How to reach out via email without being a kiss-up or a jerk

May 12, 2008 by Jared Goralnick

censored dudeThe only thing that bothers me more than unprofessional email is the junk that people write in them when they’re reaching out to me. So I’m going to address how to write a professional email to someone you have little or no relationship with.

Those who follow half these rules will get a prompt personal response from me–and they’ve always worked for me. So read on, give it a shot, and maybe you’ll land that new client/job/hottie you’ve had your eye on.

The following are not hard and fast rules, but they will help you to appear to have your act together, and hopefully warm the recipient up to you a little…

The Subject

Be specific to the meaning of your message in the subject. The following are examples of what not to do:

  • Hi Jared
  • Lead a seminar?
  • Link
  • Nice article

These are much better alternatives:

  • Meet for coffee in DC next week (Thu, Fri?)
  • Lead a Productivity Seminar for Society of Procrastinators
  • You might like my article on lifehacks for swing dancers
  • Quick question re: “How not to reach out via email…”

The point isn’t to draw people in like a newspaper headline, but to explain what you’re after. Sound interesting, but be honest and get the gist across in your subject.


I don’t prefer “Dear Mr. Goralnick” to “Hi Jared”–but that’s because people who read my writing online would be aware of my conversational tone. However, for a job applicant or someone who is really reaching out for a favor, the formal would be better. Similarly, if you’re not a peer (someone in the same field or a similar position) or don’t know much about them, go with the more formal. But if you’re a blogger reaching out to another blogger, and you’ve participated on their site before, then “Hi Leo” or “Hi Darren” will be just fine.

Specifics and Length

Don’t waste people’s time; just like with the subject, hone in on the point right away. Keep the email to 250 words or less. If you want them to know more, then point them to a website or attachment (they may not click it, but a link doesn’t make the email much longer…and they’re more likely to read a shorter email).

Who Are You?

There should be, at most, one sentence that explains who you are. I prefer blending it into the message, but two other options are to make it your first sentence or to make it readily apparent from your signature. Here are a few first sentence ideas:

  • “I write for a productivity and technology focused blog,”
  • “My name is Jason Pinter and I’m in the process of finishing my third thriller”

In the full email example I’ve provided further down, you’ll see how I blended a brief background into the email with references to my site.

Research & Connection

Show that you’ve done your homework, and make that into a connection. You don’t need to interview their children, but be reasonably familiar with their company, their blog, or whatever relates to what you’re talking to them about. For reaching out to people who aren’t as prolific online, I’ve found LinkedIn to be a good starting point. The 5 minutes of research will make the email much easier to write (and prevent situations like this / this / this).

Make the connection short and specific–1 to 2 lines. Be truthful if you can, or you might sound trite.

  • Fictional example to Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz: “I’ve been hooked on your site ever since you gave me an ultimatum to subscribe or get the fu*k out. I wish I could tell it like it is, so that’s why I could really use your insight on….”
  • Real example from someone applying to my company: “The design/experience on your Dreamline spreadsheet was awesome; I do a lot of Excel VBA and would enjoy…”

Additional examples for job applicants:

  • “I’ve spent a few days testing your product, and…”
  • “Everyone who talks about your company seems so happy to work there (I really do trust the Washingtonian reviews) and…”
  • “You all seem to have excellent focus on XYZ, and I know your competitors AA and BB don’t have quite the same…”

Call to Action

If you want something, be direct and specific. Limit yourself to at most two questions:

  • “I hope you’ll consider this article for your site. As a reader I have a feel for your audience, but if you don’t think this is a fit, could you offer any suggestions?”
  • “I’m going to be in your neighborhood May 16 and 17, and would love to just get a cup of coffee one of the mornings or evenings; any chance you’d have a half hour?” (you’d be amazed how many people are open to meeting up, especially if you’re in from out of town)
  • “Could we chat on the phone any afternoon this week to see if there might be a fit?”
  • “Do you have one best tip (or book recommendation) regarding product promotion through affiliate programs?”


The closing should match up with the address–but “Kind regards” will always work. I vacillate between “Warm regards” and “Cheers” but it’s really about personal style. These days I’ve found “Sincerely” and “Yours truly” to be less common for email communications


I explored signatures in depth in A quick checklist for making your email more professional but the point is to customize to what your goal is with this individual:

  • If you offer three URLs they’re less likely to click any (the “paradox of choice“) than if you simply provide the one you want them to visit
  • Consider your title in relation to them–sometimes I’d rather identify with the blogger than come across as “President.” So I’ll mix up or not list my title at all depending on what I’m try to get across

Full Fictional Example

Subject: Potential guest post about reaching out to people via email

Hi Steve,

I’ve put together an article on how to reach out to people via email (I’m probably failing now), and thought it might fit well with your audience.

