Writing effective emails can be a challenge. You've written an important message that you know your audience could use. But they seem to ignore your emails. It may be time to step up your game.
In this tutorial, we'll take you through the professional email writing process from start to finish. We've got over 15 helpful email writing tips for writing an effective email.
You'll start by learning to identify the goal for your effective email. You'll end by learning the right closing and the importance of an email signature template. We'll also discuss the use of images and animations in email, as well as the right time to send a business email.
Now jump into these killer tips for how to write an effective email:
1. Set a Clear Goal for Your Email
Start by deciding what results you want from your email. Then, write your email with that goal in mind. Your email can't achieve its purpose if you don't know why you're writing it.
When choosing a goal for your email, it's best to keep the goal simple. It'll be less confusing for the audience.
For example, which email do you think would be more likely to meet its goal?
- An email with the goal of getting the reader to click through to a landing page (one goal).
- An email with the goal of getting the reader to click through to a landing page, share information on social media, and watch a YouTube video (three goals).
The first email is more likely to be successful because there's only one simple goal. While the second email might succeed in getting a reader to perform one of the desired actions, they're unlikely to do all three.
2. Use the Right Email Subject Line
The subject line is the first thing your reader sees. A poor subject line could get your email deleted or even worse, sent directly to the Spam folder.
Keep your email subject line concise, but be specific. Don't mislead your reader either or you'll leave a bad impression.
Your subject line should also be relevant to your recipient. Everyone hates getting a generic email that has nothing to do with them. If you can, take it a step further and personalize the subject line.
Here's an example of a bad email subject line:
Important Email. Get $100!!!
This a bad subject line. It's vague. The words "important email" don't tell the reader anything about the email. Also, it's misleading. If the reader opened the email, they'd see that they won't get $100 unless they win a contest. Finally, the three exclamation points at the end of the subject line make this subject line look spammy.
Here's a better email subject line for the same email:
Discover your new XYZ features (register to win a $100 prize)
Rather than the vague phrase, "important email," the second subject line tells the reader that this email lists new features for XYZ—a product they own. And the phrase in parenthesis makes it clear that the $100 is a prize.
Note: The XYZ software app described in these emails is fictitious. It is used only to illustrate these examples and isn't based on any real software tool.
For more information on creating powerful subject lines, study:
3. Use the Best Email Opening
Even if your reader opens your email, the first few lines could be such a turn off that they stop reading right there. Pay extra attention to the salutation (email greeting) and the opening sentence to make sure your email is effective.
When it comes to email greetings, use the proper degree of formality. To know how formal to be you must know your audience. Will your audience be offended by an informal greeting, or will being informal make your business seem more approachable? You can't know the answer unless you've done your homework about your readers.
Regardless of whether your email takes a formal or informal tone, some openings are simply too unprofessional for a business email. Look at this email opening:
Yo XYZ User!Your XYZ software has been upgraded.
Even if your email is written in a casual tone, "Yo" is practically never a good email salutation. Contrast the opening above with the following, more effective (and professional) email opening:
Hello Laura,We're glad you've chosen XYZ software. As mentioned in your maintenance agreement, XYZ has been automatically upgraded to version 4.2.
The email tone is still casual ("Hello"), but notice the personalization of adding my name. For more details on how to create an opening for an effective email, review the following tutorial:
4. List Your Main Points
Once you've created a strong subject line and chosen a good email salutation and opening line, get to the main point of your email message quickly. Stay concise. If you've got more than one point, use a list so your reader can scan it easily.
Continuing with the previous example, instead of putting all the new software features in a long paragraph, use a list to make them easily scannable. Like this:
1. Integrates with smartphone or tablet 2. Increased cloud-based storage 3. Auto-fill for common phrases 4. In-software spell check now includes foreign phrases
Your reader can see the features at a glance. But listing features isn't quite enough. Explain why those features are important to your email recipient.
5. Explain Benefits in Your Email
Many business professionals don't understand the difference between features and benefits. Features describe what your product does. A benefit explains how a feature helps your reader.
