Effective Writing For Email Marketing Messages

How much time do people spend reading an email? Not much.

They spend a second or two deciding whether to keep or delete an email, and usually just a few seconds reading the ones they keep. This means the pressure’s on the creative — the writer and designer — to communicate the most amount of meaning in the least amount of time. The craft of writing for a specific space is one that must be learned.

Academia rewards us for writing essays studded with ten-dollar words and complex sentences. In advertising, and especially email, the writer has to throw those habits out the window and start learning a new form of writing: the art of writing powerfully by concentrating and simplifying the message.

Great email is like Gravy Granules — it has all the goodness of real gravy, with the water removed!

Squeeze out clutter in the planning stage

The task of creating streamlined emails starts with defined content strategy. Clients sometimes want to throw the kitchen sink into their emails, so an early discussion about the right messaging to include is crucial. Even back from this, what is the language used by your business that defines you from the competition? Do you provide “insights” instead of “information”, what are the words that defines your messaging?

  • Create categories for key content areas and reflect the space allotted to them in the wire frame. If the wire frame scrolls too much or appears cluttered, imagine how crammed the email will look with graphics and copy added.
  • Tell a story in mini-sequels. The brand story — with all its features and benefits and reasons to buy — can be spun out over a succession of emails. This technique works especially well for any series of emails such as e-newsletters, welcome streams, and reactivation programs.

Keep emails focused by using a theme

It’s a best practice in all motivational communications, from speeches to commercials, to keep the messaging unified. If you assign a theme to each email, whether overt or covert, it will be easier to write memorable messages that communicate quickly. To borrow a metaphor from music, a leitmotif is a recurring theme related to a particular person, place or idea. The musical piece enlarges on the theme, repeats it in different forms, and develops it in new directions; but like DNA, the leitmotif guides the music and gives it an identity. A themed email takes the same approach, with each element underscoring a single desired impression.

Do away with transitions and repetitions

Setting up propositions and transitioning between them waters down the writing and interferes with the reader’s ability to scan the content quickly. Obviously I am not suggesting you use a series of unconnected sentences or attempt a Hemingway-esque terseness, which would probably just set your readers’ teeth on edge. But do:

  • Make your point as quickly as possible in the subject line, pre-header, masthead or headline, and in the primary call to action.
  • Use bullet points to avert the need for more transitions, as well as to make the text easy to scan.
  • Root out repetitive sentences.
  • Express features or benefits in the subheads.
  • Turn any summaries into a call to action instead.

Long winding stories and colourful meanderings are not for the web dear friends!

Keep It Crisp!

Email writing needs to be as crisp as a Granny Smith Apple and twice as tasty!

  • Select words and phrases that work hard: ones that are fraught with meaning, carry a punch, elicit an emotional response.
  • Use the active, not passive voice.
  • Boil down the writing so you say the same thing in draft four as you did in draft one, but in half the space.

It isn’t easy to write lean, compact emails that make a powerful impression.

Blaise Pascal once wrote to a friend, “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.” Get to the point, but more importantly get it out there! It will definitely not make any difference to your business sitting on your laptop…

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