Does Your Email Look Like Junk Email
Article by Bob
McElwain. Web marketing and consulting since
1993. Visit his site at http://www.sitetipsandtricks.com.
A large portion of the email I receive is junk
email. But I have to be sure before deleting.
I can usually figure this from the preview screen
(Eudora), but sometimes I have to open it to
What surprises me is how much legitimate mail
*looks* like junk email. Over the last while,
I tried to figure why. The obvious things are
misuse of the ...
> From field: Often crony names, rather
than a straightforward email address, preceded
by the full name of the sender make it look
like junk email.
> Subject field: Often cute and clever,
rather than a clear statement as to content.
> Greeting: Often opens with an odd heading,
sometimes in all caps, as is true of a lot
of junk email. Legitimate email opens with
a name, as in, "Bob," Hi Bob,"
or even just, "Hi."
> First Line: Lousy grammar and spelling
errors right from the start; spammers write
some of the worst stuff you will ever see.
> First Line Revisited: No sense of the
purpose of the message for several lines.
Get to the point. Fast! Junk email is known
for going on and on.
Sure, some of this is from people new to
the Web. But a lot of it is from people supposedly
in business. How long they can continue with
such poor standards is another matter.
HTML: Hot Stuff?
Some must think so, for I'm getting a lot
of it. The other day I got a real dandy: black
text on a black background. Totally unreadable.
And not all mail readers can deal with HTML,
which means your message may never be read.
While things may change, a good deal of the
spam I receive is in HTML. While probably
not fair, my first reaction to any message
in HTML is that it's junk. If it proves not
to be, then it's someone who is not being
While sending streaming media along with
HTML may be the wave of the future, it is
not appropriate today in business. Send only
standard text in a non-proportional font such
In addition to the above, here are some common
blunders I observed, that contribute to an
overall sense of something I don't want to
read. If you want to annoy people, then go
Most know where the Delete key lives, and
use it frequently.
Send 80 Character Lines
Many people, including myself, have their
email reading window set at 65 characters
as the maximum line length. So when you do
not hit Enter at or prior to the 65th character,
your message on my screen looks like:
> I wanted to let you know about a neat
site I ran into the other day. Wow
> it's terrific. Knowing how much you are
into panda bears,
> you've just got
> to see this site.
This is difficult to read. "But hey,
if folks don't like 80 characters per line,
tough stuff!" Fine. Everybody has a right
to their opinion. Good luck with this one.
Many people are almost as impatient when checking
email as when surfing. If you don't make it
easy for those who receive your message to
read it, it may be trashed.
"But why would anybody narrow a screen
to 65 characters?" Because a 65 character
line is about twice as easy to read as one
80 characters long. Most newsletters use this
line length, some
Quote Back Everything!
Never quote an entire paragraph; your response
can be difficult to find, particularly if
the original message wrapped. Also be hesitant
to quote the entire message below your reply.
If I can't remember easily, I have to go hunting
for what I said, which takes time. This is
particularly true when the reply is to a message
sent out three or four days back.
The best approach is to quote just enough
to be sure your reader will remember what
was said earlier as a transition to your reply.
Quote no more than a couple of lines, unless
more is absolutely necessary. Also be sure
to add blank lines to highlight the difference
between quoted text and your reply. Here's
how I might quote the example of wrapped text
above. And I'll remove the wrapping for better
> Knowing how much you are into panda
bears, you've just
> got to see this site.
Thanks for the heads up, Joe.
Yes, it does take a bit more time, but to
the extent you care about your image, it's
a must. To the extent you care about communicating
effectively, it's a must. Sending clean, easy
to read email is mandatory. Your customers
will downgrade you if you send anything less.
Everybody Loves Email
It is much wiser to assume the person you
are writing to is very, very busy. A second
good assumption is that they receive several
hundred emails a day.
"But hey, that's not so." Maybe
it's not. But make the assumptions anyway.
They lead to better email habits.