What does the phrase 'my email fell flat to elicit a response from you' exactly mean? Does it convey from any angle a sense of bad usage?

  • 2
    It's awkwardly worded. It sounds like someone attempting to sound sophisticated (and not succeeding). Anyway, it means "I didn't get a reply from you, or the reply from you wasn't what I was hoping for when I wrote my email".
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 17, 2017 at 11:26
  • 1
    Agreed with Dan Bron; it's very awkwardly worded. The usual phrasing would be something more like "my attempt to elicit a response from you fell flat".
    – stangdon
    Apr 17, 2017 at 11:39
  • 3
    It sounds as though someone looked up a synonym for failed in a thesaurus, and settled on fell flat, not realizing that fell flat doesn't take an infinitive-clause complement.
    – TimR
    Apr 17, 2017 at 11:53
  • Thanks a lot for your comments. @Dan Bron, stangdon and Tᴚoɯɐuo.
    – user53927
    May 9, 2017 at 23:26

3 Answers 3


To Fall Flat

It is an idiom with the following meanings:

  • To produce no effect, cause no interest, prove to be ineffective, to have no effect.
    Your advice fell flat on her.

  • To fail completely
    Most of her jokes fell flat and her act was a disaster.

  • To fail miserably when attempting to achieve a result, to fail to produce the intended or expected effect.
    He made several jokes and each of them fell flat.

  • If an entertainment or a joke falls flat, people do not enjoy it and do not think it is funny.

  • If an attempt to influence people's behavior or opinions falls flat, it fails.
    The advertising campaign which had worked so well in the US fell flat in China.

No sense of bad usage

Fell flat to elicit a reply:
Means failed to get a reply

my email fell flat to elicit a response from you, mean:
my email had no effect, failed to produce a result (have a response from you)

Cambridge Dictionary
The Free Dictionary


my email fell flat to elicit a response from you

@yass is correct about the meaning of fall flat.

Fall flat to X doesn't work. If you fall flat, you aren't moving to anything, so it doesn't work, even figuratively.

Does it convey from any angle a sense of bad usage?

It is bad usage. I don't even know what's trying to convey.


Your sentence is an example of poor usage because the syntax suggests one meaning while a logical analysis of the situation suggests you mean something entirely different.

To see this, first read this sentence:

Tom opened the door to go outside.

Notice that Tom first opens the door, and then he can go outside. Your sentence has exactly the same structure:

My email fell flat to elicit a response from you.

Superficially this means that first your email falls flat, and then it gets a response. Your readers will see that this is silly and look for a different way to connect the ideas so that they make sense. Save them the mental strain. Write something like this:

As far as eliciting a response from you goes, my email fell flat.

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