Purpose – Writing an email message

This page reviews ways to create and optimize the Email message’s Subject Line, Headline, Body Copy, and Call-to-Action.

Table of Contents

  • Purpose – Writing an email message

  • Writing an effective email message will require you to:

  • Four parts of an email message

  • Subject line – include a benefit, preferably an emotional one

  • Headline – if used, make it relevant to the recipient’s problem, pain point, or desire

  • Body Copy – have it be relevant to support the promise of your subject line.

  • A Good Call-to-Action is critical

  • Adding Messages to your Footer – links to social media, website URL, unsubscribe

  • Three common types of Email Marketing Messages

  • Design a Mobile Friendly Email

  • Recommendations for you


Writing an effective email message will require you to:

  • Know and have an understanding of your audience

  • Include a story about how your Brand offers a solution to a reader’s internal problem.

    • Reference the Story Page for a proposed outline for the story

  • Have a goal for the message

  • Understand and follow the best practices for email deliverability

  • Recognize and be compatible with the anti-spam laws

  • Be knowledgeable of copywriting basics

Four parts of an email message

  • Subject line

  • Headline

  • Body Copy

  • Call-to-action

Subject line

  • Subject line is the text displayed in the email inbox of the recipient.

    • Must capture the recipient’s attention.

    • Enough to open your message.

  • Guidelines

    • Identify a benefit for them in the message. Preferably an emotional one.

    • Don’t focus on a feature.

    • Write in action oriented words aimed at the customer, not at you or your business.

    • Basically, it’s writing in the second person, the potential customer.

    • Can you write about a benefit with a high perceived value?

    • Make sure your text is clear. Drop out extra words.

    • Refrain from using a clever subject line. A clear subject line works better.

  • Example – for a weight loss plan subject line.

    • Is it:

      • 1.) Dieting tips from the weight loss doctor?


        2.) 25 proven weight loss meals you can do in less than 20 minutes each?

    • Subject line #1 mentions a business and is vague. No benefits there.

    • Subject line #2 identifies

      • An implied benefit (weight loss).

      • Along with a powerful word (proven).

      • Uses the second person (you).

      • A saving time benefit (less than 20 minutes)

    • Subject line #2 tells the reader what they will get along with a promise.

  • Inbox preview text

    • This is the text appearing after the subject title in the recipient’s inbox.

      • Recipient’s email box must be configured for it.

      • It’s the opening text from the email message body copy.

      • Make sure your email message body opening text contains benefits and is responsive to answering the question “What’s in it for me?”

      • Your ESP can help you with editing this text.

    • Review how the preview text looks on a smart phone and tablet.

      • Sometimes a strange, unrelated text line shows up as the preview text.

      • Edit it.


  • Not usually used with short messages or a personal letter.

  • Normally used with email messages containing a lot of text, images, and/or videos.

  • Have it be relevant to the recipient’s problem, pain point, or desire.

  • Your headline needs to be compelling. Try to trigger an emotion with it.

  • Here’s some emotional examples you can appeal to:

    • Fear – the fear of missing out is powerful.

      • A time limit works well with raising the fear emotion.

        Example – “Only 24 Hours Left to Get That Dominican Republic Resort Vacation With Your Purchase of a Kia Sorrento – a $3,800 Value Free.”

    • Trust – make people feel comfortable with the offer.

      • Example – “Over 500 people have signed-up for the online course on “Writing Email Messages.”

    • Guilt – some people feel guilty about not helping out in the relief effort for a tragedy.

      • Example – for the cost of a loaf of bread, you can help homeless people suffering from Hurricane Florence with a shelter.

    • Envy – people envious of others or wanting to be envied.

      • Example – a subject line asks, “Do you want to have the best looking yard on your street?”

    • Freedom – for more free time, responsibilities, or money worries.

      • Example – relief from a money worries message – “Investing in Our Small Cap Gold Mining Portfolio Yielded a $2,500 Growth for Leonard Last Month With a $10,000 Investment.”

      • Example – a baby sitting service – “We’ll Take Care of the Kids While You’re Shopping.”

    • Confidence – people in the entertainment industry may be looking for something to build their confidence and attractiveness when they’re performing.

      • Example – “Clothes to Help You Get the Girls Screaming When You’re Singing That Love Song.”

  • Take a look at the goals for your email message. Think about including an emotional benefit in your call-to-action.

    • Is there a powerful word you can skillfully add?

    • Emotions and power words are there for the asking.

    • Go for it. You will be all smiles.

Body Copy

Be relevant with your body copy

  • Provide relevant copy supporting the promise of your subject line.

    • Look to include powerful words and emotional benefits.

    • Add supporting information/data.

    • Your goal is to have powerful material in the first couple of sentences of your message.

Conversational copy is friendly copy

  • Make your body text conversational.

    • Break some grammar rules. It’s OK. That’s part of conversational writing.

    • Use contractions, slang, sentence fragments.

    • Write like your talking to someone.

    • Get away from writing in the corporate language. It’s boring, robotic.

