The 5 most effective ways to start an email

Informal email openers tend to be the most effective, according to a recent analysis by Boomerang, Brendan Greeley writes in a post for the company's blog.

To conduct the analysis, Boomerang researchers analyzed 300,000 publicly available message archives from roughly 20 online communities, ranging from tech support to college course discussions.

Researchers found that the most common email salutations, in order of popularity, were:

  1. Hi
  2. Hello
  3. Dear
  4. Hey
  5. Greetings

However, the most popular openers were not the ones that generated the most responses. Though "Dear" ranked third in popularity, it scored last among the five openers for effectiveness.

How to reach prospective students, not spam filters

Here are those five openers again—re-ranked according to effectiveness—along with the difference between their response rate and the average response rate for the general sample:

  • Hey, 34.8% higher than the general sample;
  • Hello, 33.9% higher;
  • Hi, 32.1% higher;
  • Greetings, 20.6% higher; and
  • Dear, 19.0% higher.

You might note that even "Dear" has a higher response rate than the general sample. That's because many emails in the sample included no opener—it's common to eliminate the salutation when you're sending off a quick reply to a chain. But emails without any salutation were the least effective of all, Brendan Greenley writes in a post about the research for the company's blog.

So if you're writing for a more formal audience, rest assured that using "Dear" or "Greetings" is better than using nothing.

Previous research of email response rates has found that the emails with the highest response rates also tend to be short (50 to 125 words long) and sent first thing in the morning or during lunch (Greenley, Boomerang, 12/14).

He sent a 34-word email to students. His inbox overflowed.


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