If you waste time agonizing over what catchy phrase to use as an email subject or what version of “hello” sounds most appropriate, but don’t think twice over signing off your note with “best,” you might want to re-think your email strategy.
A new study, which analyzed over 350,000 emails and their closings, found that emails that expressions of thanks as a close—“thanks in advance” or “thank you”—had an average response rate of 62 percent. Emails without a thankful closing—“regards” or “sincerely”—had a much lower response rate of 46 percent. Of the most popular (appearing in the sample more than 1,000 times) email closings, people who signed off with “best” garnered the worst response rates.
“Among closings seen at least 1,000 times in our study, “thanks in advance” ended up correlating with the highest response rate, which makes sense, as the email’s recipient is being thanked specifically for a response which has yet to be written,” data scientist Brendan Greenly said in a statement. “There’s a bit of posturing involved with this closing, but it turns out it works pretty well.”
The study was conducted by the company behind Boomerang, an email plugin compatible with Gmail, Outlook, and Android, that schedules emails, snoozes messages, and creates read receipts, among other features. (Not to be confused with the Instagram feature of the same name.) The company uses data like this to inform their feature “Respondable,” which analyzes email in real-time and alerts you to changes that might help you get a quicker reply.
Boomerang's findings piggyback off of a 2010 study where a sample of college students received two emails asking for advice, one with an expression of gratitude and one without. The results, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that the students were more than twice as likely to respond to the email that included a thank you.
No matter what you’re emailing about, a little gratefulness seems to go a long way. (That sounds like something we've heard before!)