8 Grammar and Style Mistakes That Affect Email Conversion Rates
Let’s eat Grandma!
That, right there, is why punctuation matters.
While that exact sentence is unlikely to pop up in your email content, don’t you wonder what other simple mistakes detract from your message? Effective and highly converting email copy is more than just figuring out what story to tell. It’s also about how you tell that story.
It’s not only about email etiquette; if you share an engaging story but your email is riddled with style and grammar mistakes, your email campaign won’t convert as well as you’d like. It’s as simple as that. These errors undermine your professionalism and effectiveness, making your customers less likely to take action – no matter how compelling your story is.
In this article, we’ll cover eight English language grammar and style mistakes that might affect your email conversions.
Why do grammar and style matter?
Besides the fact that we don’t want to eat Grandma for dinner (or any meal for that matter), proper English, grammar, and style help you make a good impression on your reader.
When sending an email to a customer, you only have a few seconds to make a positive first impression. If your customer catches a grammar, spelling, or style mistake in your email, they’re likely to disengage. At the very least, you’re going to lose some respect.
Grammar and spelling mistakes make your emails sound unprofessional and give the impression that you don’t care much about your work. On the other hand, style errors can get in the way of your customers’ understanding and make your emails difficult to read. Both types of mistakes can create a big problem: lower conversions.
Where does grammar and spelling matter?
Before we dive into specific grammar and style tips, let’s do a quick refresher on four main components of your email content where you need to nail that grammar and style. Focus on these areas to create professional emails.
- Subject line: This is your first chance to make a good impression on your reader. Don’t flub it up. An inbox is a crowded place, and your subject line is your chance to stand out from the masses. Use proper grammar and style to grab your subscriber’s attention without looking spammy. (Otherwise, you might tank your email deliverability, but we’ll save that discussion for elsewhere.)
- Email body: If your subject line is the pickup line, your email body is your first date. Now, are you going to make it or break it with your customer? As any marketer will tell you, good marketing is about good conversations. Now that you’ve gotten your customer’s attention, don’t spoil that with an email body riddled with grammar and style errors.
- Call-to-action (CTA): CTAs are short, but they’re nevertheless pretty important. If subject lines determine your open rates, CTAs are responsible for another important marketing metric: click-through rate (CTR). Even if CTAs are just a few words, ensure you use proper spelling and grammar so you can score that precious click-through.
- Closing: So the CTA is the last bit you need to pay attention to, right? Not quite. Your closing is just as important as your CTA. After all, this is when you wrap up your conversation with your reader and direct them to your social media links or other relevant information. Start on a good note. Leave on a better one.
8 grammar and style tips for email marketers
Alright, enough prelude. Let’s dive into some common writing mistakes and how to avoid them.
In this section, we’ll discuss:
- Passive voice
- Glue words
- Spelling and capitalization
1. Mind the homophone
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciations but different meanings. Here are some common examples:
- They’re (the contraction of “they are”), there (an adverb used to indicate a place), and their (the third-person pronoun meaning belonging to them).
- See (a verb meaning to sense with the eyes) and sea (a noun meaning a large area of saltwater subject to tides and waves).
It’s a common mistake to use the wrong homophone when you write quickly – especially in terms of abbreviations. To compound this problem, since homophones are real words, they won’t always get flagged as an error in your average spelling or grammar checker. But, misusing a homophone can make your writing look amateur, leading to fewer customer conversions.
2. Check for passive voice
When you write in the passive voice, you place the object of your sentence before the subject.
Consider this sentence, “The call was taken by Joe.”
In this sentence, Joe is the one doing the action – he’s taking the call. But, he’s introduced at the end of the sentence.
You make this sentence direct and precise by saying, “Joe took the call.”
Passive voice isn’t technically incorrect. But, it makes your writing clunky and hard to read. You only have seconds to grab your customers’ attention when they open an email; don’t waste it by using an ineffective sentence structure.
3. Limit the jargon
Many writers overuse jargon in their emails. While not technically a grammatical error, jargon can alienate your audience. It can also be hard to spot: often, as writers in a particular industry, we’re so used to a term that we don’t recognize it’s new to our readers.
