Brenda Peterson
Brenda Peterson
10 Tips for Writing Effective Emails: How to Get Your Message Across
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How many emails do you receive daily? Are there many of them that you actually read? Have you ever thought what exactly makes you open certain messages and ignore all the rest? If you have ever tried to promote anything through the email, you must have noticed that some email messages happen to be effective, while others fail.

There’s a whole lot of factors that determine whether an email serves your purpose or not. No matter if you use email for marketing purposes, interpersonal or business communication, knowing how to write effective emails is one of the essential skills to help you get your message across.

What makes emails effective

As a sender, you consider your emails special and unique, and you have every right to think so – after all, you put an effort into your message and expect people to react properly. But only imagine: around 144.8 emails are sent daily worldwide! Private email messages, business offers, newsletters, promotions, advertisements, announcements, invitations – getting lost in these endless tides of data is so easy.

To write emails that really hit the spot, you should, first and foremost, realize what makes them effective. Effective emails are those that:

  • Are opened in the first place;
  • Are read and understood;
  • Make a good impression on a reader;
  • Are clear and memorable;
  • Do not take much time to read through and reply;
  • Encourage a reader to respond or take action.

With this in mind, writing effective emails is a matter of adapting your message to the tastes and preferences of your audience and sticking to the tips you can find below.

  1. Keep your goals in mind

Whenever you write an email, you do it with a very clear purpose in sight, especially when you deal with email marketing. Apparently, you wouldn’t bother to write anything to anybody for no reason at all. Here’s what you might want to achieve with your email:

  • Inform your audience and keep them updated;
  • Get a reply or an answer to your question;
  • Encourage recipients for further communication, open up for a dialogue;
  • Convince a recipient to carry out a specific action, e.g. click through to your website, sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase, etc.

Define the main goal and bear it in mind all the way through the writing process, and try to avoid pursuing several objectives at once as complicating things rarely bodes well when it comes to emails.finger on the tablet

  1. Mind the structure

Just like any other type of narrative, an email consists of several structural parts. A clear structure is not just a homage to the traditional letter writing. It helps you to be consistent and follow a logical link, present your ideas in the right sequence so that the reader can absorb and comprehend the information in the most convenient way. A typical email is comprised of the following elements:

  • Subject line;
  • Salutation;
  • Introduction (opener);
  • Main body (with or without subheadings);
  • Call-to-action (optional);
  • Closing;
  • Contact details (optional).

Structure violations can be taken as a lack of professionalism or carelessness, especially when it comes to business communication. What is more, they may prevent readers from understanding your idea correctly.

  1. Put some thought into your subject line

A subject line is the first thing a recipient encounters finding your email in the inbox. That is why it is so important to make a good impression with it, use it as an enticement for your readers. Your subject line must not only explain to readers what they can expect to find inside, but also convince them to click on the email. Here are some tips for writing a convincing subject line:

  • Avoid generic phrases and expressions like “Only for you!”, “Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” or “Very important message!!!” as emails with subject lines like these are usually taken as spam and are deleted immediately.
  • A good subject line is a short subject line: it is reported that the optimal length for a subject line is 61-70 characters. Longer instances apparently take more time to read and are more annoying. Shorter ones are less informative and hence have less credibility in readers’ eyes.
  • Mind being concise but don’t forget to be descriptive enough. Your subject line should clearly outline the content of your email without going far into detail. It is always nice to leave some space for a mystery to encourage the reader to open your email.
  • A personalized subject line is often a key to the email success. It is known that mentioning a recipient’s name in a subject line significantly increases the click-through rate.
  • Make your subject line searchable. Even if a reader decides to skip your email at first, it is quite possible that he/she will want to open it later. To facilitate searching within a user’s inbox, include one or two memorable keywords in the subject line.
  1. Start with a proper salutation

The salutation is an essential part of any email. Without it, your message will be incomplete and unfocused. Unless you specify a person whom you’re approaching, your message will be perceived abstractly. You can’t expect a reader to relate to your idea and get engaged if you don’t make it personal.

Personalization is one of the cornerstones of writing effective emails. Therefore, including a reader’s first name can greatly increase the chances for your email to grasp the attention and be eventually opened. It is confirmed that emails containing a personalized message boast 13.1% higher open rates.

If personalizing salutations for every email seems problematic to you, consider what kind of greeting is the most appropriate for your audience. Depending on your niche, your salutations can be either formal (e.g. “Dear Sir/Madam”) or informal (e.g. “Hey there”, etc.).

  1. Explain why you’re writing in a brief opener

Getting straight to the point without beating around the bush is one of the core rules of writing an effective email. No doubt, you should respect your readers’ time, but getting down to business without a proper introduction might be considered as a lack of respect.

An opening line of your email should be brief and serve the purpose of introducing yourself and the subject of your message. Simply explain who you are and what you do (if necessary) and mention why you are writing. The reason can be:

  • Making a request;
  • Asking for information;
  • Offering help;
  • Giving information;
  • Complaining;
  • Apologizing;
  • Calling to action;
  • Replying.

An email opener should be no longer than one or two sentences. This is just enough to prepare the ground for the main body of your message.

