A friendly reminder email can be an effective tool in running your business. But most of us aren't sure how to write good reminder emails.
We don't want to come across as pushy or unfriendly, but we do want to get our message across appropriately. Most importantly, we want the email recipient to do the task we are reminding them about. Finding the right balance for your reminder email can be a struggle.
Fortunately, there are ways to write a friendly reminder email that are both effective and professional. In this tutorial, we explain how to write a friendly reminder email that gets better results. We also share some email best practices and provide an effective reminder email sample you can work from.
Get more effective email tips and best practices in our free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery:
6 Situations That Require a Reminder Email
Here are just some of the instances when you may need to send an email reminder:
- Late Payment - No one wants to wait to be paid. If someone owes you money and it's late, you need to find out when you can expect payment.
- Late Work - Teamwork is a common scenario in business or school situations. If you work on a team and someone hasn't done their part, it can affect the whole project. You need to tactfully let them know they're behind.
- Follow Up on a Job Application - If you are job hunting, you'll want to follow up on interviews and applications. At the same time, you don't want to alienate your contact at a potential employer.
- Late Shipment - When you've ordered something and it hasn't arrived. You need to let the vendor know that their shipment is late. If the item is out of stock or unavailable, you need to request a refund.
- Inaction on the Part of the Recipient - Any time someone promises to do something for you and fails to follow through in a timely fashion, you want to encourage them to act. A friendly reminder email can help.
- An Important Milestone is Near - Sometimes you want to remind your contact not to miss an upcoming event. Sending a gentle reminder before a required meeting or important deadline might be helpful.
The key to writing an effective reminder email is to remain professional and friendly. This is particularly true for a first reminder, since your contact's lack of action may be the result of an oversight. You don't want to damage your relationship with that person.
At Envato Tuts+ we have several tutorials that explain email best practices for writing a professional email and provide examples. To learn more, study:
- How to Master Proper Business Email Format - and Avoid Professional DisasterLaura Spencer27 Oct 2020
- How to Write Clear and Professional EmailsDavid Masters22 Oct 2020
The first tutorial clearly explains how to decide whether to write a formal or informal email. The second explains how to make your emails clear and concise.
When Should You Send a Reminder Email?
You may wonder how long to wait before you send out a reminder email. Should you wait a day, a week, longer?
The answer partly depends on your agreement with the other party.
If the action you are waiting for is due on a specific date, send a gentle reminder email on the first day that the action is actually late. Usually, this is the first business date after it was due. Examples include:
- Late payments
- Unmet deadlines
- Late shipments
Generally speaking, if a set date was agreed upon and that date isn't met—extra waiting doesn't help. Waiting could even hurt your chances of getting a response since the details of your agreement may be forgotten over time. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that your contact will remember what they are supposed to do.
In contrast, if the action you are waiting for does not have a specific due date, you can give your contact a little extra time. This is particularly true when you ask an acquaintance for a favor. For example, you ask an acquaintance to deliver your resume to their company's HR department and you don't hear back from them right away. You may be anxious about a possible job and want to contact them on the first business day after they agreed to help. But, it's better to wait a week or so before you check back with them.
One way to make sure that you send reminders in a timely fashion is to schedule the reminder in advance. Tools like Boomerang can be set to automatically send a follow up message if you don't receive an email reply.
To learn more about using Boomerang to automate reminders, review:
How to Write an Effective Email Reminder
Now that we've discussed some of the circumstances of writing a reminder email, it's time to look at a more specific example of what to write in a reminder email.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I'll take a look at one common type of reminder—a missed deadline.
Before we get started, however, I want to let you in on a big timesaver when it comes to writing emails that you are likely to send more than once—use templates. By creating email templates for various situations, you avoid starting fresh each time you send a particular type of message. Plus, templates can easily be customized to include specific details.
Gmail has a feature, Canned Responses, that can help you set up drafts of emails to reuse. Here is our Canned Responses tutorial:
Another good point about using a Canned Response is that you are less likely to add emotion into your reminder email, which keeps it friendly and helpful.
Now, let's get started with our friendly reminder example and analyze each component of how to write a reminder email.
1. Email Reminder Subject Line
After you've chosen your message recipients, the first part of your reminder message to consider is the subject line. If you're tempted to skip the subject line, don't. Email messages without a subject line often go directly to Spam.
