On the rattling of cages...
April 5, 2010 10:39 AM   Subscribe

How to write a professional, polite, and effective reminder email?

A too-frequent scenario: You're waiting to hear back from someone who is supposed to be doing something, and with each passing day the silence becomes more ominous. It could be that you've asked this person for a favor, so you don't want to come off as ungrateful, or it could be that this is a professional relationship and you don't want to come off as a jerk.

I'm terrible at writing this kind of reminder. I can spend hours trying to compose three sentences, worrying entirely too much over nuances. In this case, it's to an HR person who is ostensibly scheduling an interview, but this happens often enough that I thought it worth a question.

So, socially adept mefites, what would you write?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Work & Money (19 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
it's to an HR person who is ostensibly scheduling an interview, but this happens often enough that I thought it worth a question.

I would do it this way:

Hi there,

just a short email to touch base. When we last corresponded you indicated I should wait for you to contact me, to set up an interview date and time. I'm hope I'm not being impatient :) but so far I have not heard anything in the X days since we last spoke. I just wanted to confirm that the position is still open, and that any email from yourself wasn't lost.

Thanks again.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 10:44 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, it's different for your different examples?

Friend:

"Hey! I am bugging you about x now. BUG BUG BUG. Sorry/thanks!"

Favor:

"Hello again: I'm following-up to ask what you thought of my request. Let me know if you have any questions about it, and thanks again so much for considering."

Business:

Dear All: Please refer to mine of March 19. To reiterate: will you be able to deliver the widgets within two weeks of submission? Thanks for your attention. Best regards."

Everyone else:

"HEY YOU OWE ME THAT THING, COUGH IT UP."
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:44 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hi [so and so],

I wanted to follow up with you on the interview we discussed [some period of time] ago. I'm trying to schedule several [other professional events... conferences? Business travel? Make it sound good!] and want to make sure I'm available to meet with you. When do you think we might be able to schedule this?

Thanks,

qxntpqbbbqxl.

... I pretty much always start emails like this with "I wanted to follow up on this..." and it generally seems to go over well. It makes it sound like you also forgot, but were going through your email/tasks/whatever and, hey! You just remembered it too!
posted by olinerd at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Oh and no emoticons, particularly in a professional capacity, OMG, and no acronyms!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


I often write a few lines of:

Hey how's it going, I saw/did/heard/read XYZ and thought of you. Brief (2-3 sentences max) blah blah about that XYZ.

If you have any questions/issues/whatever with the thing I'm waiting for, let me know.
posted by xueexueg at 10:46 AM on April 5, 2010


"I" statements are key! "Hey, x, I'm working on [this project] and I need [this thing.] We'd talked about it last week - can you help me with that?" Or "I really appreciate [this favor] you offered to do for me - I'm reading the stage where I could use [this concrete thing] and wondered where you were on that. Thanks again!"

Or to the HR person - "I'm looking forward to this interview that we talked about [last whenever] - do you have any details on the date and time?"

It's sort of trite but I swear it works. Some days I grouse that all I do is nag people, so I sympathize - it's a delicate task.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2010


'Just checking in -- any movement on this?'

Thanks
qxntpqbbbqxl
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2010


Hello [Mr. Smith],

I hope things are going well for you. I just wanted to follow up on the email I sent you on [March 5th] in regards to [The Lawn Mower]. I have not heard back from you.

If you could, send me an email at [LastName@Email.com] or call me at [555-555-5555].

Thanks for your time!

FirstName LastName
LastName@Email.com
555-555-5555

(replace the items between brackets with the relevant information)
posted by royalsong at 10:53 AM on April 5, 2010


I write several follow up/reminder emails per day, and my method varies based on my relationship with the addressee. More specifically, I modify the level of formality and deference in the letter based on how often I have worked with a person in the past and how well they know me. I receive reminder emails, too, and find that it is best when they are succinct. I more or less have a template that I adjust. Something like:

Dear Jane:

Without intending to pester you, I am following up as to the timing of the interview we discussed. I am available on any day that is convenient for Ms. Whoever (note: or, "I am available on date, date or date"). I am eager to come in, and look forward to finalizing the scheduling. Please do not hesitate to call me at (number) or email me at (email address) if you have any questions or wish to discuss further.

