3 formatting rules to get your emails read

Subscriber Craig emailed me recently about the way I style my messages:

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Love to see you write about the format of these emails. In other words, generally one sentence and then a space between. And the width of the text is never longer than a certain amount. Is there a specific email template you use or how do you achieve this I've seen it in lots of marketing emails and I understand it's very intentional and always keeps me reading down the page.

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Even though the emails I write for my clients look like “plain old text,” the formatting I use is carefully calculated to be fast and easy to read.

Here are 3 rules I use to guide me:

  1. Keep sentence structure simple.

Your subscribers are reading your emails in a hurry. Work hard to express your ideas in short, punchy sentences that convey a sense of action and movement.

  1. Vary paragraph length.

This is HUGE for writing effective emails. If every paragraph you write is the same length, your email is hard to read.

Single-sentence paragraphs open up the email and let your reader move through the email quickly.

Some marketers go overboard and turn every email into a massive string of 3-4 word lines. Don't do this—it's exhausting for your readers.

  1. Keep line width short. This is a trick I learned from a speedreading course. Narrower columns of text are less tiring to read because your eye doesn't have to shift and refocus as many times per line.

I use a bare-bones HTML template to achieve this narrow column width. The template allows the text to wrap at a width of around 500px, which is a good compromise for desktop and smartphone screens.

Like good writing, good formatting should get out of the reader's way and not call attention to itself.

Then your message will flow smoothly from the screen into your reader's mind.