The subject line is also important because it's the first thing the recipient sees. If they receive lots of emails, the subject line may determine whether they open the email message you send.
To get the recipient's attention, I use the phrase "Response Required" in the subject line. I also include the project name, since they may be involved with more than one project.
So far, our message looks like this:
After deciding on a subject line, you're ready to move on to the next step in creating your friendly reminder email. Let's look at how to write a reminder email salutation.
2. Email Reminder Salutation
While you may be tempted to jump right into the body of your reminder email and not include a salutation, avoid the temptation. Your email will be much better received if you address your recipient by name.
In our example, we know that the project team member's name is Joan Perez, so we'll address this email reminder message to her. Since we know Joan well, it's okay to start with an informal salutation using the word "Hi" followed by a first name, as in the example below:
If we didn't know Joan well, we could start with a more formal greeting such as "Dear Joan." If we didn't know Joan's name, we could address her by position. For example, "Dear Project ABC Team Member."
For more specific examples on how to start and end a professional email, take a look at this tutorial:
3. Email Reminder Body Text
Now that we've chosen an email subject line and salutation, we're ready to move on to the body of the email reminder message, and cover the main part of what to write in your reminder email. This is where you actually communicate your main message.
You can divide the body of your email reminder message into several parts:
- First Sentences - Since this is a friendly reminder, it's a good idea to start the message on a positive note. This keeps your message from seeming too harsh. If you can't think of anything specific, state something friendly like "I hope you are doing well."
- Main Message - This is where you need to communicate the purpose of the message. Think carefully about what you want to say here. Be as clear as possible. Explain exactly what is overdue (work, payment, shipment, etc.) and when it was supposed to have been delivered.
- Call to Action - Finally, tell the message recipient what you'd like them to do. Usually, this is a request for them to perform a desired action—but in some instances, such as a late shipment, you may want to ask for a refund instead. It's also a good idea to offer help in the body of your message, such as an offer to answer questions.
In the reminder email sample we are writing to Joan Perez for Project ABC, we incorporated these elements as follows:
Note that the body of the reminder message starts on a positive note by complimenting Joan's earlier work. It moves on to a direct paragraph about the missed deadline.
Finally, the message closes with a call to action asking Joan for a date when the missed work will be submitted. The project manager also offers to answer questions and even provides their phone number.
4. Closing Your Friendly Email Reminder
The final step in creating a friendly email reminder is to close your message. You'll do that with one last sentence and your email signature.
Your final sentence should reflect the tone of the rest of your email. If you used a formal tone throughout the email, you should close on a formal note as well. Likewise, if your email is informal your closing should be informal as well.
Let's look more closely at our example:
For our closing sentence, we end on a positive note by assuming that the recipient is going to take action. Also, we did not include the company name or further contact information since the email recipient is well known to us.
For a more formal reminder email (such as contacting a vendor about a late shipment), include more of the sender's information, such as:
You may even wish to incorporate an email signature into your reminder message. Here's a list of some professional email signature templates you may wish to consider, as well as tips on how to best use them:
When to Pick Up the Phone
A friendly email message can be an effective reminder. Often, that's all it takes to get a matter resolved. Sometimes, though, a phone call is more effective than an email reminder. This is especially true when you've already sent an email and it's been ignored.
If you do decide to make a phone call, here are some quick guidelines to help you make a successful call:
- Call During Business Hours - You are more likely to reach someone who can help you if you call at a time when they are likely to be in.
- Be Friendly and Courteous - A professional attitude can help smooth over misunderstandings.
- Don't Threaten or Make Accusations - Your contact is less likely to cooperate if they are upset or angry.
- Get Right to the Point - You need to be clear about what the problem is and what they can do to resolve it.
- Make It Easy for Them to Comply - If you are collecting a payment, explain how they can pay online and direct them to the link.
In certain cases you may need to resort to extreme measures (such as hiring an attorney or escalation the situation to your manager). But, those measures are a last resort. When you can, it's best to try to resolve the situation with a friendly reminder email or a friendly call. A friendly approach leaves your professional relationship intact for future transactions.
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If you've ever wondered what to write in a reminder email, you now have some guidelines you can follow. Just remember to follow the email best practices outlined in this tutorial and in the resources I've shared.
Above all, remain friendly and professional as you write your reminder email. Maintaining the relationship leaves the door open for future transactions with your contact.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in March of 2017. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.