Don't assume that your email reader already knows why something is important to them. Make sure your email explains how your reader benefits.
Let's upgrade the list of software features we created earlier and include the customer benefits of each. The list now looks like this:
1. Use the software anywhere. Integrates with a smartphone or tablet.2. Plenty of space to save everything you need. Increased cloud-based storage.3. Fill out forms quickly. Auto-fill for common phrases.4. Reduce errors in foreign words. In-software spell check now includes common foreign phrases.
The list now shows how each feature upgrade helps your reader. They're much more likely to be interested in an email that clearly explains the benefits.
6. Write to Your Audience
We touched on this earlier, but tailor your email to what you know about your reader. Use the tone and terms they'll relate to.
Too often, business people put as many technical terms into their email as they can fit in—mistakenly thinking that using lots of industry jargon will impress the reader. Actually, unfamiliar terms are more likely to irritate and alienate your reader than they are to impress them. Also, avoid using uncommon abbreviations.
Write your email at a reading level that your readers can understand. Several studies show that most adults in the U.S. are comfortable with material written at a seventh through ninth grade reading level. So, if this is the audience you're trying to reach, gear your writing to that grade level range.
To find out what level your email is written at, use a readability checker. Some authoring tools have a readability checker built in, or find an online readability checker like the Hemingway App.
7. Use Subheads in Your Email Body
Subheads and other formatting makes an email more scannable and helps your reader absorb your message. Remember, your reader is likely in a hurry. With a subhead, they can grasp your main points without too much effort.
Let's add a subhead to the email example we've been working on. This time, let's look at the whole email that we've written so far. Here it is:
Subject: Discover your new XYZ features (register to win a $100 prize)Hello Laura,We're glad you've chosen XYZ software. As mentioned in your maintenance agreement, XYZ has been automatically upgraded to version 4.2.XYZ Software 4.2 Upgrades1. Use XYZ anywhere. Integrates with a smartphone or tablet.2. Save everything you need. Increased cloud-based storage.3. Fill out forms quickly. Auto-fill for common phrases.4. Reduce errors in foreign words. In-software spell check now includes common foreign phrases.
Notice how the subhead leading into the list, XYZ Software 4.2 Upgrades, is one of the first things that catches the reader's eye.
8. Use Images in Your Email
As with any type of content, images in an email draw a reader in and capture their attention. Don't overdo images in your professional email. One large or two small images are enough for most business emails.
Some drawbacks to using images include:
- Size. A large image could make your email load more slowly.
- Filters. Some email filters and email systems block images.
- Wrong usage. Adding an unprofessional image makes your email less effective instead of more effective.
Make sure any images you use are professional. And of course, you need the intellectual rights to use whatever image you use.
Where can you find effective images to add to your emails? Once quality source of royalty-free professional images is Envato Elements. For a small monthly fee, choose between over 200,000 professionally curated photos. And you'll have access to lots of other professional graphic assets as well.
9. Or Use Animation
If you really want to capture a reader's attention, consider using an animated GIF. Animated GIFs add motion to your message, which draws the reader's eye.
Be careful when you add GIFs to your emails though. A simple animation works better than a complicated one. And emails with animated GIF files do face some problems, including:
- Larger file size
- Slower load time
- Not supported by some email systems
- May distract the reader if used improperly
For a more in-depth look at using animated GIFs in email, read:
10. Include a Call to Action
Your reader won't know what to do next unless you tell them. Include a clear call to action to get the results you want.
In the email, we've been creating for this tutorial, we'd like the reader to subscribe to our newsletter. By signing up for the newsletter, they'll also be registering to win the $100 prize. Here's what our call to action looks like for our example email:
Discover more about how to use XYZ software (and register to win $100) by subscribing to the XYZ weekly newsletter(link).
Notice how the call to action includes an underlined link. In a live email, that would be a clickable link that the reader could click on right away.
