How To Write The Ultimate Canned Email

How To Write The Ultimate Canned Email

If you get a lot of emails that deserve at least a cursory reply, you might feel like no form-letter email could possibly replace all of them. Here’s a clever solution, borrowed from the sci-fi author Robert Heinlein.

Artist and encourager-of-artists Austin Kleon has collected stock rejections from famous people and organisations. Some are short and disarming; E. B. White once declined a federal committee membership “for secret reasons.” Literary magazine Zyzzyva had a form letter that was very kind and honest about rejected submissions. And a few people, including Heinlein, used a long checklist of a few dozen replies:


This solution looks a bit unfriendly in print, but it’s a fantastic idea for email. Make a giant canned reply list like the above, and put it in Gmail’s canned replies, or a convenient space to copy-paste from. Then paste it into your reply, and delete all the parts that don’t apply. Boom, you’ve got a personalised email.


  • I got a tick-box note from Spider Robinson once (with clear attribution to RAH) and I loved it!

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!