Improving the Odds of a Reply When Contacting Someone by E-Mail #general


When I send those messages, whether by email or snail mail, I always leave out some detail that the recipient will almost certainly know, and mention, if they are the intended target.  This provides a way for that recipient to demonstrate that they are who I though they might be and not just someone with whom they shared a name.
This technique has sometimes been extraordinarily effective.  Some decades ago, while researching my grandfather's uncle's family, I mentioned the sequence from great-grandfather's brother, to his son and then to a grandson, without mentioning the surname back in the old country.  The reply was that the sequence matched the respondent's husband's family, but that in the old country, the surname had been different.  The surname she cited was what my grandfather used in Europe.  She also sent along a photo of her father-in-law with his unknown employer.  The "employer" was my grandfather.  These two details convinced me there was no possibility this was the wrong person.
Yale Zussman

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