I recently attended an e-mail writing workshop led by professional writer Christine Schrum which provided me with both some new information and some useful reminders. She called her workshop "Email Copywriting 101," but it could just as easily, except for a few specifics, have been "Effective Writing 101."
What did I learn that was specific to e-mails? Two things, really.
- Have a strong subject line. Get to the point, avoid obvious spam words, or get trashed.
- Emphasize benefits over features. Benefits highlight the value of the information contained in the e-mail. Features provide specific details but need to be tied to value or significance.
Other tips were more general in nature--ones that are needed when writing e-mails but are also good for most forms of writing.
- As an author, have a consistent name. I shouldn't be Tom Kepler one day, T. Kepler the next, and end the week as Thomas Kepler.
- Hook the reader with the first sentence, paragraph, title. This is especially true with media writing where you are in competition with a menu of emails or pages of other titles and stories.
- Use active voice, action verbs, and proofread. Don't bore or bruise your reader.
- Keep it short. This is especially true with e-mails and in formats that are read for information. Both news writing and emails work best when the information is not presented in large, dense blocks of print.
- CTA = Call to action. As Christine said, "Leave readers with a clear indication of what to do next."
And let me add a suggestion of my own--if you've got the time, don't open the e-mail for an hour or more. That way, you can more objectively ask yourself, "Does this really do the job? Have I communicated in a powerful, concise, effective way?"
Copyright 2012 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved