A Copywriter's Tips: How To Write Lean Email Copy

Studies show you have about two seconds to capture attention in the crowded inbox. Once an email is opened, you have five to 20 seconds to attract interest, communicate your key message and call to action, and create engagement with your brand. This is why the copywriter has to be on top of his or her game. No matter how much content properly belongs in your email, whether it’s a single slogan or a newsletter full of stories, you have to make every word count.

Think of a mooring line. When it is at work, it connects the ship and the pier, and it is taut with tension. Vigorous email writing is like that. It should be strong and capable of roping in readers, keeping them connected to your message and brand. Here are some pointers for writing email copy that is tight and effective.

Be provocative and direct

Select crisp, colorful words and phrases that work hard – words that are fraught with meaning, carry a punch, or elicit an emotional response. You can be funny, challenging, winsome, inspirational, or deadly serious, but never dull.



Use the active voice. Instead of “Our bargains are not to be beaten,” write, “We have unbeatable bargains.”

Write for skimmers

Few recipients read your email from beginning to end, so write copy that is easily scanned. A good email is like a window display that invites shoppers into the store.

•       Make an impression as fast as you can.

•       Keep headlines and body copy simple, focused and short. 

•       Give each module a brief, catchy headline or title.

•       Express features or benefits in the subheads.

•       Use short bullet points.

Great motivating messages can be expressed in one word … three words … 10 words … stop.

Edit out transitions and repetitions

Email has to be telegraphic. Remember, you may only have a few seconds to convey your message and elicit a response. Boil down your writing so you say the same thing in draft four as you did in draft one, but in half the space. Think of an email like condensed soup – all the goodness of a meal, minus the water.

Make your point as quickly as possible. Root out repetitive sentences. And instead of summarizing at the end, turn the summary into a call to action: “Save 50% now.” “Book travel today.” “Learn more.”  

Remember, an email isn’t a speech, where you tell the audience the same thing three times (except the call to action, which can and should be repeated).

Engage the reader

Use an accessible, inviting writing style appropriate to your brand and audience. Address the reader directly, using “you” whenever possible. A good tip is to speak the words as you write them. Any false notes will ring out.

Write a killer subject line

The subject line is your passkey to readership, engagement and action. Write it like a newspaper headline, keeping it short and punchy. Include the primary offer, benefit or news and invite action or create urgency.

Test your word choices and offers in the subject line. You will probably be surprised at the results.

Most experts say subject lines should be under 50 characters, including spaces. This advice has a lot to do with how subject lines display in email clients. Often, only the first few words can be seen, so load your key words up front. However, in real-world tests, long subject lines are often the winners. Test and see what resonates with your readers.

After your subject line, the next words the customer will read are the pre-header, followed by the headline. Coordinate these three crucial elements (as opposed to repeating the same words) so together, they tell the main story.

Writing for email is both a science and an art. Your challenge is to understand the channel intimately, and deliver copy that brings results. Keep it simple and strong, and you’ll do well.

1 comment about "A Copywriter's Tips: How To Write Lean Email Copy ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. David Koder from D Koder Marketing, June 17, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.

    Helpful information. Thank you.

Next story loading loading..