Skip to content

Do You Write Lazy Emails?

Marketing expert Marcia Yudkin, author of No-Hype Copywriting: The Keys to Lively, Appealing, and Truthful Sales Writing, wrote her weekly email on a topic dear to my heart: lazy emails. With her permission, I quote her message in its entirety.


Do You Write Lazy Emails?

By Marcia Yudkin

Twice last week, I received emails that each amounted to a request. They simply asked – without explaining why and how the requested action would benefit me, my audience or anyone other than themselves.

I politely responded that the request wasn't relevant, and suddenly my correspondents got into gear to argue strenuously that I was mistaken. They then laid out their case, which had some merit and might have persuaded me to respond differently had they said all that at the beginning.

I see this tendency often in the initial drafts clients send me to review. It comes from a psychological blind spot.

When we're deep in a project whose advantages are deeply familiar to us, we assume the people we're targeting will grasp the substance and sparkle of the proposal without our having to spell it out.

You may have heard the story about Henry Kissinger sending his aide back time after time with the question, "Is this the best you can do?" Likewise, before pressing "Send," ask yourself, "Have I made the most vigorous and appealing case I can here?" If not, redo it.

Be explicit.


Like Marcia, I receive emails that make me do the work of figuring out why I should respond positively. For instance, people who want to write a guest blog post leave out their credentials, the topic they want to write about, and links to examples of their work. Rather than investing time, I respond, “Thank you. I’m not interested.”

Do you write lazy appeals—or receive them? If you receive them, do you take the time to ask additional questions? Or do you, like me, just say no?

If you work in marketing—in the broadest sense of that word—sign up for Marcia's free weekly "Marketing Minute." You'll get concise, interesting pointers on persuasive communication. It's the one newsletter I always read. 

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

5 comments on “Do You Write Lazy Emails?”

  • Thanks for your feedback, Taryn and Emily. Below is an example, whose details I have disguised. It is from a stranger.

    Dear Lynn,

    My name is _____ ______.

    I’ll make it really quick as I know you are probably busy.
    I think that you do some great content on your website and would like to offer you an article “Grammar mistakes that . . . . ” [She finished that sentence.]
    Please let me know if you like this post idea or would like me to write about something else.

    Looking forward to receiving a reply from you.

    Thanks in advance.


    _____ ______

    This lazy message makes me do the work of figuring out who the individual is, what her credentials are, how well she writes, and which grammar mistakes she would probably cover. (I wouldn’t want an article on mistakes I had already addressed.)

    I’m not willing to do that work for the writer. If she doesn’t give me what I need in an email, it’s not likely she will give readers what they need in an article.


  • Here’s another example of a lazy email, also from a stranger and also disguised.

    Hi Marcia,
    I saw your courses listed on [website] and they look quite exciting!
    Have you thought about coaching online? I’d like to offer you a free 3 month trial of our online coaching service. We handle all the logistics of online coaching (scheduling, video sessions, and payments) so you can focus on coaching your clients.
    Let me know and I will set you up as a beta tester on our new online coaching website.
    Regards, _____

    I wrote back that I was doing quite fine managing coaching on my own, and at that point the person replied with a bunch of arguments on why his service was better than whatever I was doing by myself.

    The original email was lazy because it assumed that the process of offering coaching was obviously onerous, but that was not obvious to me. From the second email I did see a few advantages, but the marketer had already gotten off on the wrong foot with me.

    A lazy email is one that makes the other person wonder why they should bother with your request.

  • Interesting, Marcia. That is a good example of what you mentioned in your original newsletter. The writer was so focused on the benefits of his program that he didn’t see the obvious need to connect those benefits with you. Also, if he wanted you as a beta tester of a new service, he was probably looking for something from you without spelling it out.

    Thanks for taking the time to share that example.


  • Today I got another lazy email from a stranger. It appears in its entirety below.

    Subject: How are things?

    What’s going on?

    I visited your website yesterday..
    I’m currently looking for work either full time or as a intern to get experience in the field.
    Please review my Resume and let me know what you think.

    Thank you for your assistance in this matter,

    First-Name Last-Name

    What do you think my response was? Yes, to delete it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *