How to Write an Email (That Doesn't Suck)

Published on September 22, 2016

You put time at a premium. So do your clients. Write emails worth reading and keep 'em short and sweet.

Nothing communicates how much you care about a client like the amount of time that goes into your correspondence with them. In the internet millennium, email is the contact method of preference for most people, but the ease of sending emails lets people send anything and everything. If you're having trouble getting people to read your emails, join me for a crash course in digital letter writing.

1. Always put something helpful in the subject.

This field is intended to give the recipient some idea what you're contacting them about. If they won't recognize your email address, the subject line is a great place to remind them who you are and (very briefly) why you're emailing them.

For example:

"Service Autopilot Lawn Quote"

2. Using the client's name makes the email 22.2% more likely to be opened.

By using the client's name, you make the email appear personal and important. It looks like it was just sent to them, rather than like it went to every "Valued Customer."

3. Keep subject lines brief and clear.

If a subject line is difficult to understand or ridiculously long, it's probably not getting the email opened. MailChimp, a mass emailing platform, conducted a study of subject lines' open rates. They found that clear subject lines that included the name of the company beat out hard sell lines (e.g. "BUY NOW - Save 5% - TODAY ONLY"). The simple subject lines with the company name included were opened 60-87% of the time; the hard sell and indirect headlines averaged 1-14%.

4. Acknowledge the person before you start your email.

This can be as simple as giving their name or a simple letter greeting. If you start talking to someone without an opener, you come across as abrupt.

"Hi Jim,"

"Mr. Brown:"

5. Be brief.

Your client has things to do, tell them what they need to know and move on. Make sure to break up any blocks of text. We break things up on the blog like this; it makes them easier to read. Nothing is worse than trying to decipher a 3 page email that's written as one, long paragraph. If you blink, you lose your place!


NO ONE LIKES BEING YELLED AT. NO ONE. See how much nicer I seem when I use normal capitalization? Don't yell at your clients!

7. Use an auto-signature.

You can set it up in Outlook, GMail, Yahoo!, whatever you use.

Here's what we use at SA:

Service Autopilot

This contains all my relevant contact information and is single-spaced. You don't need to add an extra line break between each; it's plenty legible already.

8. Put hyphens in your phone number.

Increase readability and your phone will ring more often. 

Here, compare the two for yourself:



9. Keep your emails neat and tidy.

Your emails shouldn't look like a magazine rack at a supermarket. Professional correspondence is clean, but can have a company logo and an advertisement for other services below the signature.


Remember letterhead? That's the goal for your email, not a National Enquirer cover.

10. Remember your main objective.

You started this to say something to the client; say it. Anything outside of that goal should help the reader get to that information or, in the very least, not hinder their arrival at it.

11. Don't mimic emails you would delete.

Think about the things you immediately discard in your inbox without reading them. Think about the mail that you throw away without opening it.  This is the way to think before sending emails to your clients.

If it looks like something you would delete without reading it, guess who else will? Your client.

12. Don't taste like spam.

Sales-i, a targeted marketing software company has a list of 118 words/phrases that shouldn't be used. This helps you not sound like a spammer, which gets email delivered, so that your client can open it. If you get caught in a spam filter, the emails won't even get to your clients' inboxes.

Examples: 100% Free, Act Now!, Urgent, Unlimited, Satisfaction

13. Make it easy to read.

Sending email is easy, reading it should be too. Write short sentences with easy to understand words.

14. Use Service Autopilot's Custom Documents.

You can create custom documents for marketing emails, late notices, schedule changes, new client on-boarding, etc. Carefully craft these documents and use personalization fields to include your clients' information and every email will look great.

15. Monitor open rates.

You can track emails sent through Service Autopilot to see how many were delivered, opened, bounced, and marked as spam. Pay careful attention to anything that bounced or was marked as spam; you'll want to figure out what happened. Check your headline against the spammy words in Tip 12. Obviously, you want your open rate as high as possible, so pay attention to what words or phrases get a response.

Follow these simple rules to make sure your emails look professional and serve your clients' needs, rather than frustrate them. Add this page to your favorites (CTRL+D), so that you can brush up next time you're drafting an important email.

Cody Owen

Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.


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