Regards,

qxntpqbbbqxl


Do not include any emoticon of any nature or description, whatsover. No professional correspondence should ever contain an emoticon. There is simply no excuse for that, whatever industry you work in. Personally, I feel similarly but less strictg about contractions (they are meant for informal speech), poor capitalization, slangy words like "Hey". Never send emails that just say "Where are we on this?" or something - you force people to search back through other emails to determine what you are talking about. Personally, I get about 200 business-related emails a day so if you force me to waste time like that, you'll be low on my return email priority list.

When asking for a meeting or conference call, I always suggest convenient times/dates. It avoids three rounds of back and forth.

I always close with something like the above. In a less formal circumstance, I might instead say "As always, call if any questions." I include my telephone number and email address only when sending without a formal, professional signature. That is, not a cutesy dippy quote, but a closing that has my name, company, email, office number, cell number, address and fax.

I'm sorry to include SO much details. For whatever its worth, I am using my rules in a pretty picky, writing-heavy, formal workplace (law, insurance). I get compliments, though I often think I may be too wordy. Your mileage may of course vary if you are looking for something less formal.
posted by bunnycup at 10:55 AM on April 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


Heh, I should qualify my advice - I work in a wildly informal industry and am just as likely to be nagging via IM as email, so I tend towards the shorter, less formal style. YMMV, of course. (But the "I statement" thing holds up, I believe.)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2010


business setting (i have to do this nearly every day)

Dear X:

I am writing to follow up on my email of March 15, 2010. [which should be copied or attached!!!!!]. I have not yet heard back from you in response to my questions/queries/concerns/whatever. Could you please let me know when I can expect a response?

I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Sarahnthropic
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2010


Great answers so far, thanks everyone! These answers cover a good range of formality and context. And deference, as bunnycup points out - a term which I usually associate with trying to generate sentences in Asian languages where "face" is very important, but which totally applies here.

(sorry to hyjack the thread, but what does qxntpqbbbqxl mean?)
It means nothing. The first few names I wanted were already taken, so I mashed the keyboard in despair and "qxntpqbbbqxl" was the result. In retrospect I wish I'd added some vowels.

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:38 AM on April 5, 2010


Assuming this is a business setting:

Start by always always following up verbally agreed actions with an email to make sure everybody knows what they are supposed to do and to avoid any misunderstandings. Try to agree a schedule for any actions to be completed at the same time.

Always save all sent emails so you have a record of this.

When it is time to chase find initially sent email, hit forward and add original addressee and add the below:

1st follow up

Dear X

I hope you are well and was wondering if you have had an opportunity to .....as previously discussed. Could you please also let me know your timeframe for this to allow me to...?

Many thanks and kind regards,xxx

2nd follow up

as above but forward your first chaser and replace 2nd sentence with:

This matter is now becoming more urgent as....and in order to progress this could you please get back to me by xxx

or

This matter is now becoming more urgent and unless we hear from you by xxx we cannot complete/deliver/do whatever in line with the agreed schedule.


Escalation
Depending on the scenario you may also escalate by copying people into your emails - to formally present my firm's view I may copy in my boss for instance or if general agreement has been reached they need to do something copy in their boss if they are starting to hold up things....for example our main contact for one of my clients is pretty useless and this caused them a fair bit of money a few years ago in additional fees. Ever since then we've had an agreement with them whereby this guy's boss gets copied into any and all emails sent to him...since we started to do this the guy has delivered on time.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:40 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


should have been 'cost them' not 'caused'............
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2010


I see a good variety of answers already, so I'll add one that peers on my team tend to use with each other. We work in a bullpen and so see each other all day long; we use a lot of shorthand. Sometimes we dispense with the opening and closing below. And sometimes the justification is left out, especially if it's a project manager asking for the thing owed.