Use dynamic content

  • Do you have the opportunity to personalize your message with dynamic content?

    • It’s powerful – you will be making highly targeted offers to the right people.

    • Warning – make sure your data is accurate otherwise you’ll do more harm with dynamic content.

    • And don’t overdo the personalization in the copy.

Include product features in your message along with the product’s benefits

  • Features in your email message help describe what the recipient is getting.

    • A recipient would like to know that.

  • Refrain from writing several paragraphs about features. Or even one long paragraph.

  • A concise list of bullets is OK for features.

  • Or if you can, just limit it to a sentence or two about features.

    • Example – for an ebook, a list of chapters.

Add social proof in your email marketing message

  • It’s necessary, but keep it short.

  • Testimonials, case studies, reviews, customer success stories, or interviews.

  • Sometimes social proof can be in a separate email message.

  • Or it can be a step described in your email conversion funnel that can be clicked.

  • Run an A/B split test about including social proof or not.

Include a story about how your Brand offers a solution to a reader’s internal problem.

Reference – Story Page on this website for an outline.

A Good Call-to-Action is critical

Create a sense of urgency with action words

  • Your goal – make your call-to-action (CTA) very clear and concise.

    • Use action words such as – Act, Ask, Build, Give.

    • Create urgency with words like – Limited Time, Act Now, Last Chance, Never Again.

    • Some “Money” words to use – Benefits, Deliver, Promise, Guarantee.

    • Words never to use – Price, Sign, Risk, Try.

Make the prospect feel he or she is getting an outstanding value

  • Highlight the benefits – can you quantify them?

    • Saving XX dollars, time saved, developing relationships, subscriptions.

  • Provide a six month guarantee. Q and A support.

  • How would it relieve your customer’s pain?

  • Can you appeal to one the five emotions cited earlier? Fear, Trust, Guilt, Envy, Freedom.

Are you including a call-to-action button?

  • Make the text on the button:

    • Short

    • Has a sense of urgency. Examples: “Now,” Send,” Get,” “I Want…”

    • Use first person from the prospect’s standpoint like the “I Want” suggestion.

    • Don’t use “Click Here”

Adding Messages to your Footer

  • Your ESP usually generates one with your contact information.

  • But make sure to add

    • An unsubscribe link

    • The URL of your business website

    • Live links to your Social Media accounts

    • Your Logo.

Three common types of Email Marketing Messages

  • You can be creative in writing your Email message.

    • But, initially it probably would be one of the three types described below.

      • One-time campaigns.

      • Automated sequences.

      • Newsletters

One-Time Campaigns

  • Single message campaigns sent as needed.

    • Can be sent by an autoresponder.

    • Sent to a segment of your elist or your whole elist.

  • Examples

    • Short duration action – a 24 hour discount.

    • Informational for a new niche.

Automated Sequences of Messages

  • Another name for an email marketing funnel.

  • Details provided in the “Funnels” Page.


  • Suggest to send newsletters for informational purposes only.

    • Not for promotional.

    • That also means NOT to have newsletters strictly for information about the company.

      • The recipient doesn’t care about your company.

      • It’s WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) that counts.

    • Identify the purpose of your newsletter. What the recipient will get.

      • And stick to it.

  • Sent daily, weekly, monthly – on a consistent basis

  • Content can be:

    • New relevant information strictly for your subscribers.

    • A summary of your latest blog content.

    • Review of relevant content from third party sources.

    • Tips on using the product your subscriber purchased.

    • Questions and answers

Design a Mobile Friendly Email

  • Recommendation – use a mobile-friendly design for your emails.

    • Subscribers use a smartphone to access over 50% of their emails.

    • Best to consult your ESP for the design of your website for email purposes.

    • Ask about using a template with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) for the structure of the page and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for the visual and aural layout.

      • A Responsive-Aware design. Doesn’t require horizontal scrolling, only vertical.

  • Content design recommendations for a smart phone design

    • Single column layout.

    • Font size – no smaller than 14 point for body text, 20 point for titles.

    • Subject line – 25-30 characters.

    • Increase line space and white space.

    • Short paragraphs – nothing wrong with a one sentence paragraph.

    • Most important information or call-to-action “above the fold.”

      • “Above the fold” – what displays before a subscriber scrolls.

    • Avoid using hyperlinks especially hyperlinks clustered together.

    • Use smaller images with an alt tag.

    • Call-to-action buttons spanning the full width of the email.

  • Test your email. Note appearance on how it shows up in an email inbox.

    • Check your forms. You may have to narrow them down.

Recommendations for you

  • Set-up and run A/B split tests.

  • Explore subject lines, preview snippets, headlines, body copy, and calls to action.

  • Include a story about how your Brand offers a solution to a reader’s internal problem.

  • Test everything.

  • Do the analysis.

  • Discover copy that has the best performance results.

  • After you discover the best copy, keep testing.

  • Hey, check on how your competitors are doing. They’re not testing? Too bad.

Questions? Do you need help with writing emails?

Call Paul at 585 703-0646.

Or email