  1. Write a concise and informative main body for your email

The main body is undoubtedly the most important part of an email. This is where you communicate the main idea of your message, so you definitely want to be understood in the most accurate way, make a good impression on the reader, and accomplish your objectives. There are several recommendations to take into account:

  • Write short: When you write to your audience, you want to tell a full story, mention every detail, and explain your idea so that there’s no more space for doubts. After all, you wish to let others see things the way you see them. But try not to get carried away. The fact is, each and every day your recipients get bunches of emails in which they are asked to read this and do that. Naturally, their default attitude is to save the precious time by dealing with your email as quick as possible. So if your reader encounters a huge wall of text, the first reaction will be the annoyance. The chances for such an email to be read and understood are pathetically small. It is reported that the most effective emails are as long as 50-125 words, boasting an open rate of over 50%. That is why you should focus only on core facts and arguments in your email, leaving out the fluff.
  • Write simply: Following the same logic, try not to overburden the text with terms, abbreviations, professional jargon, etc. You might want to demonstrate your professionalism and industry insight in this way, but the end result can be just the contrary. Keep the language simple and make the reading process as effortless as possible.
  • Make the text well scannable: Most people do not read emails from start to finish. They run through the text quickly to grasp the main point. To make things easier for your readers, arrange the text so that it is comfortable to scan and pleasant to look at. Split the whole thing into several logical and easily digestible chunks, leaving broad blank spaces in between. If it makes sense, introduce several subheadings. Also, consider using numbered or bulleted lists to optimize your content for easier consumption.
  • Outline your benefits: If you write a business or marketing email, it is crucial to let your audience know why it is namely your product or service that will make them happy. Every time someone opens your email, the first question that comes to mind is: “Why should I even care?”. Enumerating great features of your brand or product is not enough to convince your clients that they need you. Explain your prospects briefly how exactly they can benefit from choosing you in order to give them an extra incentive for jumping on board.
  • Be moderate with compliments: Making your reader a compliment can be a nice addition to the email, but only in case the compliment is well deserved and you really mean it. Complementing for no apparent reason, just to flatter your prospect, is a bad practice that can undermine your authority and put your professionalism into question.
  • Don’t ask too many questions: Asking questions in emails is fine. But try not to overwhelm the recipient with inquiries. This refers primarily to marketing emails. Your efforts should be focused on keeping the reader’s attention. Questions can easily cause distraction and confusion.
  • Keep a neutral tone: Expressing emotions is common for private messages but should be avoided in business and marketing emails. It is not to say that giving an email a nice emotional touch is unacceptable, but to show your professional attitude, you’ll want to leave any sentiments aside. However, this depends mostly on your audience and niche you work in. If the emotional tone can help you make your content more approachable, there’s no reason not to use it to your advantage.
  • Be polite and friendly: Well, this goes without saying. Show the reader your respect and positive attitude. This is a key to healthy communication.
  1. Use visuals to capture the attention

Who said your email should be all text? Visual content is extremely popular nowadays, and not including it in your email campaign might suggest you’re stuck somewhere in the 2000s.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options at your disposal, including images, animations, and videos. Unfortunately, some email providers block certain types of visual content, so it is advised to check the format compatibility in advance.

Also, make sure the visuals you include are top notch. Poor quality visual elements can turn many of your readers away.

And of course, remember to optimize the size of the images: you don’t want your email to take forever to load.

  1. Don’t forget to include a CTA and a link to your site

Sending an email to your customers, you want them to react to it properly, convince them to perform a specific action. Don’t hesitate to provide your recipients with polite and gentle instructions for further actions.

Let’s say you’ve created a website on Ning and set up a paid membership. Now you want to promote your content by encouraging your potential members to click through to your new article. Just outline its topic in your email and wrap it up with something like “Want to know more? Please visit my website to read the whole article”, where the underlined word is a clickable link. Easy!

  1. Wind it down with a convincing closing

The closing is as important as the introduction, so make it count. Make sure your email leaves a good aftertaste. Your primary goal is to make a good impression on your reader, therefore, it is vital to end your message on a positive note.

Remember to:

  • Thank your reader for the time and attention (or staying with/choosing your brand);
  • Throw in a friendly comment like “Have a nice day!”;
  • Include a closing phrase (e.g. “Best regards/wishes”, “Yours sincerely”, etc.);
  • Sign with your own name;
  • Provide your contact details.
  1. Always proofread

Even if you think your email is a masterpiece, take a moment of your time and give it an extra glance. On your second run, you might find typos, spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, and grammar lapses you couldn’t see before. Needless to say, sending emails that contain flaws of this kind can seriously spoil the impression about you.

Final words

Writing effective emails is a matter of practice and knowing your audience. As long as you clearly realize who you are writing to and what kind of relations are between you and your audience, your emails will hit the nail on the head.

Try to follow the tips listed in this article, don’t fear the trial and error, and always do your best to improve your writing skills as you go along. Writing is not a rocket science, but it does require patience and insight. Oh, and don’t forget to keep your email list open-ended: the more connections you have, the broader outreach you’ll get.

Brenda Peterson

Brenda is Technical Specialist at Ning