The Problem and Necessity of Email Clichés

“I delete 95 percent of the PR emails I get within seconds of opening them.”

That’s senior associate editor Julie Beck of The Atlantic in a piece titled “Thank Heavens for Email Clichés.” It’s good. I should read it once a week.

Beck goes on to say, “I couldn’t possibly read them all thoroughly—let alone reply to them all—and still get any work done, but sometimes I do feel bad, because the senders clearly spent so much time writing them.”

Sound familiar?

I both write and receive these types of emails, hoping mine get opened and instantly deleting ones I receive.

Email is so out of control. Beck mentions a colleague who reported that the average person writes a novel’s worth of emails every year, or more than 40,000 words!

Is this not insanity? Writing so many words that so many others will delete within seconds?

With so many emails to write and send, we resort to “shortcuts,” Beck says, clichés such as “I hope you’re doing well” and “Best.” (I plead guilty to this. I could do a life sentence for all the times I’ve trotted out those two.) But wait. She says they’re not all bad because they represent a kind of email decorum, even though they lack spark and personality.

Beck gives examples and offers alternatives, but closes with this admission about email clichés: “They get the job done without taking too much energy. And unless the email firehose lessens its pressure, we need them.”

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Consultancy: Email Still Beats Social Media Hands Down

McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, has something to say about email.

“There’s a reason your inbox always seems jam-packed: e-mail marketing works.”

The article is from January–and it’s based on data from last year–but it’s still compelling. Don’t be so infatuated with social media that you give the cold shoulder to email.

An excerpt:

If you’re wondering why marketers seem intent on e-mailing you more and more, there’s a simple explanation: it works. E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media—nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined (exhibit). That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use e-mail daily, and the rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.

Read “Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails”

Words That Get Emails Opened

First, a quick mention of Grammarly, which has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time, Fortune and elsewhere. I tried Grammarly’s online plagiarism checker free of charge because it’s too easy (and dangerous) to inadvertently copy someone else’s words. Don’t do it!

OK, on to emails.

Tech guru Rob Jones of Nary Ordinary Business Services recently wrote: “It is estimated that over 500 billion emails are sent every day worldwide.”

That’s a bunch, folks.

What percentage of those 500 billion are actually opened? Perhaps no one knows. The percentage might be smaller than we think.

Since the first job of any email is to be opened, the email subject line is critically important. If the sender is known and trusted, that’s also a deciding factor. If the sender is unknown, the email subject line better be good.

Marketing Profs wrote about a study (2013 Adestra Subject Line Analysis Report) that identified “The Most (and Least) Effective Keywords in Email Subject Lines.”

Keywords that performed well when the objective was to convey benefits were: free delivery, voucher, sale, new, exclusive, gift, latest, offer, save. Poor performers included: only, free.

Keywords that performed well when the subject was content related were: alert, bulletin, issue, news, video, win. Poor performers included: learn, report, today, webinar.

In other categories, “daily” and “weekly” were strong performers for date-related messages. “Monthly” did not do well at all.  Other poor performers in miscellaneous categories included: Re:, FW:, get, register. (And, yes, I used “get” in my email subject line. Ha!)

Consider this another reminder of how much words matter.