Email Analysis

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Have you ever considered your email behaviour(s) at work and how you can work smarter to help others?

This blog will suit those interested in statistics, analysis and workload. I offer insights into email engagement in the workplace.

At school, in September 2015 we started using Gmail by Google. It was difficult to understand at first, but like anything works better once you understand its potential! There are useful ‘add-on’ which automatically analyse your emails and share reports once a month. There is also a feature called Boomerang which gives you the function to ‘schedule and delay’ email messages: a perfect solution for your own and others’ workload.

boomerang is coming back

Image: Shutterstock

I have blogged before about an email protocol for schools. In that post, I recommend expectations for reading emails and when not to reply / reply-all. How to deal with ‘all staff emails’, server solutions and forwarding and (Bcc) blind-copying etiquette. It’s a useful reminder for all if you have missed possible solutions.

Email Habits:

Here’s a quick look at when I wrote an email to send later than at the time of writing, and when I asked Boomerang to send the messages. Calculating when staff receive an email – particularly when I am not teaching (or at work) saves stress during the lesson time or out of hours. Considering when contact is made improves the engagement. It is also effective for working at home – in your own time – without disturbing others.

Boomerang Gmail Analysis

In general, messages sent during lunchtime and around the start of working hours Tuesday-Thursday get the best response rates. So, I should keep to sending emails between Tuesday through to Thursday. This also allows you to have a handle on which messages might not get a response. Of course we know face-to-face communication is better with teachers, but this analysis considers all communications: with support staff and people outside of the organisation. Therefore, the analysis should also take into account my school timetable and working habits.

Boomerang Gmail Analysis

Positive versus Negative:

One of the most significant factors in determining response rates is how positive (words like great) or negative (words like bad) the words in the message are. Emails that were slightly to moderately positive or slightly to moderately negative elicited between 5-15% more responses than emails that were completely neutral.

The image below shows that staff are more likely to respond to positive content than negative e.g. deadline reminders.

Boomerang Gmail Analysis

Email Length:

The sweet spot for email length is between 50-125 words, yielding response rates above 50%. While average emails from senior teachers and line managers clocking in at 10 and 9 words respectively, unless you’re running for a headteacher vacancy, sending emails that short mean you’ll sacrifice about 30% of your responses. Response rates slowly declined from 125 word messages to 500 word messages, then fell faster after that. So, if you need to send War and Peace, you might want to send it as an attachment!

Email veterans know that subject lines is a critical step in writing an email that will have a high open rate. Likewise, the length of your subject line impacts response rates, and the optimal length is shorter than we expected. Subject lines with only 3-4 words (excluding email conventions like Re: and Fwd:) received the most responses. Including some sort of subject line is critical: only 14% of messages without any subject line at all received a response.

Questions Within Email:

Boomerang Gmail Analysis.

The number of questions you ask in an email has a sweet spot, just like the number of words you write. We found that emails that asked 1-3 questions are 50% more likely to get a response than emails asking no questions. But a bombardment of questions won’t help you either – an email with 3 questions is 20% more likely to get a response than an email with 8 or more!

If your natural writing style has a “just the facts, ma’am” bias, you should consider including more opinions and more subjectivity into your messages! The more opinionated the content of the email, the higher the response rate climbed. One caveat – we have no idea if those subjective emails generated positive responses or declarations of war, so caveat writer!


Top Email Tips:

  1. Use shorter sentences like this.
  2. Include one to three questions in your email.
  3. Include a subject line: no more than 4 words.
  4. Use a positive tone.
  5. Take a stand. Opinionated messages see higher responses.
  6. Write between 50-125 words.

Boomerang Gmail Analysis


So, there you go. An insight into my email inbox this academic year (so far). The next time you send an email, consider the real purpose of its content. And don’t forget, teachers are busy individuals. We are bombarded with information, requests to complete deadlines and paperwork. Don’t forget, face-to-face communication often works best, so consider what can be written, when it is sent and what can be said in all-staff briefings.


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*this analysis was provided by Boomerang plugin for GMail.


5 thoughts on “Email Analysis

      1. Thank you for the quick reply! Unfortunately, I’m not sure I understand how you accessed the data. I’m using Boomerang, but I find no function that displays me how long my response times were, pos. vs. neg tones etc. Where exactly can you access this?

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