How grade 3 math gets people to read your email

How grade 3 math gets people to read your email

With back-to-school right around the corner, I thought I’d share a basic grade 3 fraction lesson that will increase readership of your emails and other communications. It’s simple, and you can use it right away. It’s called the Fraction of Selection, a formula created by communication scholar Wilbur Schramm in the mid-1900’s. I’ve adapted his work for modern times.

The Fraction of Selection

Fraction of Selection

To increase readership, increase the visibility of the reward…

Boost Reward

…or reduce the effort required to get the reward…

Reduce Effort

…or both!

Boost Reward Reduce Effort

Visible reward and minimal effort


I love this formula because it hits two of the most common problems in communication:

Problem: We tend to focus on ourselves and ignore what the other person cares about. Solution: Place their reward front and centre so they’ll know right away why they should pay attention. When they see that your message is for them, they’ll be engaged instantly.

Problem: A lot of messages are poorly designed and chock full of irrelevant information. Solution: Make it easy for them. Cut the fluff and design it for busy mobile users (see: Design your email for mobile…or else!).


This entire post is an example of the Fraction of Selection: I placed the reward in the title, and instead of wordy paragraphs I used images (created quickly in PowerPoint) to explain the concept. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re living proof that the concept works. For more on the Fraction of Selection, read Chapter 4 – Cut The Fluff in my book Buried Alive:Digging Your Way Out To Clear Communication.


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