carefully, or clicking on links and attachments," say the authors.
The crucial learning point is: if your email has been delivered, it has been seen.
Researchers in the study identified five core reasons why emails go ignored:
- The time or effort involved in handling the email
- The identity of the sender;
- The number of recipients on the thread
- The user's workload and context
- The urgency of the email message
Before sketching out a reply, try to understand these pressures facing the recipient. For example, sending a follow-up email (however polite) can put additional pressure on the recipient, suggest Adaira Landry and Resa E. Lewiss writing in the Harvard Business Review.
The perfect follow up email format
So, we've explored the reasons why you might need to send a follow-up email (and why you may not have already received a reply). It's time to get into the details of how to draft a follow-up email.
- Email subject
We've covered how to create professional business inquiry emails in previous blog posts, so we'll follow our advice and keep this section focused.
Keeping the subject line short, sweet, and simple is essential, advises Rebecca Zucker in the Harvard Business Review. She suggests that 47% of all emails are discarded by having lousy subject lines. Don't make that mistake!
Should you forward the original email? We recommend you don't.
In the professional world, focus on the formality. That means always using professional greetings unless you are on first-name terms with the recipient. Want to learn how to start an email professionally and adequately? Check out our feature on how to start an email.
A reminder email is a fast and formal way of raising awareness of an email you have previously sent.
You need to provide some context with the opening line of your email, something we approach in our section on how to start a follow-up email.
We'll assume that the previous email contained important information that you want the recipient to see.
There are several ways you can approach this:
- Forward the original email (see reasons above why this isn't a great idea)
- Provide the initial email (as an attachment, or pasted below your follow-up email)
- Provide a reminder of the crucial points (meeting details, for example)
- Give an external link to the essential information (an event website or invite)
The choice of how to relay the email or information is up to you. How you choose to do this will affect the structure, focus, and length of your email.
You've politely requested a response, but you should also let the person know how you will use the information and what you will do if no response is forthcoming.
If you're requesting their attendance at a meeting, for example, will you contact them on the phone, or is this the last correspondence you will have?
In another example, if you're requesting someone respond to an invoice request, for example, will you then take further action if you receive no response?
Leave your reader in no confusion about your next steps.
A polite and professional sign-off is essential. Don't know how to end an email properly? Please read our guide on how to end an email.
How to start a follow-up email
The opening phrase is arguably one of the most essential parts of your email. So let's look at some of the most common email openers and see whether they're suitable or not:
Formal email introductory lines:
- I would like to follow up on my previous email.
- I would like to follow up on my meeting request.
These are formal-sounding approaches. We'll assume here you don't know the person and are writing in a professional context. These are standard lines suitable for all contexts (email response reminders, meeting reminders, and so forth).
Informal email introductory lines:
- I wanted to follow up...
- I'm just following up...
These are less formal approaches and suggest that you know the person you're writing to. We would caution against using these when contacting someone that you have never met or have spoken with.
Suitable introductory lines when you include the email:
- I'm following up on the email below.
- I'm following up on my previous email.
These examples are suitable for requesting a response when you have provided the original correspondence, either by forwarding the response, pasting it below a new email or as an attachment. Looking for more creative email opening sentences for your follow-up mail? You'll find ten more examples in our feature of 100 best email opening lines.
How to write a follow-up email subject line
How to write a follow-up email subject line that gets results is challenging. If we follow the advice previously, we should aim (where possible) to contain it to five words and under. The reason is that 56% of emails are read on a mobile, where the fewer words, the better.
You can either be explicit about your request or not. Here are few follow-up email subject line examples:
- Follow up: Email sent on XXX – This is a super formal subject line to a serious email.
- Response required: Email sent XXX
Again, a serious subject line for a serious email.
- Reminder to register for XXX – This is a polite email reminder for an event.
- Be great to hear from you – This is a relaxed and informal approach that you should only use with someone you know.
- Network event reminder… Another polite follow-up about an event.
- Thanks for our meeting –This is a different way to follow up with a person you have already met. You're not demanding a response but creating a connection.
Don't use the title you previously did when deciding on your subject header for a follow-up email. There may be a reason why the recipient missed (or ignored) your previous email. Sending the same subject line again could result in it being ignored once again.
It can be awkward sending a follow-up email but avoid being funny in your subject title for a follow-up email. Some people may not share your sense of humor or even find it offensive.
Some bad follow up email subject examples include:
- Why didn't you respond?
- Did you get my last email?
- I'm waiting for your reply…
- I know you're busy, but…
- Just checking in…
When to send a follow-up email?
Before we describe how to write a follow-up email, how soon should you send a follow-up email?
One crucial consideration is whether the email response is time-sensitive. Take, for example; you are inviting someone to an event. You may have a deadline for an answer. In this case, you may need to send a polite follow-up email quickly, which is acceptable.
If you know the person professionally, you have greater freedom when following up on an email. You may choose to send a professional request quickly, with the understanding that this won't damage your reputation or relationship.
Suppose you're sending a follow up mail to someone you have never met or have no professional relationship with. In that case, we recommend waiting around five days (one working week).
While it can be frustrating to wait for a response, consider what we've learned about email triage and be patient.
Follow up email samples
We've provided the framework for how to follow up on an email; now, it's time to put it into practice. Here, we give some examples on how to create a polite follow-up email, a gentle follow-up email, and a more formal response request.
These examples illustrate best-practice but should be used as the basis for your communications. If you're struggling to find the right words, Flowrite can help you create polite and professional emails that will ensure a prompt reply every time.
Polite follow-up email sample
Here's a polite follow-up email sample you can send after not receiving a response. When deciding how to follow up on email politely, think about the person and understand why they may not have read your email. In this polite follow-up email example, we've acknowledged why someone may not have responded to an email – "I understand that you are busy".
Follow up email sample after no response
Here is a sample of a follow-up email sent after getting no response. It doesn't beat around the bush but gets straight to the point. This email isn't to someone that you know but a generic email address or unnamed recipient.
Gentle follow up email sample
If you're looking for a gentle follow-up email sample, here's one. This is a lot less formal than the previous ones.
Follow-up email template – the Flowrite way
Flowrite is an AI writing tool that turns short instructions into ready-to-send emails and message. However, for emails such as follow-ups after no response it can write the whole email for you. Take a look at the example below to see how to follow up on an email with click of button thanks our follow up email template.
Are you feeling more confident about how to follow up on an email after reading the blog post? We hope so. The next time you need to write a follow up email after getting no response, just remember best practices we covered in this guide or turn to our follow up email samples. Better yet, give Flowrite and our follow-up email template a try.
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