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How to spruce up your email content

Do you ever feel like you’re in a writing rut when it comes to drafting emails?

While government email copy is typically more buttoned-up and professional in tone, it doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your writing and have fun with the process. The more engaging your copy is, the more your message will resonate, and the more likely you’ll be to convince your reader to take action.

Here are some tips to help unleash your creativity and write engaging content that grabs — and keeps — your readers’ attention.

1. Identify a theme for your starting point

When you first sit down to write an email, having the email concept on-hand will help get you started. Instead of staring at a blank screen, quickly jot down an outline with key points you need to hit. Then, use one of these common starting points as your springboard into creativity. Here are a few examples of starting points that can help you while drafting strong emails:

  • Top-five message

Jot down the top five key messages that might intrigue your reader — it could be reasons to attend an event, top takeaways from a report, benefits of enrolling in programme, etc. Take a cue from Buzzfeed and format these top five points into short paragraphs to make a strong, easy-to-read email.

Here’s a real-life example of a strong “top five” email:

  • Challenge message:

Start by writing down a challenge you know your audience faces. Or a problem you’re willing them to help alleviate or solve by doing something differently. This challenge could be upping their recycling efforts or participating in a local event.

Here is an example of a real-life challenge message:

  • Q&A message:

By asking your reader a question, you can engage them immediately. This strategy can help the reader see themselves in a certain scenario, and helps you connect with them in a more meaningful way.

Here is an example email with a question up front:

More tips:

  • Use stats whenever possible: show the importance of your issue with something that will surprise or startle them, enticing them to read more. And, our brains LOVE specificity.
  • Quote to grab attention: let other people do the talking and grab the reader’s attention.
  • Leverage case studies: are there any real-world examples you can draw inspiration from or SHOW people how something’s working in practice?

2. Boost your creativity

Creativity doesn’t just magically happen for most people. There may be specific times of the day or locations where writing and ideas will flow better for you. Try writing at different times and in different environments to test what works best for you.

Some people may prefer to write first thing in the day. You could also try blocking off an hour and setting a timer to see what you can accomplish. Sometimes setting constraints helps you think less about perfecting each sentence so you can get the bulk of your thoughts out. Plus, you can always go back and edit later. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write anything though; chances are you’ll be on a roll the next time you try to write.

If you’re not feeling inspired, try one of these creativity boosters:

  • Browse through some of your favorite websites for ideas, even if they don’t directly correlate to what you’re writing about.
  • Take a step back or take a quick walk around the office to clear your mind and come back to it.
  • Start collecting emails you love. Sign up for your favorite brands’ newsletters and take notes on what you like and don’t like about them. Share the top emails with your team and let them know what you like about them. Creating an environment of sharing will expose you to new ideas and best practices.
  • Try writing as though you were explaining something to a friend. This can help you get through a tough topic clearly and relatable.

3. Have fun with calls-to-action (CTAs) and pre-header text

    Even if you can’t get super-creative with email copy, you can still sneak extra personality into your calls-to-action and pre-header text.
    Your audience has probably seen “download now” or “register now” thousands of times. Try something different, such as “Save My Spot” or “Send Me My Report.”

Pre-header text is often under-used and simply says “View online” (the first line in the body of your email). Because the pre-header is visible in your reader’s inbox, you could use it to answer a question posed in your subject line, or provide the reader with a taster of what’s inside. This first-impression text is important real estate to influence open rates; it should complement your subject line.

The pre-header text in this screenshot appears underneath the sender and subject line. It gives more information to the reader to entice them to open the email. Here is an example:

4. Enjoy the editing process

Don’t think of editing as “correcting”. Instead, think of it as improving. Spell-check software doesn’t catch every error, so ask your peers for help.

The saying “two heads are better than one” rings especially true in copywriting. Having a fresh set of eyes and a second opinion never hurt. Enlist the help of your peers to read through your writing, not only for spelling and grammar errors, but also readability.

Make sure you ask yourself these questions when reviewing your own and others’ work:

  • Redundancy: Are you using the same words over and over?
  • Conciseness: Is there a shorter way to say this without losing impact?
  • Directness: Are you leaving out important information and context that the reader needs to fully understand your message?

Check out our Plain Language Playbook for more steps to make your writing comprehensible and impactful.

5. Crowdsource the title and headline

Having trouble with a title? Ask your teammates. Besides making your writing more engaging for the reader, you can also keep your coworkers engaged in what you’re working on.

Share a snippet of your writing and three ideas for the title or subject line then ask people to vote for their favourite. Encourage them to share their own ideas too. Take it a step further and share performance stats with them to let them know how it did.

If there are two ideas that you really like, try doing an A/B test to see which one resonates the best with your audience. Use our A/B testing toolkit to get started.

I hope this list helps you take the dread out of your next email copy draft. Have a great piece you just wrote and would like to share? Tweet us a link @GranicusUK or @Granicus and we’ll share it with our community of over 29,000 followers!