For instance, did you realize the term “win-win” is jargon? Overusing phrases like these can make our readers less likely to engage with what we’re saying, resulting in fewer customer conversions.
4. Make strong verbs work for you
Verbs are the action words in writing; as such, they should have lots of power. Many writers, however, rely on adverbs to make weak verbs stronger. For instance, instead of saying, “I am thrilled to announce the new sale,” writers may say, “I am very excited to announce the new sale.”
This change might seem small, but relying on adverbs to prop up your weak verbs often diminishes the effectiveness of your writing. While adverbs are not wrong to use, doing so is a bit lazy. Your email copy needs to be as strong as possible to get your customer to take action. So, skip the bad adverbs in favor of more powerful verbs that’ll better convey your meaning.
5. Differentiate between “glue words” and “working words”
There are two types of words in every sentence: glue words and working words.
Working words carry all the meaning in the sentence: your nouns, adjectives, and verbs. You can’t change them, or the meaning of the sentence will change.
Glue words are words that make your sentence stick together and make sense. Here are some examples of glue words:
Both glue words and working words are essential to help your sentences make sense. But if you use too many glue words, your sentences will be overly wordy and hard to read.
Here’s an example of a sticky sentence:
Jane went over to the backyard of the school to check to see if she could find a new bike that she could use in class.
A bit of a mouthful, right?
Here’s a better version:
Jane checked the school’s backyard to see if she could find a new bike to use in class.
Reducing glue words is especially important in email, where every word counts. Don’t waste valuable space in your email with words that don’t carry much meaning. We recommend keeping your glue index (the percentage of glue words in your sentence) under 40%.
6. Be aware of readability
The best and most effective writers make their writing easier to read – not harder. If your language and sentence structure are too challenging for your audience to understand, you’ll lose them. Effective email copy focuses on conveying meaning clearly and concisely rather than using fancy language to dazzle readers. It’s better to be accessible than impressive.
When writing email copy, aim for a readability score of seventh grade or lower. That means that the language in your email could be understood by someone 12 years old or younger. If your readability score is higher than seventh grade, try eliminating jargon, reducing sentence length, and choosing easier words to make your writing more readable.
7. Be vigilant of spelling and capitalization errors
Fat fingers – that’s what we all blame our typos and capitalization errors on, right? While this may win you a modicum of understanding from your readers, it’s no excuse not to properly spell-check or proofread your email copy. Make a good impression by keeping your copy clean of spelling errors and other typos. More importantly, too many typos and capitalization errors may look like red flags to mailbox providers and spam filters. You want to land in the inbox – not on the blocklist.
8. Use proper punctuation
Let’s eat, Grandma! and Let’s eat Grandma! are one comma apart. Yes, one comma can make that much of a difference. As you’re drafting your email copy, be sure you’re also checking your comma usage, periods, exclamation points, and quotation marks. Create consistency in your email content with your punctuation marks. And, don’t use too many exclamation marks!!!!! This can set off spam filters.
Improve your grammar and style with ProWritingAid
Improving the grammar and style of your emails can make them more effective and likely to convert customers. But your average spelling and grammar checkers won’t be able to spot most of the mistakes highlighted in this article.
That’s where ProWritingAid comes in. ProWritingAid offers world-class grammar and style checking combined with in-depth reports on readability, jargon, sticky sentences, and more. ProWritingAid’s Chrome extension lets you edit where you write, including right within the Email on Acid platform. That way, you can catch errors before you hit send.
By using ProWritingAid with Email on Acid, you can ensure your emails are customer- and conversion-ready.
Improving the grammar and style of your email marketing campaigns can make your writing sharper, clearer, and more effective. The better your writing, the higher the chance your email will convert. Tools like ProWritingAid coupled with Spell Check in the Email on Acid platform can help marketers run quality assurance on every campaign.
Looking for more tips? Check out our other articles. And as always, don’t forget to test. Before sending your ecommerce emails out into the wild, check out our Campaign Precheck tool to ensure your emails display as intended.
This article was updated on November 21, 2022. It was first published in March of 2021 and includes contributions from Hayley Millman of ProWritingAid.com.
Author: The Email on Acid Team
The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks. Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.