How to write an effective email

As a copywriter, I get a lot of adhoc requests for “copy” — mostly email copy. Writing effective emails is a rare skill; writing good sales emails even more so. In fact, I keep a folder of all the bad sales emails me coworkers and I have received while at PitchBook.

This email gets points for being memorable, but probably not in a good way. (Names hidden to protect the innocent)
This email gets points for being memorable, but probably not in a good way. (Names hidden to protect the innocent)


Back in September, it became apparent that the collective writing skills of my company were at an all time low. Where marketing automation tries to automate and scale this task, there is still something to be said for receiving a personalized, well-written email message. So, I put together an internal email writing guide that dives into the basics of email psychology, writing subject lines, writing the body of your email as well as other tips and tricks. The guide can be found here, but I’ve posted an excerpt below.


Email is an extension of the basic communication model. In this way, the receiver decides the meaning and value of the sender’s message and responds according to those parameters. This diagram gets considerably more complex when we introduce the concept of noise  – known as physical or psychological barriers that prevent the receiver from fully comprehending the sender’s message.

Physical noise generally pertains to radio and television advertising. In the context of email marketing, a full email inbox or SPAM filters can also be considered physical noise.

Psychological noise is that which occurs in the receivers mind. It includes biases, beliefs, likes, dislikes etc. There are a multitude of factors that can influence psychological noise – email composition, frequency and value of incentives are some of these factors.

So, now what?

Generally, sender and receiver see things from drastically different perspectives. As senders, we should spend time gaining an understanding of who the receiver is and what they care about, as well as what their inbox might look like. For the purpose of this guide, we will lay out some assumptions.

• Gets a lot of email
• May receive compliments regularly, particularly if they’re a public figure
• Regularly gets asked a standard set of questions and favors
• Doesn’t have a lot of free time
• Doesn’t mind helping you, if it’s fast

• Spends a long time crafting the perfect [-ly long] email
• Needs something from the recipient and will use email to pitch it
• Does not know the receiver
• Believes their request is original, unique and special
• Believes they are the first to ask for such favors
• Can’t imagine why anyone would want to turn them away
• Desires to tell the whole story, explained from every angle so the receiver can understand their point of view

The Goal

The goal here is to construct an email that:
• Will be opened
• Will be read
• Will be understood
• Will not annoy the recipient
• Encourages them to take an action
• Doesn’t take too much time


Want to read more? Download my guide to writing effective emails.

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