How to Start an Email, According to a Data Scientist

iStock.com/Jelena Danilovic
iStock.com/Jelena Danilovic

Whether you're reaching out to an old professor or emailing a new colleague for the first time, setting the right tone at the top of your email is vital. The right greeting can lure the recipient in, give them a sense of your personality, and open them up to what you have to say. On the other hand, a miscalculated one may have them hitting delete before they get to the first line. Some people focus on making their business emails sound professional, but according to Boomerang data scientist Brendan Greenley, this doesn't always produce the best results. If you're looking to get a response, you should start off with a greeting that's casual and friendly rather than overly formal.

As laid out in a 2017 blog post reported by Travel + Leisure, Greenley analyzed more than 300,000 threads from public message archives to determine which greetings yielded the most responses. Casual greetings were most successful by far, with "Hey" ranking first with a 64 percent response rate, followed by "Hello" with 63.6 percent, and "Hi" with 62.7 percent.

More formal responses were still more likely to get a response than not, but by a smaller margin. People who started off their message with "Greetings" had a 57.2 percent chance of hearing back. For people who opened with "Dear," that chance was 56.5 percent.

Erring toward professionalism may seem like a safe bet, but a stodgy greeting may do you more harm than good. People often use formal language when emailing someone they don't know very well or someone they dislike, according to a study Greeley cites. By choosing more casual terms you can make your email feel like it's coming from a friend—even if you haven't met the recipient yet. But adopting an easy-going tone shouldn't mean putting zero effort into crafting your message. Proper grammar, punctuation, and brevity can also go a long way.

Of course, context is key: Greenley sampled these messages from online communities, which tend to be more casual than professional settings. So, if you don't think the president of your company would appreciate an email that starts off with "Hey," it's best to go with your gut.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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America's Top 25 Colleges and Universities for 2021

Harvard University's Memorial Hall.
Harvard University's Memorial Hall.

Deciding what makes a certain college more desirable than another is highly subjective. Some prospective students might think a championship-winning football team and a massive student body are major selling points, while others prize a small, tightly knit community above all else.

To try to come as close as possible to identifying objectively great colleges and universities around the country, WalletHub analyzed a whopping 30 factors in seven categories, from student selectivity and cost to campus experience and career outcomes. These encompass basic metrics—admissions rate and average class size, for example—as well as more specific considerations, like study abroad programs, on-campus employment opportunities, and the median salaries of recent graduates.

Of all 1008 schools included in the study, the Ivy League ones continue to reign supreme. Harvard University ranked first, with a score of 78.6 across all 30 metrics, edging out Yale by just .03 points. Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown also made the top 25. With low acceptance rates and high graduation rates—not to mention huge endowments—these stately old institutions are rather difficult to compete with, but they’re definitely not the only esteemed places to get a four-year education.

As a testament to the continuing success of the tech industry, three technology institutes made WalletHub’s list: Massachusetts in third place, California in fifth, and Georgia in 11th. Those three schools ranked in the top five for return on educational investment, meaning that graduates make high starting salaries compared to how much their education actually cost.

Geographically, New England (and the East coast in general) is home to a majority of the top schools, though five from California alone did chart, too: Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; Pomona College; and Claremont McKenna College, in addition to the aforementioned California Institute of Technology.

Check out the top 25 below, and see where your alma mater ranks on WalletHub’s full list here.

  1. Harvard University // 78.6
  1. Yale University // 78.57
  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // 78.44
  1. Princeton University // 78.41
  1. California Institute of Technology // 77.65
  1. Stanford University // 77.12
  1. Rice University // 76.96
  1. Northwestern University // 75.4
  1. Duke University // 75.18
  1. University of Pennsylvania // 74.95
  1. Georgia Institute of Technology // 74.92
  1. Vanderbilt University // 74.66
  1. University of California, Berkeley // 74.54
  1. Columbia University // 74.51
  1. Johns Hopkins University // 74.37
  1. University of Chicago // 73.59
  1. Dartmouth College // 73.43
  1. Williams College // 73.19
  1. Brown University // 73.17
  1. Carnegie Mellon University // 73.11
  1. Washington and Lee University // 73.08
  1. Swarthmore College // 73.08
  1. Pomona College // 72.92
  1. Claremont McKenna College // 72.84
  1. Amherst College // 72.83