Whether it's a missing payment, an urgent meeting, or a leave request, sometimes, you'll need to send a reminder email.
Reminder emails should be polite, professional, and persuasive – getting your point across while remaining on the right side of rudeness. By the end of the email, the recipient should know exactly what they need to do and when.
Friendly reminder emails are notoriously tricky to nail, but that doesn't need to be the case. By reading this guide and following our principles for writing a reminder email, you'll be able to send a gentle reminder in minutes.
What is a reminder email?
There are numerous reasons why you may need to send a reminder by email. Some of those include confirming attendance at an upcoming meeting or interview, highlighting an unpaid invoice, or late work.
Email reminders are typically split into two types:
- An email sent before something has happened – a friendly reminder that a meeting is due to happen, for instance.
- An email reminder after something has failed to happen – a reminder that an invoice hasn't been paid by the due date, for example.
A reminder email has a single purpose: to get someone to act.
Whether it's emailing you back, calling you back, sending you the work, or paying your bill. At the end of the email, they must know what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and when.
It's that simple, so why do so many of us find writing polite reminder emails so hard? It's the medium that makes the message a challenge.
Unlike phone calls, email is passive. Removing the human element can cause comprehension problems and lead to avoidance and a lack of action. People find it easier to ignore an email than a phone call.
So what can you do? Whether you're corresponding in a business capacity or a personal one, writing a professional email is an essential skill you have to master.
When writing a reminder email, the challenge is to strike the right balance between being professional, polite, and persuasive. Friendly reminder emails should adhere to email etiquette's formal rules but ensure that there's no room for confusion.
Academics studying emails have concluded that using the "appropriate tone and attitude in emails can help mitigate the challenges the medium presents." By being professional, polite, and persuasive yet kind, you can get people to respond. On the other hand, your email is likely to be ignored if it comes off as rude, aggressive, or ambivalent.
Why are friendly reminder emails important?
Writing polite reminder emails is a necessity in our personal and professional lives. Emails are the business currency of the world, with over 300 billion electronic messages sent every day. The average worker receives 121 emails a day, and it's estimated that an incredible (or shocking) 35% of these business emails go unread.
They also have 651 unread emails in their inbox. That's a lot of missed messages and unhappy senders. How many have you got?
If you find yourself drowning in digital communications, don't despair. Research focusing on R&D in US firms found that "Innovation administrators have a higher number of direct contacts, are more committed in conversations and receive more messages than they send." They also found that innovative people were more likely to respond promptly and professionally.
When you consider how long it takes to open, read and respond to an email, it's unsurprising that even essential correspondence can be missed. But missing emails can translate into lost revenue, with the average UK SME having at least five outstanding invoices, at an average of $11,700. How many overdue payment reminder emails have you sent?
Respondents may not be ignoring your email on purpose. In fact, increasingly sensitive spam filters can stick your crucial correspondence in a junk folder – especially if it contains an attachment.
Friendly reminder emails can be challenging to write and awkward to receive, so keep them concise. The recipient needs to do two things: Read the email and respond. It's that simple, so there's no reason to overcomplicate sending them.
How to write a reminder email
Reminder emails should be short, snappy, and to the point. You want the person to do something, so you must be clear. You must be assertive and avoid being rude. Coming off as impolite is the fastest way for your email to get dismissed altogether.
In terms of tone, we recommend you being formal when sending kind reminder emails. If you're dealing with something serious, such as an unpaid invoice, you may need to refer to the email again in the future or even use it as evidence, so be as polite as possible.
Our research has found that there are six crucial components of successful reminder emails:
- Subject line
Let's look at these in greater detail step-by-step.
1. Subject line
We recommend being clear in your reminder email subject lines. Our sample below means the recipient can have no doubt what the email is about.
2. Email greeting
Being polite and professional is the right approach. We won't go too deep into the nuances of email greetings, but read our guide on how to start a professional email if you want to learn more.
Explain the problem and be specific. Include references, dates, and details. Be clear and unequivocal.
We'll be a bit more kind in this reminder email sample than you necessarily need to be. Still, often it helps – particularly if you're a small business and the person you're communicating with is a valued client or customer.
Sometimes there may be legitimate excuses as to why an email or invoice is ignored or unpaid. Being polite and professional gives you the best chance of achieving a satisfactory outcome.
Tell the recipient exactly what you want them to do. If you want them to pay you, tell them. If you want to set a date, do so. But resist making threats or becoming angry. It's less likely that you will achieve the outcome you want if you do.
In the case of consistent late payers, you may wish to specify a date for payment. In some cases, you may want to explain the consequences if someone doesn't kindly respond to you. It could be that you offer their interview slot to someone else or begin formal proceedings to recover lost revenue.
Again: If you're clear about what you want, there is no margin for misunderstanding.
6. Email sign-off
End your email formally and politely. If you need a reminder on how to end an email professionally, check out our guide.
Reminder email samples
Here are some standard and relatively gentle email reminder samples that you might find helpful. They also use the six-point framework we've established above. Whether you draw inspiration from our examples or not, always remember the core aspects of a kind reminder email that we've laid out in this blog.
Gentle reminder email to boss
A gentle email reminder to your boss can be a sensitive subject, but the principle is still the same. Keep it professional, polite, and persuasive. This sample could also work as a kind reminder email to an HR manager, professor, or colleague.
Reminder email to client
Sometimes, a project can be held up if a client, contractor, stakeholder, or someone else fails to play their part. A gentle reminder email to a client can get your project back on track.
Event reminder email
Event reminder emails are necessary to ensure your event is a success. You'll likely be sending out quite a few of these, so this reminder email sample is reassuringly short, sweet, and to the point.
Meeting reminder email
Meeting requests should always be personalized. You can be more specific about the importance of a meeting and the implications of not attending compared to the event email. This example can also be turned into an appointment reminder email.
Overdue payment reminder email
Payment reminders are (sadly) all too common, with late payers a problem facing all businesses. The key here is to remove emotion and resist the temptation to get angry. State the facts, give them the outcomes and tell them what you need them to do.
5 common email reminder mistakes – and how to avoid them
The samples above should provide some valuable guidelines on how to structure friendly reminder emails. Before we sign-off, here are five common email reminder mistakes and how you can avoid them.
1. Get to the point
Be friendly but firm. You're writing a reminder for a reason, so get to the point quickly. Be detailed, specific, and structured.
2. Avoid embarrassment
You know they received the email (and they probably do too), but don't name and shame. Keep your gentle reminder emails polite, friendly, and focused.
3. Never apologize
It's easy to apologize (it's what we do, right?), but it won't help your email reminder. If you want to, you can soften the blow a little (you may have missed my previous email), but you don't need to. Also, don't write one of those "Just a reminder…" emails.
4. Provide a solution
Always be clear about what you want the recipient to do. You want a response and an action that delivers the outcome you want. Tell the person what you want them to do and by when.
5. Encourage communication
In some cases, there may be legitimate reasons why someone isn't responding to you. Provide multiple opportunities and prompts to encourage them to reply to you. If they don't want to email you, offer a chance to reach you via phone.
Still wondering about how to write a gentle reminder email? With Flowrite, you can turn short bullet points into a ready-to-send reminder email with AI. Request early access to send friendly reminder emails faster than ever.