Readability Rules: Make Emails Easier to Read Using These Nine Techniques

There are certain topics that will always resonate with your email subscribers, but how do you make sure every email you send is easy to read and engaging? Even the best writers can struggle to create highly engaging, readable email copy.

With so little time to capture the attention of readers, you need to use a variety of techniques to make your email messages more compelling. If you’re worried that your emails are difficult to read or aren’t getting the attention they deserve, here are nine techniques to turn things around.

Start with a bang

From ad copy to novels, it’s the first line that sets the tone and hooks the reader. The same goes for emails. People only spend about two seconds deciding whether to keep reading (1), so you need to make it count. Use one of the following techniques:

  • Keep it short and snappy. Short words and sentences are easier to read and draw readers in. For example: “You’re stressed. Your home is beautiful. But it won’t sell. Are you doing something wrong?”
  • Build intrigue. Use ambiguity to encourage further reading. For example: “There’s one simple reason why many homeowners can’t sell their house fast. And it’s probably not what you’re thinking…”

To keep readers engaged, avoid complicated language and jargon throughout your copy, and keep your sentences and paragraphs short.

Stick to the point

Before you create any email, ask yourself: “What action do you want readers to take?” Then focus on only including information that supports your goal. Use only one call-to-action (CTA) that matches up with this goal. If you need to offer further information, insert a link to a more in-depth article for readers that want to find out more. But for now, less is more.

Use the right font

To improve readability, use a larger font for the main body of your email – from 14 to 18 pixels. If you have longer blocks of text, use a serif font like Georgia or Times New Roman; they’re easier to scan. For shorter emails with less text, sans serif fonts like Verdana and Trebuchet MS are easier to read. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent. This doesn’t mean that you can’t mix it up, but use a consistent pattern. For example, use one font for headings and a different one for buttons.

Spice up your text

Consistency doesn’t mean that it all has to look the same. If you use the same font and font size throughout your email, it will look dull. To add vibrancy to your messages, try the following:

  • Use bolded words and phrases for important information.
  • Use italics to add emphasis to your writing.
  • Include bullet points to add interest and improve scannability.
  • Insert subheads with a larger font to stir curiosity, break up text, and improve clarity.

Use links sparingly

Including too many links within an email can be confusing and distracting for readers. Instead, keep links to a minimum:

  • One link for readers that want to find out more information.
  • One CTA link button.

Optimize the color scheme

A good contrast between the text and the background is key to readability. In one study, the most readable combination was black text on a white background (2), but you can try other color combinations that have a high contrast.

If you want to divide your email into sections, try using subtly different background colors for each section of your email. It will improve the clarity of your whole message.

Include white space

It’s a well-known technique, but many businesses still fail to take advantage of it. Leaving white space between paragraphs and other on-screen elements is one of the simplest ways to improve readability and help people scan your messages. White space is especially important around CTAs to help them stand out on the page.

Also, try increasing the left and right margins to shorten your lines of text, making your copy easier to read.

Humanize your messages

The style of writing and word choice are more important than many people realize. If you sound too formal or your language is monotonous, readers will also think that you are unapproachable and dull. To prevent this from happening, try to be more conversational. Imagine you’re talking to a friend, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

Use mobile-responsive email templates

More consumers than ever before read emails on their mobile device, so it’s critical that your emails are easy to read on smaller screens. Most email service providers offer a variety of mobile-responsive templates, but it’s worth testing out your emails on various screen sizes to ensure they look good on all devices.

Wrapping up

While email marketing remains one of the most cost-effective marketing channels, emails lose their marketing power if they’re difficult to read. When you’re busy juggling several marketing tasks at once, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. But if you’re trying to deliver more effective emails, clarity and readability are key.

Use these nine techniques to create more scannable, readable email content. When you improve the readability of your emails, you engage more of your subscribers and project a more competent brand identity, helping you build stronger customer relationships going forward.



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