Hey, hi, do my work for me, will ya?

Some people are not very good at communicating requests to strangers. My frustrations over this – being the recipient of such messages several times a week – have led me to write a piece on how best to approach a stranger with a request over email published today at Inside Higher Ed.

Often enough we are faced with a question that can best be answered by someone else, possibly a complete stranger. The upside of the Internet is that we can quickly contact folks without much effort. The downside of the Internet is that people can contact us without much effort. [..]

Given people’s limited amount of time, how can we ensure that our inquiring e-mail is not simply relegated to the recipient’s trash folder?

Descriptive subject line
Polite point-of-contact
Succinct statement of the message’s purpose
Brief introduction of yourself
Acknowledging other attempts at finding an answer or solution
Restatement of question
Gratitude for assistance

.. all done briefly.

See the piece for details. Of course, one problem is that the people who are most likely to write pathetic notes are the least likely to read an article of this sort. But at least for those who care, perhaps this can offer some helpful pointers.

5 Responses to “Hey, hi, do my work for me, will ya?”

  1. NYCinephile Says:

    Read your piece in IHE yesterday and found it thought-provoking. I’ve recommended it to several friends and colleagues.

  2. eszter Says:

    Thanks, glad you found it helpful.

  3. Andy Says:

    I hereby introduce the web surfers license!! At least people that use email in any kind of work related businesses should have to abide by these “rules”. It would probably take 1h off of my workday in customer support!!

  4. Steve Says:

    Funny advice, coming from you.

    I have tried to contact you, by you have deliberately ignored my messages.

    Was I impolite? Udvariatlan?

    Good Luck, Eszter.

  5. eszter Says:

    Steve, I have checked my email archives and have no record of you contacting me with a note. The only sign of communication I see is a comment on my blog once.