Okay, here’s a little test. See if you can decide which email is most likely to elicit a response:
1. Hey, I was thinking about you earlier. Do you want to get pizza?
2. Hey, I’d definitely like to get together next week. Do you want to get pizza?
3. Hey, it would be really great to see you and catch up. Do you want to get pizza?
4. Hey! It would be absolutely wonderful to see you! Do you want to get pizza? I’m so excited!
The correct answer is—drumroll—the second one. It’s in the Goldilocks zone of email tonality: not too positive, not too negative, not flat-out neutral. Just right. That’s according to a new analysis by the email-efficiency service Boomerang. The company anonymized and aggregated data from more than 5.3 million messages, and figured out which qualities made an email most likely to prompt a response.
Back to all those pizza emails: The first one was too neutral. The third one was better than the first one but not as good as the second one. And the fourth one? Not bad, but not the best. Too enthusiastic is about as effective as seeming emotionless.
Boomerang found that emails that were slightly positive or slightly negative were most likely to get responses. Asking a couple of questions is good, but more than three starts working against you. “Flattery works, but excessive flattery doesn’t,” they wrote in a blog post about the findings. “We also don’t advise penning day-ruining screeds.”