5 Rules for Writing Polished Email Marketing Copy

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October 5, 2015 Email Marketing

email marketing editingAs a copywriter, I’m often asked to proofread email copy here at SendGrid. Outside of common spelling and punctuation errors, there are a handful of style hiccups that I see crop up fairly regularly. So to help out my fellow email marketing copywriters, I thought I’d share 5 of these common style errors, in the hopes that they’ll prove useful before the next time you hit “send.”

1: Capitalization inconsistency

This is a commonly overlooked edit in email copywriting. It’s important to decide how you’ll standardize capitalization for both the headers and bulleted lists that you include in your email and then stick to it.

Some things to consider:

  • Will your headers be title case (where you capitalize all the significant words in your headers), or sentence case (where you capitalize only the first letter)? This may seem like a minor thing, but when you have multiple headers in an announcement email or a newsletter, not having this consistency in place can make you look messy.
  • Will your bulleted lists all start with a capital or lowercase letter? Either choice is fine, as long as you don’t switch between both in the same list…or in the same email!

2: Varying paragraph length

Keeping your emails as scannable as possible should be your ultimate goal. Refrain from having paragraphs of significantly different lengths, unless you’re doing it to make a point (i.e. having a standalone paragraph that’s just one sentence to drive your point home). Your meaning can be lost on readers when you’re too copy heavy, so do your best to break up your paragraphs and split your thoughts into bullet points whenever possible.

3: Overuse of bolding

We all want to drive our readers’ attention to our most salient points, but make sure you keep bolding to only the most important word/sentence in your email (or maybe your top 2 depending on how much text you have). Bolding too frequently (like every other sentence) deflates the importance of your point and distracts your reader. It also looks like you’re shouting—and NO ONE WANTS TO BE YELLED OUT. (*So the same bolding rule applies with caps too, ok?)

4: Repetition

When you’re introducing a new feature, announcing a sale, or simply checking in with your subscribers, marketers tend to want to shout it from the rooftops. Sometimes this excitement can lead to over-emphasizing your point. If you’re promoting an event, including the event date in the subject line, header image, body copy, CTA, and the postscript can do more harm than good. Helpful repetition is ok, distracting repetition is not. Choose 2 intentional places to drive home your point, and remove the rest.

5: Not asking for a second opinion

Always enlist the help of a teammate to help you proof your email. It’s easy to overlook consistency mistakes like those above when you’re so entrenched in the copy. If you don’t have a copyeditor on staff, do your best to find someone who can proof for spelling and grammar, since polish is SO important.

But also ask your proofer to see if anything can be cut. Marketers (and lots of writers, myself included) have a tendency to over explain. Simplicity is key in strong email writing and usually what we want to say can be explained in half the words we use to say it. Lean on your proofer to be a critical eye and keep you to the point.

Be sure to add a proofing step (hopefully with these tips!) to your email checklist and your email program will reap the benefits. For more tips on how to write valuable email marketing copy, check out our SlideShare, Email Marketing Content: 101.

Jillian WohlfarthMore Posts by Jillian
As SendGrid’s Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, case studies, and more. An editor and writer by trade, Jillian considers The Chicago Manual of Style one of her favorite reads.
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