Hi yourname,

Any ETA on that [specific project/thing you owe me]? I can't finish my work on [project part] until I get that, and my deadline's this Friday.

Thanks,
myname
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:26 PM on April 5, 2010


This is no good if it's truly urgent because it's so open-ended, but if I'm just trying for a gentle nudge with a pretty soft touch, I'll go with something like:

"Hi there. I know/I'm sure you're really busy, but I just wanted to touch base/check in/follow up with you regarding [X.]

Do you know yet if that's something you're going to be able to do?
or
Do you know yet when that will be done/available?
or
Do you have a sense of the timeframe on that yet?
or
Any idea if it will be available by Y date?

If not, do you know when you'll have a time estimate for me?/If not, that's fine; when should I expect to hear more from you about this?

Let me know if you have any questions about X or want to talk about it.

Thanks so much."

I try to use "yet" or something like that to convey "I'm not just assuming that you've forgotten, you might have had some reason why you haven't gotten back to me."

Ideally you want to try to get them to give you some sort of date, to set you up for another follow-up if they don't produce by that date.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:17 PM on April 5, 2010


Looks like you've got your answers, but to add (just for the halibut) one that recently worked for me, I wrote (on the fly – this wasn't rote form):

Name,

Understanding you have a busy mailbox, I thought I'd nonetheless give this another try.

Mike


(In this case, the original was a query to a fairly busy blog author regarding an edge case in a subject area on which he had written an entry.)
posted by WCityMike at 6:49 PM on April 5, 2010


There are a lot of good answers already, but I wanted to add a phrase I picked up from a great boss of mine: "This is gentle reminder..." or "I wanted to give you a gentle reminder". I've found it useful in various circumstances when a gentle nudge is, in fact, sufficient. I typically use it more in informal circumstances.

E.g: Hey , this is just a gentle reminder to send me XYZ.
posted by alexallain at 9:09 PM on April 5, 2010


I differ from other commenters in that I maintain a polite fiction that it was my turn to send an email. I would not say "I have not heard back," mention impatience, nor deny pestering. Generally, I act as though everything is going as planned, and that according to the plan, it is time for me to send them this friendly reminder email (many plans I make do include a date for a reminder email). Nobody wants things to fall apart because they were distracted, so they might really appreciate it. In fact, when I've failed to send meeting reminders, I've gotten questions about whether a meeting was still on, so I think people actually expect a reminder. In situations of high deference, I talk about how busy they must be and try to make up for the fact that I could be pestering them by being exceedingly grateful. Here are three quick examples, increasingly casual:

---------------------------

Thank you again for offering to read my draft strategic plan. I am grateful that someone with your wide variety of planning experience and strategic thinking skills is willing to provide advice.

I realize that you must be very busy, but I am beginning to schedule the working group meeting to review the feedback. Would it be possible for you to send your feedback by April 18? If not, please let me know what would be a more feasible target date, and I will schedule the working group meeting after that.

Again, I sincerely appreciate your help and look forward to hearing from you.

------------------------------

I am really looking forward to meeting with you about Blah. When we last spoke, it sounded like you were out of town the week of April 5th but might be able to meet the following week. Shall we put a date on the calendar? What would work for you? My availability is as follows:
Friday 9-1
Monday 9-10, 1-3
Tuesday, 12-4

I'm looking forward to our conversation.

----------------------

Thanks again for agreeing to draft the Blah Blah memo. Since the presentation is next Wednesday, I was thinking we should meet this Friday to make any necessary revisions. Would that work for you? I am free any time after noon.

Would you be able to finish the memo by Thursday morning? That would allow me to have some suggestions ready by our meeting, so we can quickly wrap this up.

Thanks again for taking this on! Let me know if you need any help.

posted by salvia at 10:42 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


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