September 14, 2020

6 Email Copy Characteristics You Need to Know Today

Reading time about 9 min

Let’s start with a reality check: on average, people receive over 126 new emails daily. Of these, folks respond to only 25%. That’s a lot of pressure for those of you sending emails –  after all, how do you get people to read your messages?

Sure, you’ve a good email design and are pretty clear about who you’re targeting – what more? Write good emails. Like ridiculously good emails. Instead of throwing in a bunch of words with links and hitting send, spend some time on the email copy – show some word love.

Why? Because good copy is magical. Not only does it get people to read your work, it settles down and gets cozy in their memory bank – encouraging them to open your email again and again, and again (did I say, again?).

Now that I have (hopefully) convinced you of the need for good email copy, let me also be a responsible email world citizen and share some important characteristics for good email copy with you.

And, no, before you think I’m pulling these characteristics from thin air, I assure you: I’ve done my homework – having reached out to some of the best newsletter owners whose copy gets responses such as this one:

Reader’s comment on Brendan Hufford, Founder of SEO for the Rest of Us newsletter

Follow the tips we share below and you’ll soon get responses like these! ?

1. Write to instill curiosity

Work on email copy starts with the subject line – the first thing people read before they click to read your letter. Fail here and “nothing else matters. The copy, the message inside, is dead on arrival if the recipient ignores or archives your email before opening it,” Eddie Shleyner, Founder of warns.

An excellent way to get that open, however, involves evoking curiosity. How? Try Shleyner’s formula:

“Tease Value + Embellish Benefit = Evoke Curiosity”

Let’s see this in action:


Each of the subject lines above stokes curiosity and makes a promise. Here’s one random subject line:“Has this writing phenomenon ever happened to you?”

Questions that pop in mind when you read this: what writing phenomenon? Is there a writing tactic that I’m missing? The result: Click.

See what happened there?

You need to follow suit. Try to “create a cliffhanger, or a Curiosity Gap, by withholding a piece of information. If the info you hold back is valuable or provocative and the only way to get it is by opening the email (a very low barrier to entry) the reader will almost certainly feel curious and click.”

Related: 24 of the Best Email Subject Lines & Why They Rock

2. Always offer value

So you’ve heard. But have you actually sat in front of your drawing board and listed what value your newsletter provides?

If you haven’t already, I suggest you finish this piece quickly and get straight to work. Things you need to note down for providing a value-packed email meal:

  • What exactly are you going to talk about? List some topics
  • What’s so interesting about these topics? Cross out some topics from the list
  • Will your audience enjoy these topics? Knock out some more topics
  • Ask someone on your team or someone interested in your content. Finalize topics

And voila! There you have it – the answer to what makes your newsletter valuable.

But there’s still some work left. How will you package the value proposition? Kate Cooper, Founder and Content Designer at Language Arts who writes the Friday Five newsletter shares you need to work out “the voice and tone of your email.”

To that end, Cooper says, “I always write in the first person, very briefly explaining why I’m sharing what I’m sharing. (Here’s an example: This video of three sisters dancing to James Brown’s music was the best thing on the internet this week. That is all.) My newsletter represents my opinions on the best “stuff” I consume each week, and that resonates with my audience.”


The takeaway? Have an opinion and write in first person (hint: sound human).

But always, always make sure you don’t come off as self-centered by talking only about yourself or your interests.

This is why it’s important you know your audience (go back to that drawing board if you aren’t clear) and share things that interest them too. That’s why Cooper shared (and I’m quoting again): “the best ‘stuff’ I consume each week, and that resonates with my audience.”

3. Write clear, conversational copy

That’s easier said than done. But don’t worry. Hufford (the one who’s email compliment you read at the start) has your back.

Thing is “writing is part thinking, and part editing to elicit communication that adds clarity and not confusion,” Hufford explains. So you’ve to start with “learning to think clearly.” This way, you can write clear and in the way you speak

If you aren’t one for taking some thinking time to be clear about what you want to write – write a draft for yourself first, then go on to rewrite it to make it clearer, fluff-free, and conversational.

It also helps to “have something to say. Strong opinions, held loosely, are the key to creating thriving, engaging newsletter copy.”

“Unless you’re Tim Ferriss,” Hufford notes, “you can’t expect your newsletter to succeed on curating links alone (Tim’s entire career as an author and podcaster has been curation + opinion).”

So, “consider what YOU have to say about the things you’ll share.” Capeesh?

4. Show your personality and have a personal voice

Let’s assume you are sure curated content will work well for your newsletter. What then? Have a personal voice or a way with words according to Brittany Berger, the Founder of

She rightly points out, “since email is one of the most personal, 1:1 ways we communicate with our audience, we need to adjust our voice and copy accordingly.”

Question now is: how do you go about doing that? “Things like telling stories, using conversational language and questions like you would in an email to a colleague, and addressing one person versus a group can go a long way to build a relationship with your subscribers.”

See how Berger does so in her newsletter:


Want to learn more about how you can build solid relationships with your subscribers? Hop onto this guide and you’ll learn the A-Z of it all.

5. Authenticity

Next up, authenticity – another important email copy characteristic that needs your attention. The Brand Marketing Lead for Trello and the face behind the Write | Werk newsletter, Leah Ryder stresses on it.

She insists, “communicate as if you were right there in the room, having a conversation with your reader.” As a picky newsletter reader, I can tell you how well this works.

“Use the copy as a conduit to communicate the truest and most authentic form of the ideas you want them to walk away with. It can help to think of it this way: If your readers met you in person, would they instantly feel.”

Let’s pick out some ways Leah makes her writing authentic:


6. Provide a good reader experience

Authenticity, conversational writing, personal voice, clarity of thought, and value will work well enough to provide a good experience to your readers.

One bit completes all this though and it’s “organizing the newsletter in a way that’s easy and enjoyable to read,” shares Jimmy Daly, Cofounder/CEO of Superpath and creator of The Swipe File newsletter.

It’s true. I’m a fan of writing easy to read content since it makes things understandable and simple to digest. And, of course, enjoyable as Jimmy said.

One good way to do that is to “find a template that works well for you and your audience. Let that structure be the foundation of your writing and build on it.”

For instance, Jimmy’s newsletter has “five simple sections, each with a different theme. Those themes help guide my creative thinking and the readers get accustomed to it.”

In short

Be yourself – have an opinion and don’t conceal your voice or personality. In fact, let it show in your email copy. Write like you’re writing to one person. This will help you be more authentic and your readers will know you’re talking to them.

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Written by Masooma Memon, freelance writer for B2B SaaS.

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