Email Etiquette, Part 2: Divide And Conquer

Has anyone ever sent you an email with a laundry list of questions for you to answer, perhaps even of all different subject matters?

The motive to do so is often innocent in the sense that the sender may think they are saving time by sending every question they have for the recipient all at once instead of sending six separate messages.

This actually might not be the most efficient way to fulfill your needs.

When presented with too many different options, people often do not make a choice at all. In this way, none of your questions will be answered.

This method backfires because a list of questions psychologically suggests to the recipient that they ought not to respond until they have enough time to answer every question at once, which takes up more of their time and brainpower. As such, they will take longer to respond, if they choose to respond at all, and the possibility that they are disgruntled in the process increases.

What's more, the recipient does not know if any of the questions on the list are more important to answer than others, even if you wrote them in a "particular order".

Sending one message per question can be more effective even though it fills up the recipients inbox with more emails.

The reason being is that it forces you to be concise with your individual questions (see last post), offers the opportunity to send the questions in order of importance or urgency, and shows that you value your recipient's time by sending short messages and allowing them to send short replies.

Frankie Rain also argues that this allows you to customize and personalize the subject line based on the specific question or your relationship with the recipient instead of writing "A few questions for you" for them to not get excited about.