The 4 Steps to Writing Better Email Replies

Avoid unnecessary back-and-forth by getting your reply right the first time

Erica Dhawan


Photo: BrookeCagle/Unsplash

Today’s communication channels, which encourage speed and immediacy, can create misunderstandings, broken commitments and annoying feelings of disrespect. When a workplace is burdened with missed, rushed or criss-crossing messages, collaboration is hindered, leading to widespread inaction or worse, chaos.

Tom emails his boss, “Do you want to speak Wednesday or Thursday?

His boss responds, “Yes.”

When does Tom’s boss want to meet? We don’t know, and neither does Tom.

The average office worker receives 121 emails and responds to over 61 emails per day.

Given the sheer magnitude of messages we receive daily, coupled with expectations for speedy communication, it makes sense that we’re prone to take shortcuts and leave out context in our messages. And a lot of times, these brief messages cause confusion and misunderstandings, resulting in tarnished office or client relationships.

The gaps we all experience in response times bring with them another problem, namely, that circumstances can change dramatically before we’ve gotten an answer to the first email we sent. In addition, our need for a response increases with every second we sit there, making us feel anxious, resentful and stressed-out. This issue is especially germane for global leaders with teams in multiple time zones.

So beyond resisting the blind impulse to respond to an email immediately, how can we show good digital body language and write better email replies? In my new book Digital Body Language, here are four steps to writing better email replies.

Step 1: Slow Down

The default for speed in our digital communications can be annoying, if not outright disrespectful. Don’t automatically choose immediacy over a response that can become all the more valuable when you delay sending it. If our organizations are truly committed to fostering innovation-creating collaboration, we need to stop trying to send the shortest, fastest messages possible.



Erica Dhawan

Keynote Speaker on 21st Century Teamwork and Innovation. Author, GET BIG THINGS DONE and DIGITAL BODY LANGUAGE (ORDER HERE: