ILLUMINATION
Published in

ILLUMINATION

How to write an email to thousands yet sound like we’re writing to one

It’s all about relaxing…

American sprinter Lolo Jones could almost see the gold medal. She was that close. It was the 2008 Summer Olympics, and Jones was leading the field in the 100-meter hurdles race. The race was hers to lose. With two hurdles to go, the very unfortunate happened.

Jones had flown through the first eight hurdles. But the ninth, it was approaching fast. Too fast. Looking back, Jones knows what went wrong. She recalls starting to think about what she was doing. Thinking about her rhythm and pace, her motion, and her technique. This small change in focus caused her to lose her momentum. Jones clipped the ninth hurdle. The minor misstep was enough to drop her out of first place. Jones ended up finishing seventh simply because she began over-thinking what she was doing.

If we over-think what we’re doing when we’re writing emails to our audience, we come across as artificial and not genuine. We trip up and get rigid. Our writing becomes stiff and clumsy. Writing emails should be effortless, like a relaxed conversation with a friend over coffee. In this article we’ll discuss how we can write emails like we’re writing to a friend by covering how we should:

  1. Write as we talk
  2. Write with one person in mind
  3. Not sweat the spelling and grammar

Let’s get started at the first point — writing as we talk.

Do you think about what you’re saying, while you’re saying it?

When you’re talking to a friend, how concerned are you about saying the right words and putting together the right phrases? Not very concerned, right? There’s no pausing to frame a sentence or backing up to correct your grammar. Of course, at times we’ll slow down to gather our thoughts, especially when we’re having a deep conversation. But that’s seldom when our chat is with a friend. There’s just no need to meticulously craft the dialogue. It simply flows. The best emails flow in the same way.

The perfect emails read like a conversation with a friend

Just like an in-person conversation, there is back and forth communication. Of course, not literally when you’re reading an email. But there are questions and answers, statements and suggestions. And if we really know our audience, our emails will read like we’re listening to the thoughts in their head. How can we create that perfect email? Something that helps a lot is getting in the right frame of mind when we’re writing. That brings us to our second point: writing with only one person in mind.

Imagine that one person sitting right in front of you

How would you talk to them? What would you say? Have in your mind that you’re sharing your thoughts with that one person. Don’t worry about saying what’s right for everyone on your list. Which is next to impossible anyway. Don’t try to craft a message to one thousand, or one hundred, or even ten different people. Imagine writing to only one person. Ideally, this person is your avatar for your business. Here’s something else that works — write an email regarding a specific issue you’ve been working on for someone. Write like you’re responding to that one person.

It’s okay to exclude everyone else

When you try to write to everyone, you’ll be writing for no one. By writing to only one person, rest assured that your email will resonate with more than one person. It will not only resonate — it will really strike a chord with them. There will be several readers on your list that will feel like you wrote your email just to them. That’s exactly how you want them to feel. But what about you? How should you feel when you’re writing? Chilled out and relaxed. Not stressed. This brings us to the final point — don’t sweat the spelling and grammar.

Thankfully we’re no longer in grade school

There are no teachers around that are going to check our work and red ink our mistakes. Remember, we’re writing to a friend, so a little incorrect grammar and spelling isn’t the end of the world. When we speak, our grammar isn’t perfect. It doesn’t need to be when we’re emailing. In fact, sending out an email with a few mistakes shows that it’s a real person writing the email. It’s not some corporate legal department that is sending your emails. It’s you. This will actually help your readers trust and like you.

I need to be clear about writing mistakes

I’m not suggesting intentionally making mistakes in your grammar and spelling. It’s more about not worrying about them. The goal is to sound genuine in your writing. Writing as we talk, blemishes and all will make us sound more genuine. Unless you’re a bot, but I don’t think you are.

Will this be a turn-off for some people?

Probably. You can never please everyone. And some of this advice depends on the type of business you have. If you’re writing emails for a legal firm, yes, please make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Everything in the legal industry is based on accuracy and completeness, so missing spelling and grammar mistakes will look very bad for your company. But, if you’re writing emails for a small business that is personable and down-to-earth, then you want to come across as that everyday, regular person. Please enjoy yourself when you’re writing to your list!

Here’s a bonus tip

Try to be as congruent as possible. This is what I mean — be the same person you portray yourself to be in your writing as you are in real life. Who knows — perhaps one day you’ll meet a customer of yours. You’ll have a chat and at the end, wouldn’t it be great if they commented “You’re the same person in real as you are in your emails”. When this happens, you know you’ve done your job.

For example, look at email writing expert Ben Settle

His emails are far from grammatically correct in so many ways. He adds slang, name-calling, and sarcasm to each of his emails. His readers, those who are fortunate enough to meet him in person, quickly realize that he’s the same guy in person as he is in his emails. This makes Settle’s emails sound genuine and authentic. They read like he’s writing to only one person.

In summary, our readers should feel connected

The emails they get from us form bonds between us and them. In our readers’ minds, they’ll start to think and believe that they have a personal relationship with us. We start this thinking process in their minds by:

  1. Writing as we talk
  2. Writing with one person in mind
  3. Not sweating the spelling and grammar

Let’s not overthink the process

Let your thoughts flow when you write. If Lolo Jones had stayed in the flow when running that 100-meter hurdle race, she would have been crowned Olympic champion that year. Overthinking broke her flow and resulted in her finishing seventh.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you found it helpful, please share it with your social media.

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Steve Kehler

Sharing my experience in marketing. To a 2nd grader, a 4th grader is a genius.