The Top 10 Email Marketing Power Words and Language Pitfalls

You already know that certain words are automatic spam-filter traps in email marketing, and since you’re reading this, you probably already know better than to use them.

Still, everyone can probably brush up on his email marketing skills. Who couldn’t use a reminder of what to avoid, and most importantly, what to include in your call-to-action? Simply put, the words used within your email messages can make or break your campaigns.

For successful deliveries, avoiding complaints, and improving response, here are a couple of Top Ten lists—the first for language pitfalls, the second for power words—for you to practice.

Top Ten Language Pitfalls in Email Marketing

10. Typos and misspellings due to poor editing

There really is no excuse.

9. Subject lines in ALL CAPS

Writing in all capital letters is like shouting. You’d never scream at your customers or prospects in person; don’t do so virtually, either. If you must, all-cap a single power word within your subject line, and leave it at that.

8. Use of punctuation marks and numbers within the subject line

If absolutely necessary, use only functional punctuation, such as a hyphen or colon. Do not put phone numbers in your subject line—ever!

7. ALL CAPS within the message body

Remember, no need to shout. Use other creative means, such as color, a different font, or buttons/banners/backgrounds, for emphasis if there is an explanation, offer, or condition that is not to be missed.

6. Excessive or unnecessary “Power Word” repetition – especially Power Word #1

See below.

5. Copy written in passive rather than active voice

Get to the point quickly in email. Front-load sentences and paragraphs with action verbs and eye-catching benefits.

4. False or inflated sense of urgency

Nudge, don’t shove. Pushing recipients to respond by intentionally creating an environment of panic or scarcity usually doesn’t provide an incremental lift in response and can be a real turn-off. Since your audience is already in a mindset to quickly access and process email messages, subtly mention deadlines or expiration dates when necessary or legally required.

3. Vague calls-to-action

“Click here” or “Visit our website” are too general; they don’t reinforce the subject of your message or your offer. Be specific, such as “Download your free white paper” or “See the movie preview” instead.

2. Exaggerated Modifiers

Words like “Amazing,” “Revolutionary,” “Great,” “All New” (when just “new” would suffice), and even “Special” or “Important”—especially when used in the subject line—can land your email in the junk folder. Hype is a hallmark of spam, plus it’s unnecessary when your messages are targeted and relevant.

And the number-one pitfall:

1. Including the word “spam” in your message (such as “This is not spam”)

I can’t think of a more self-defeating proposition than stating your message is NOT what you fear it will be.

Now for the good news.

Top Ten Power Words

Here are the top ten power words for your email advertising and communications:

10. New

Appeals to our basic human curiosity to seek novelty.

9. Save

We all love a bargain.

8. Safety

Connotes reliability; appeals to basic human needs.

7. Proven

Justifies your claim; removes fear of the unknown.

6. Love

An all-time favorite.

5. Guarantee

If you have one, state it. It iron-clads your offer.

4. Immediate (Now, or Instant)

Instant gratification is the expectation online. If it can’t be found, completed, or received almost immediately, your offer is in the wrong channel.

3. Results

Provides rationalization for instant conversion.

2. You

Remember WIIFM? Your audience wants to hear about what’s in it for them, not you. Articulate your benefits in personal, conversational terms.

And the number one Power Word:

1. Free

Surprised? Probably not. Since this is the time-honored, most potent motivator in direct response, be particularly vigilant not to overuse. Just a dash’ll do. Optimize placement, and test if necessary.

When it comes to power words, less is more. Use them sparingly and strategically. Avoid clichés and lethal combinations (Proven Results, Free Love) as well as inflated modifiers before or after. Power words are just that: powerful—all on their own.

This article is by Karen Talavera from


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