5 ways to make your emails more readable

In life, there are things we should do.

And things we actually do.

Like buying local squash. (Just go with me.)

In a perfect world, I’d shop at the farmers’ market every week. I’d write out a grocery list, pack up my reusable grocery bags, and ride my bike out to the cute little market down by the water.

Green. Local. Slow and simple. Pretty great, right?

Oh, but wait.

I’d have to stop at the bank on the way there to pick up cash.

And there’s always construction on that one road, which would add another 15 minutes to my trek.

And there will inevitably be a few things on my list that the market doesn’t sell. So I’d have to stop somewhere else on the way home to pick ’em up.

So, yeah. I could shop at the market. That would be nice and it’s probably what I should do.


I could grab my wallet, make the ten-minute drive to Whole Foods, and get everything I need in one fell swoop.


Now, I’m totally not saying I don’t go to the market some weekends. I do!

But you can’t deny the appeal of Whole Foods’ ease.

Life is complicated. So any way we can make it easier is welcome, in my book.


For More Readable Emails, Add a Sense of Ease

Just like trekking miles on my bike to the local market, trudging through certain emails just isn’t fun.

There are some newsletters that I know are chock full o’ great value. But if it feels like a chore to wade through them, I’m realistically not gonna do it.

It’s the same for just about every inbox-pruning person on your list.

If something feels hard, our chances of actually doing it plummet — especially when our to-do lists are a mile long.

On the flipside, when you make reading your emails easy and fun, subscribers are much more likely to open and read them. Which, of course, is the precursor to building those long-lasting, real-ationships that sustain a business for life.

So what can you do to make your emails a lot less farmers’-market hassle and more Whole-Foods ease?

5 tips for more readable emails


Grease the chute

Lemme pull back the curtain for you a minute, friendo of mine.

Lean in close and I’ll tell you a secret…

I made it really easy for you to start reading this blog post.

The first few sentences were quick and simple. Easy peasy to get started.

And now, whadda ya know? You started from the (top) and now you’re here.

I “greased” the top of the chute with short, punchy sentences to make it niiiiice and easy to slide in. Then momentum took over.


I stole this insight from legendary copy dude Joe Sugarman. He recommends keeping your opening line super short and simple. He actually suggests using only one-syllable words in that first sentence.

Why? Shorter lines and words are less work for the reader. And the easier it is to get started, the easier it’ll be to keep reading.

For more readable emails, start with a short, intriguing sentence. (On its own line, preferably.)

Follow it up with another easy sentence.

And then slowly ease into longer, more complicated phrasing.

(More on this in a few weeks on the blog — I’ll be spilling my 8 favorite tricks for attention-grabbing intros!!)



It’s much easier for someone to read a short, full-fat email than a long, fluff-filled one. So keep it simple, sassy! (I’ve never liked “keep it simple, stupid.” Too aggressive for my hippie self.)


A few ways to simplify your emails…

Break long sentence apart.

Swap out overly complicated jargon for layman’s lingo. Trusty will help you out in a simplification pickle!

Nix anything you don’t need to make your copy more impactful.

Keep your paragraphs short. 2-3 sentences max for online copy is a good rule of thumb.

My favorite (free) tool to simplify your writing is the Hemingway app. It picks out rambly sentences, labyrinthine words, adverb overusage, and more. Paste in your copy and give it a quick pruning before posting!


Make it easy to read…literally

You’re going to have to let go of your inner Joanna Gaines for this one.

Because I know small, tiny, light-colored text looks really dainty and pretty and wonderful. I’m with you.

But — and hear me out before you dismiss this — it’s too hard for people to read. (And what good are your beautiful words if people aren’t reading them, right?)

Keep these in mind for more readable emails:

Black-on-white text wins every time in readability tests.

Choose simple fonts, rather than fancy curlycue-d ones.

Use a large text size. The general thinking is 16px is best for online copy. (If you want to nerd out on font size and readability, check out this article.)

Include lots of white space between paragraphs and lines to allow your words to breathe and keep eyeballs moving down the page quickly.

Don’t be afraid to bump up the margins on the left and right side of your copy. If your lines are too wide, it tires readers and makes your copy harder to read.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers recommends making each line of text between 480-600 pixels, or around 100 characters. On my browser, my emails pull at around 580 pixels, which is working for me!

Just like the golden rule in copywriting is “clear over clever,” the rule for readable emails is “clear over pretty.”

Please forgive me, Joanna.


Liven up your text

Visually interesting copy is way more appealing to readers.

I’ve had multiple subscribers write to me saying they love my “word pictures” — which is funny because it’s a term I’ve never used! I credit that to all the stylin’ up I do to my copy.

Use bold when you want something to stand out.

Really put emphasis on a word with italics.

If you want a reader to SERIOUSLY pay attention, try all caps.

Ellipses are great to indicate a pause…when they’re used in moderation. Don’t go cray cray with these or they lose their effect!

Bullet points are awesome to:
– Make a series of points
– Keep eyeballs moving down the page
– Add visual interest to your copy

I love to use emdashes — y’know, those long guys I’m using here — to squeeze an aside in the middle of a sentence.

I’m also a fan of *stars* (“asterisks” if you’re a grown-up) or {fancy parentheses} for a little something different.

Play with your copy. Mix and match these stylistic elements. Let your words come *alive* and take on a voice of their own.


Humanize it, yo


Above all, remember to write emails with a personal touch. Because we’re all human.

Add something fun, different, and YOU into each of your emails. Weave in your special flava flav to give readers a reason to keep going.

Use personal stories. Relatable anecdotes. Weird and wonderful phrases that only you can pull off.

Give readers a sense of you with each and every email. So the next time they see your name in their inbox they excitedly say “ooh, yes! Gimme dat email,” instead of “hmm. I’ll bookmark this for later,” (which most of us know really means “never”).

For more tips on bringing your personality into your writing, click here to learn 9 ways to write conversational copy.

At the end of the (busy) day, little things really do make a big difference.

Being able to pick up fresh produce and laundry detergent AND a new zoodle maker all in one place? Makes Whole Foods a heck of a lot easier than peddling to three different local shops.

It’s the same with your emails.

Little tweaks like greasing the chute and upping your text size combine to make your emails a whole lot more readable — and likely to be read — by the people who need your content most.

join the convo

What’s ONE thing you can implement from this post to make your emails more readable?

Does white space make you nervous? (That’s a common comment I hear from clients!) What about it makes you feel that way?

Whose emails do you breeze through in your inbox each week? Pop their name in the comments — I’d love to check ’em out!

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© Whitney Ryan LLC

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