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Nathan Barry

7 tips for writing engaging emails

published2 months ago
3 min read

Hi Reader,

If you send a newsletter, these 7 tips will help you write more engaging emails:

1. Make it easily skimmable

Most people aren’t going to read every word of your email.

Assume people will skim your email, and make it easy for them to do so while still taking away the most important points.

A common mistake is bolding phrases you would emphasize when speaking. The problem with this is skimmers only pay attention to:

  • Headers
  • Bolded phrases
  • Bullets

When you bold a phrase for emphasis, you confuse skimmers, because they don’t have full context for what’s being said around the bolded phrase.

Instead, bold phrases that work as takeaways on their own.

2. Start list items with a verb

Make lists stronger by starting each item with a verb.

❌Bad list example (items don’t start with a verb):

  • The first thing you want to do is choose a theme for the month
  • For your chosen theme, make a list of 4 topics
  • You’re going to make a 5-bullet-point outline for each topic
  • Lastly, to expand on each bullet point, you’ll write 2–3 paragraphs

✅Good list example (items start with verbs):

  • Choose a theme for the month
  • Make a list of 4 topics in your chosen theme
  • Create an outline for each topic with 5 sub bullet points
  • Expand on each bullet point by writing 2–3 paragraphs

3. Cut unnecessary repetition

If you find yourself repeating the same phrase, consider prefacing the list with that phrase.

❌Bad example (repeats the same phrase):

  • Make a list of goals
  • Make a list of projects
  • Make a list of tasks

Starting multiple sentences or list items with the same phrase causes people to become blind to them. They’ll tend to gloss over the information and not read the important bits.

✅Good example (not repetitive):

Make a list of:

  • Goals
  • Projects
  • Tasks

Notice how each item starts with a different word. This gives the eye something unique to “grab” onto, so people will be less likely to skip over.

4. Speak to one person

When you hover over the “Send Broadcast” button, your newsletter tool tells you exactly how many people are about to receive your email.

It might say 300 people, 4,000 people, or 500,000 people. But even if you only have 60 subscribers, that’s still a lot of people!

It’s easy to forget that each one of those people are going to open your email on their personal device, and read it by themselves.

Write your email as if it’s going to be read by one person.

Because it is! That’s just going to be repeated dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of times.

❌Bad examples:

  • “Hey everyone!”
  • “So many of you have been asking me…”
  • “I can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on with all of you!”

✅Good examples:

  • “Hey friend,”
  • “Many people just like you have asked me…”
  • “I can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on with you!”

5. Include a call-to-action

Once someone reads your email, they’re hopefully feeling grateful, excited, enlightened, or inspired. This is the point at which they’re most primed to take action.

What action do you want your reader to take? Some ideas:

  • Follow you on Twitter
  • Purchase a related product
  • Forward your newsletter to a friend

Even if you don’t have anything to promote, come up with some sort of call to action anyway.

Why?

Because you want to prime people to always take action when they read your emails so later when you do have something to promote, they’ll click when it counts.

6. Put links on their own line

Links that are on their own lines simply convert better.

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, of course, and sometimes linking text in the middle of a paragraph can work, but people will more often click links on their own line.

Compare the following:

Example A (link in paragraph):

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these tips! Follow me @nathanbarry on Twitter and tweet me your comments.

Example B (link on its own line):

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these tips! Follow me on Twitter and let me know what you think:

Which link looks more clickable?

7. Optimize your inbox preview text

Your email competes with every other email in your reader’s inbox. The email subject is certainly most important, but it’s closely followed by the inbox preview text.

If you don’t set a custom inbox preview text, the email client will grab the first few words in the body of your email. Depending on your email, in some cases, this may even be the boilerplate copy at the top of your newsletter that doesn’t even change from week to week.

That’s not very compelling.

Even if your email template is properly set up, your inbox preview text might read:

[Email Subject]
“Hi Reader, hope you’ve been having a great week! I wanted to talk to you ab—”

This is also a waste of valuable real estate!

Think of inbox preview text as your second subject line. It’s one more opportunity to capture someone’s interest and get them to open your email. Get creative here! Entice them. Tease something fun or exciting in the email.

Write preview text that makes people feel like they have to open your email.

Depending on the device, this preview text will get truncated after a relatively small number of characters, so make sure the first few words are compelling!


Did you find these tips useful? Feel free to forward this email to someone you know who has their own newsletter.

Have a great week!

—Nathan