Short Answer: You didn’t take the time to craft your email from the perspective of your audience.
Email is still very much a cornerstone of how we communicate in work and our personal lives. Having a good understanding of how easy or hard your emails are to reply to, will help you become that much more of a successful communicator.
1) You didn’t ask a direct question.
The main thing to remember about email is it can be time consuming for some folks to manage. The longer your email the less chance there is people will have the time to ferret out your question(s) and send a reply.
2) You didn’t number your questions.
Giving numbers to your questions gives them legitimacy and allows the question to be referenced in subsequent replies without having to rephrase the whole question. For example, the sender says: “1) Do you like pie? and 2) Do you prefer whip cream or ice cream?” The replier, then, can easily say “1) Yes, 2) ice cream.” This saves the replier time in writing their response and makes it more likely you’ll get one.
3) You didn’t use people’s names in the body
This one happens frequently in the workplace, usually when emailing peers or subordinates. Imagine you’re sending an email to multiple people as an FYI but in your mind there is one person you want to answer. But in the body you didn’t use anyone’s names, so everyone thinks someone else will reply. Instead of saying “Can you bring the pie?” you should say “Jack: Can you bring the pie?”
4) You didn’t “honor time”
The first line of the email should concisely pose your question. You can add details in a subsequent paragraph, but give your recipient(s) the benefit of the doubt that they’re smart enough to answer your question without requiring a ton of back-story. Also, re-read and re-edit your question to make it as meaningful and concise as possible.
5) You didn’t ask for Yes/No answers.
Yes/no answers are quick and easy and definitive. Don’t ask people to write paragraphs in email – that’s what a verbal conversation is for. Instead, craft your question so it’s very easy to answer in either yes/no or a few words.
6) You didn’t make it clear that a response is required.
If your email suffered from any of the above, and you also weren’t clear that you need a reply, then you’re not going to get one. When asking for a reply, it’s best to include a timeframe so your recipient can prioritize. Eg: “Jack: please let me know by Tue evening.”
7) You were relative instead of absolute.
In your mind it makes sense, but you always must re-read and re-edit from the perspective of the recipient(s). How will they read it, and in what context? To ensure they’re getting your intended meaning, be absolute and not relative. Instead of “today” use the day of the week, “Wednesday.” Who knows, they might be reading your email on Thursday.
8) You used email when you should have used a collaboration tool
Email is not a great tool for collaboration, particular with groups. Instead, if collaboration is required, use a better tool. For example you can use Google Docs if you want folks to contribute feedback on a body of text, or any number of other handy collaboration tools found online (checkout Doodle for scheduling meetings or Tricider for getting opinions).
9) You don’t have your phone number in your signature.
Your signature doesn’t need to include your email address, but it should definitely include your phone number. And it may not increase your odds of getting an email reply, but if your number (preferably direct and not through a secretary) is there plain for recipients to see, chances are better if they’re confused they’ll just call.