On my homepage, I warn that poor English is a hallmark of scams. As an English copywriter and proofreader, I pay special attention to this concept. Since I used to be a teacher, I constantly evaluate writing—it’s a (former) occupational hazard. 

Most people just delete unwanted emails in their spam folders. But I examine them. I’m going to share some of what I’ve noticed with you.

If you’re writing to someone you have a relationship with, the occasional error isn’t such a big deal. But it’s a different story if you’re contacting someone for the first time. 

Emailing someone who isn’t expecting to hear from you is referred to as cold emailing. To be successful with a cold email, you need to make a great first impression. An email riddled with mistakes will decrease your chances of success.

A picture of a Gmail inbox with the first email with a misspelled subject line (Picup Medical...)

Even for an experienced English copywriter, it’s challenging to write a cold email that gets read. It doesn’t matter if the person you’re contacting could benefit from your product or service. If they don’t open your email, you’ll never be able to sell them on your product or service.

How do you get people to open your emails? Simple—subject lines

Your subject line has to create enough interest or curiosity to get the reader to open the email. If it doesn’t—trash folder! Even worse, your email could get added to the recipient’s spam filter. Once that happens, none of your future emails will get through.

Can you see what’s wrong with this first email I found in my spam folder (which Gmail flagged as spam for me)?

A screenshot of an email marked as spam by Google (this message seems dangerous). The email is claiming the recipient has won 2.8 million dollars.

The first warning sign is that there’s no subject line. Well, actually, there is—RE. Of course, this is usually used when replying to an email. But if you never send emails with blank subject lines (never do that), this is a sign this email is spam—or perhaps a scam.

What other red flags does this email throw up?

The country code .bg is for Bulgaria, but the person writing the email is Manuel Franco. It’s possible someone of Spanish descent lives and works in Bulgaria. If that were the only inconsistency, it wouldn’t have registered as a red flag to me. 

Let’s look at the email a little closer. The username of the email is “test123”—that seems legit. When teaching, I always told my students to use a professional email address for business. “hawtgurlz@warmmail.com” isn’t gonna cut it. 

But the email address provided in the email body differs from the one in the header—another red flag. Looking at the header info, there’s yet another email address—rediffmail.com. Would it surprise you to know that Rediffmail is an Indian email company? Nothing suspicious here at all!

A screen shot of an email header demonstrating the that reply to, from email addresses are different. They are also different from the email address in the body of the text.

Furthermore, this email is one paragraph. Emails have a structure: 

  • A greeting (or salutation)
  • A body
  • A closing
  • The sender’s name

One mistake on its own wouldn’t be a problem, but when taken as a whole…

This is a paragraph with poor grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Oh, and let’s not overlook that the email has also been helpfully translated into CHINESE! 

  • A Spanish name
  • An American lottery
  • A Bulgarian email address
  • An Indian email service
  • An email written in English and Chinese

If you can’t spot this as a scam, you deserve to be duped!

Manuel Franco did win the Powerball jackpot back in 2019. The YouTube link is about the only legitimate thing in the email. But I have serious doubts Manuel sent his email. 😉 

Our second email example is better, but there’s still room for improvement

The following email has a subject line, but it’s still problematic. When used to congratulate someone, the correct expression is “Congratulations.” 

This subject line doesn’t give much information about what’s inside. But we all love winning stuff, right? It might be enough to get you to open this email. After all, people have been opening Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes for decades!

A screenshot of another email marked as spam by Gmail. Again, the email header is visible, showing different email addresses for from and to.

Let’s look at the email address again—I should say email addresses. Notice the from address and reply-to address are different? That’s rarely a good sign. Especially when United Nations is misspelled (United Nation—there’s more than one nation in the UN). Furthermore, the Twindi Group is an eCommerce business located in Bahrain.

This example looks more like email should look. It has a salutation, though “Congratulation” isn’t a standard salutation. It has a body, but randomly capitalized words and missing punctuation aren’t a good sign. There is no closing (i.e. Regards, Sincerely), and it is signed, “United Nation.” Representatives of organizations send emails—not the organization itself.

To any native-English speaker, the poor formatting, grammar, and capitalization sets off alarm bells.

A good friend shared this last example with me

My friend received this email with a kind offer to help with website design.

A screenshot of an email containing different fonts, in different sizes, and different colors. The subject line is website design.

I don’t know about you, but to me, this email looks like an 8-year-old wrote it. In the late 1980s. Using a computer for the first time. Who’d just figured out how to use fonts of different sizes and colors. Oof!

Let’s start with the salutation. It’s no secret that marketers collect email addresses and personal information. It happens when you sign up for a newsletter, register for a site, or fill out a form. They then use that information to send out ‘personalized’ mails. 

Well, only if they’ve set up their email programs correctly. It’s pretty poor form to open your email with:

Dear email@address.com,

I’m not sure what it says about Sanjeev that he doesn’t feel his name is worthy of capitalization. Yet, he chooses to capitalize common nouns like Development, We, and Website.

Here’s a pro tip for your emails

If you’re going to claim your ‘price is very low,’ you should include the price in the email. At least include a line like, “Packages starting from $65.” 

People love a good mystery. They also have lots of time to reply to emails for clarification, seeking information that should’ve been in the original email. (The Internet needs a sarcasm font.)

Email campaigns can be very effective—even cold emailing. Once you’ve collected email addresses (hopefully ethically), sending emails is free. 

You’ve likely collected email addresses from people interested in your product/service. They signed up for your website, newsletter or requested more information. You should have an audience that has at least some interest in your product/service.

But open rates are declining. Looking at some online stats, open rates for cold emails have dropped from 22.15 % in 2019 to 18% in 2020

But don’t blow it if you’re lucky enough to get your email opened. Eliminate mistakes to increase the chances you’ll hear back from the person you’ve contacted. 

A picture of a graph tracking clicks and impressions, including stats for total clicks, total impressions, average CTR, and average position.

You have to do so much right to succeed 

With a mere 2.6% click-through rate (CTR), it doesn’t take much to fail. Even well-crafted emails written by experienced English copywriters struggle to get results. 

On average, they don’t convert—97.4% of the time. But every mistake in your email moves the reader closer to hitting ‘delete’—or ‘mark as spam.’

Give yourself the best chance of success. Start by reviewing my tips for writing an effective business email

  • Use a professional email address
  • Write a meaningful subject line that makes the reader want to open your email
  • Start your emails with a salutation and end them with a proper closing
  • Eliminate as many (if not all) of the errors in your emails
  • Make sure your email sounds natural and that it flows

Follow these steps to increase your email campaign’s chance of success. Avoid poor grammar, use punctuation correctly, and follow capitalization rules. When you start making these mistakes, you increase the chances that your email will be deleted or marked as spam.

If you need help writing business emails or giving your email campaign the best chance of success, contact DC CopyPro. I got you to click on this post and read it to the end, didn’t I? As an English copywriter in Korea, I can help you write subject lines that get opened and emails that convert.

Complete the form below to get the help you need.

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