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
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.