14 Things Not to Say in an Introductory Email

(What It Says vs How It's Taken)



Emailing complete strangers and asking for advice, assistance, guidance, help, favors or anything else involving their time and effort can sometimes be productive-- but only if you convincingly explain why you're emailing them, why they should pay attention to what you're doing and what you have to say, and most importantly, what's in it for them to get involved with your cause. Spend some serious time thinking through your requests or propositions, write everything up in detail and in a way that shows you actually know something about the person you're emailing, convey that you have some level of concern about that person beyond what they can do for you, and be specific about why you've decided to email them in the first place.

With these cautions in mind, the following words, phrases, cliches and requests should NOT be used in any introductory email to someone you don't know unless you make perfectly clear what they have to gain from the relationship. And even when you do make yourself perfectly clear, it's best to ease into the part where you make requests for assistance. You might think you're being straightforward and reasonable by simply asking someone to look at or consider your situation and then respond to it, but unless you specify how everyone will benefit-- not only you-- the people you email will often interpret your requests in very different ways from how you intend them. For example:

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What it says: Perhaps there's some way we can help each other.

How it's taken: Perhaps there's some way you can help me.

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What it says: I'm wondering whether you would be interested in collaborating.

How it's taken: I'm wondering whether you would be interested in working on my behalf. (Collaborating means working together to achieve a shared objective or common goal. You know what your goals are. How do they mesh with those of whoever you're emailing? Unless you can establish and state a common interest, then you are not collaborating; you're asking someone to do something for you.)

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What it says: Let's work together.

How it's taken: Let's help me together.

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What it says: I'd love to buy you lunch.

How it's taken: I know what your consulting fees are; lunch is far cheaper.

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What it says: I just want to reach out.

How it's taken: I just want to call and ask you a bunch of questions about myself and my situation.

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What it says: Let's touch base.

How it's taken: Let me call you and ask a bunch of questions about myself and my situation.

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What it says: Please email your feedback.

How it's taken: Please take time out of your day, read and study everything I've sent you, consider my circumstances, come up with some worthwhile ideas about how I can do things better, and then write everything up in a report and email it to me.

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What it says: I would be interested in exchanging links.

How it's taken: I have no website traffic; you have lots. If I can get a link to my website on yours, then I can increase my traffic.

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What it says: I would really appreciate your opinions.

How it's taken: I would really appreciate if you would review everything I've emailed you about my situation, and either call and speak with me, or write up a report with your opinions on what I'm doing now, recommendations on how best to proceed from this point forward, and then email it to me.

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What it says: I'd like to pick your brain.

How it's taken: I'd like to ask you questions about how I can improve everything I'm trying to do. (First of all, that expression is disgusting. What does it even mean? That you want to take a lobster fork and root around in there? Pick their brain out of a police lineup? Any way you look at it, if you want something from someone, be direct and compelling about either why they should help you or what you're offering in return.)

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What it says: I'm open to any ideas you might have.

How it's taken: Please review my situation, circumstances, resume, work history, website, approach to the marketplace, business plan, overall presentation, and then write up a report with your ideas and recommendations, and email it to me.

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What it says: Can you offer me any advice?

How it's taken: Review my current situation, think about how I can do things better, and then write up a report with your advice and email it to me.

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What it says: What do you think?

How it's taken: What do you think about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it? Please write your thoughts up in a report along with your recommendations and email it to me.

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What it says: What can you do for me?

How it's taken: Review my materials, think about what you can do to improve my status, stature or quality of life, write up a proposal about how you intend to do that, and then email it to me. I'll look it over and decide whether you're good enough for me to work with. (Hint: maybe next time, try something like, "Here's what I think we can do for each other...." Whatever you do, don't challenge people you don't know by daring them to try and satisfy you. That's a superb excuse for the recipient to press the "Delete" button in hopes that they'll never ever hear from you again.)

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Related article: Hopeless Artist Emails and How to Make Them Better

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