I’ve been subscribed to you ever since that redesign where you removed the dog pictures (how is your border collie?), and I hope someday to have such enthusiastic readers on my own site, which is focused on technology and productivity.

I think this fits your audience, so I hope you’ll consider it, but please let me know if you have any guidelines or recommendations for future submissions. I’d love the opportunity to participate more in your blog. Here’s the link (I haven’t yet published it):



(this was 122 words. One thing I could’ve added was a time for them to get back to me, which could speed it up or bug them, depending on the audience)

Any quick tips for how to improve this advice? Does this stuff work?

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16 Responses to “How to reach out via email without being a kiss-up or a jerk”

4 Trackbacks

  1. The Cyclone & the News Cycle » The Buzz Bin
  2. The Cyclone & the News Cycle –
  3. The Art of Outreach: How to Get People to Actually Read and React to Your Emails | Toutapp Blog
  4. 7 content promotion strategies for healthier website traffic.


  1. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the pointers, Jared. We all learned how to write a letter in elementary school, but applying those rules to email fails to match its dynamic nature and purpose.

  2. Geoff Livingston

    Really concise and tight, Jared. I like!

  3. Naomi Dunford

    HA! Well, I don’t think I’ve ever written a professional email in my life, so this is probably a good tutorial for me. And with an intro like that you can have my insight on whatever you like. :)

  4. Jared Goralnick

    Thank you, Elizabeth!

    Geoff, though I think it’s a losing battle, hopefully some more personalized emails will make it from firms pushing their clients news.

    Naomi, thank you! Really appreciate your stopping by..and I may just reach out one of these days : )

  5. Dan Markovitz


    With regards to your sample email, I’d recommend breaking it into two or three paragraphs. (Never mind that your high school English teacher said that a paragraph has to be a minimum of three sentences.)

    I believe that people get easily overwhelmed by something that *appears* to be dense and long, even if it’s not. Short paragraphs – 2 or 3 lines – make the content seem light and easily digestible.

    Otherwise, this is an excellent post.

    It’s also easy to read.

    Even if some of the paragraphs have many lines. (Blog posts have different rules, after all.)

  6. Dustin Oakley

    Hello Jared,

    I’m a little self-conscious about writing this now, given your topic. I have been reading your articles and greatly enjoy your insights.

    On my blog I was recently “tagged” for a blog meme. I’m hoping that you would be willing to spend a few minutes to contribute to the thread by answering some questions and passing them along to other bloggers you like.

    If you are interested, please look at:

    Thanks much and take care.

  7. Meryl K. Evans

    Right on, Jared!

    It bugs me when people leave their subject lines blank or write, “Hi.” I try to educate people nicely about these and how they’re mistaken for spam.

    If we all could learn better subject headings… we could save each other a lot of time and aggravation.

    Oh, need to be careful with words like “tomorrow” or “Monday” as not everyone is an check email freak like I am. :)

  8. Jared Goralnick

    Dan, you’re absolutely right about separating the message into a few small paragraphs! I’m going to go alter it right now. It does make things more digestible. The only balance is that you don’t want too many since spacing makes the message appear longer. Thank you for such a helpful addition.

    Meryl, those are good tips on email subject lines–thank you : )

    EDIT: Dustin, I’m responding to this late (your comment was marked as spam before, sorry!), but thanks for the link and the tag. For the time being I’m trying to stay mostly on topic here but I’d be happy to answer for you any of the questions in the meme–just feel free to email me your curiosities. (Fyi, I commented on your blog post before I saw your comment–thanks for the link!)

  9. Mark23

    Hi Jared

    You have provided nice information on how to write professional mail. I am pretty impressed with your style and would love to learn more topic related to the post. Thanks

  10. Jared Goralnick

    Mark23, feel free to shoot me an email with any specifics you’re curious about! Thanks for stopping by : )

  11. Duff

    A solid tutorial. I wish more of this was common sense! :)

  12. brian

    Actually, I think it is a great idea to be more professional in email, and in my mind, should NOT include these catchy little half-baked sounding phrases, like “reach out.” What ever happened to “let me check with aaa, and get back to you” vs “let me reach out to aaa and get back to you?” “reach-out” sounds really trite. Sorry. But I do like the rest of the advice.

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