Consider whether the best ‘no’ to an unsolicited communication is no reply, and define what you need when requesting responses.

Maria Popova is a writer and founder of which has several million readers per month. Spot-checking attention to detail in incoming communications allows her to quickly eliminate bad pitches or other communications. She doesn’t encourage incompetence by rewarding it with a considered reply. This avoids time spent replying to poor communications pitches with polite declines and frees up your time to focus on mutually beneficial contacts.


  1. Look at the correspondence and ask, “Did the person do their homework to see if this communication is a fit for you? Are they minding the details?”
    If you put in the effort to explain why a pitch isn’t a fit for you, you assist and reward those who haven’t done their homework to determine if it is a fit. Those who are sloppy at the beginning only get worse.

  2. When requesting correspondence, define what you need and ask for it.
    If you want responses to something (e.g., vacant positions, investments) clearly define how people should respond. For example, say or write, “Do not email a response, call [a phone number] and leave a voicemail with A, B, and C.” Anyone who responds via email is disqualified.


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