11. Make Your Email Closing Effective
If your reader has read all the way through your email, it's important that you leave them with a good impression. Adding an effective closing to your email is the best way to make sure your reader leaves with a good feeling about your company.
Make your email closing sincere and appropriate. Just as you took your audience into consideration when you wrote the rest of the email, think about your audience when you write your email closing.
An effective email closing includes a closing phrase and identifies the sender. Just as there are formal and informal email salutations, there are also formal and informal email closings. The type of closing you choose depends on the target audience for your email.
To close the example email we've been working on, we'll use this simple email closing:
Thanks again for choosing XYZ software to meet your software needs.Best Wishes,Jane JonesCEO and Founder, AnyTown Consulting555-555-9090Jane@AnyTown Consulting
Note: In this example, AnyTown Consulting is the company that developed the fictitious XYZ app in the example email. AnyTown Consulting is a fictitious company used for the purposes of illustration. It isn't intended to represent any real company or organization.
For more details on how to close your effective email, refer to:
12. Use a Pro Email Signature Template
For an extra degree of professionalism, add a signature template to your email. A professional signature template includes your brand and your contact information. This design element makes your email stand out, which makes your email more effective.
Take a look at the gorgeous email template below:
Note: The professional template illustrated above is from Envato Elements, which is a great source for professional email templates like the one used in the example above. You'll also get access to other professional assets such as PowerPoint templates, web themes, stock photos, and more
Find more examples of professional signature templates in this article:
13. Add a P.S.
A little-known fact is that the P.S. (postscript) is one of the most read parts of an email. If you're not familiar with the term, P.S. refers to a sentence, phrase, or short paragraph added after the signature block. The idea is that the postscript is a last-minute addition to the email.
In emails, the P.S. may include an extra call to action, or even a special offer. Adding a postscript to your email can make it more effective.
Here's an example postscript for the email example we've been working on:
P.S. I nearly forgot to tell you. If you sign up(link) for our newsletter by the end of this month, that's November 30th, we'll add a free month to your support plan.
If your reader was debating about signing up for the newsletter, the added incentive in the P.S. may be enough to make up their mind.
14. Give It a Once-Over
Errors and mistakes reduce the effectiveness of your email. They also give the reader a bad impression of your business. It's up to you to make sure that your professional email is as clean as possible before you send it.
Review your email carefully. Check for:
- Spelling errors
- Punctuation errors
- Word usage errors
- Incorrect information
If you can, have someone else proofread your email. Once you're sure that your email is error-free, you're ready to send it.
15. Send It at the Right Time
When you send your email is important. The best time to send an email varies, depending on your target audience for the email.
For example, you might not want to send a business person an email at 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. They may have left the office and by the time they get in on Monday morning your email will be just one of many that came in over the weekend—making your recipient less likely to read it.
Most studies agree that Tuesday is the best day of the week to send an email to a business person. Of course, the best day to reach your target audience may be different. So, learn all you can about your email recipients.
16. Don't Forget to Follow Up
For your email to be effective, it's important to follow up. Your follow up can take two forms:
- A shorter reminder email to those who didn't respond to the first email
- Answers to any questions or other responses you receive because of the first email
Follow up can often be the difference between getting a sale and not getting a sale.
To answer any responses you receive, your own email inbox must be organized and clutter-free or you may overlook the response. In the example we've been using, imagine that an email recipient responds asking whether the XYZ newsletter subscription costs money. But, you don't see their response due to email inbox clutter. There's an opportunity lost.
To learn more about how to manage your email inbox and keep it clutter-free, study our FREE eBook on email inbox management: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery.
Effective email writing isn't difficult once you know how to reach your audience. Use the professional email communication tips in this tutorial to write more effective emails.
For additional information on how to write a persuasive email, study:
To learn how to format an email and business writing tips for emails, refer to:
What email writing tips do you have for writing effective emails that engage with recipients? Let us know your best tips in the comments.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published on October 16, 2017. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Business tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.Update me weekly
Envato Tuts+ tutorials are translated into other languages by our community members—you can be involved too!Translate this post