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ICYMI: How NOT to Be a Pest When You Write Email Reminders

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

I write email reminders for lots of reasons:

  • as a follow up to a pitch
  • to jog a reader's memory about an upcoming meeting
  • when a few days have passed and I need a response from a vendor
  • when I'm approaching a deadline and need a piece of information to finish a project 
3 tips for #writing email reminders with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #BusinessWriting

A little acronym can help in these friendly email reminders: ICYMI. That’s online shorthand for “in case you missed it.”

The acronym, common on social media but increasingly used in email, says what you’re referencing that’s not new. 

The term has gained traction because readers are battling volume.

Missing lots of things is now normal. “ICYMI” is a tip that helps readers cut through the noise.

Most of the time when I’m on the receiving end of an ICYMI email, I’m grateful. Writers are not being a pest. They’re following up. The best email reminders are short, simple, and to the point. A couple of lines and a quick link nudge me to respond, so I do. (Here are 8 of the most helpful business email writing tips.)

But then there are those irritating reminder emails that give writers a bad name. Don’t write these. Here’s why.

The Most Annoying ICYMI Email Reminders Are …

Too familiar. “I know you’re busy …” How does the writer know that? He doesn’t know me. He’s simply trying to identify with me, a stranger, using a generalized assumption that everybody’s busy these days. “I know you’re busy” is a lazy way of saying, “Look, I want you to respond to my email even though I don’t know you.”

Too patronizing. “This will be my last attempt at getting your attention.” This writer leverages my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). She assumes that  I’m incapable of weighing a purchase or other response based on the merits of the offer. Unfortunately, that approach alienates readers (like me) because it insults them.

Too salesy. These email reminders range from, “This amazing product will change your life” to “You want to read and respond now because this offer is too good to miss.” In other words, the writer tries to sell me. Again.

How to Write Helpful ICYMI Emails: 3 Simple Tips

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t assume your reader forgot. Your message is simply a little lower on his priority totem pole than you’d like. Write an email as a gentle reminder.
  2. Give context. If it’s a personal email, forward the original with a quick “Checking in” in the subject line. If you’re sending a mass email, then create a new one and use “Reminder” in the subject line.
  3. Remind them of the due date. Send your ICYMI with ample time for readers to respond, not five minutes before the deadline.

How Many ICYMI Emails are Enough?

After you write one or two friendly email reminders, with sufficient response time in between, it’s time to pick up the phone. Use your pleasant voice, ICYMI … in case your reader missed it. That is, in case he missed your gentle tone the first time.

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