Jun 30, 2015

Voice and Tone for Email

At MailChimp, we think a lot about the way we communicate with our customers. Our Voice and Tone guide helps MailChimp employees write in a consistent voice, but adapt their tone based on the situation. Since we made that guide public a few years back, we’ve gotten a lot of questions from customers about what kind of voice and tone they should use in their own email newsletters. Here are a few tips to help you show off your personality and strike the right tone in your campaigns.

Don’t be a robot.

Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes. When someone is looking at their inbox, they’re seeing emails from friends, family, colleagues, and companies. Many of those conversations are informal. Meet your subscribers where they are, and use a conversational tone in your email copy.

Consider the message.

Adapt your tone based on the type of content you’re sending. If it’s a transactional email about a purchase, you’ll want to get right to the point and only include the important information. But if you’re sending an exciting product announcement or birthday message, you can show a little more personality and have fun with your copy. Mouth Foods does a great job striking this balance.

Be yourself.

It can be overwhelming to write in an Official Company Voice. Remember that brands aren’t people, and your subscribers want a human touch in their emails. Feel free to write in your own voice, and edit your draft later to make sure it represents the brand. Include humor if you like, but only where it feels natural—a forced joke is never funny.

Pay attention to the details.

Think beyond your subject line and body copy. Your from name, preheader, headlines, images, and footer all help set the tone for your email. Preheader text is the first thing people see in their email clients after the subject line, and it serves as a teaser for your email. Infuse it with a little personality to get people interested. (At the very least, make sure it doesn’t say "Use this area to offer a short preview of your email’s content" when you send!)

While your footer has to contain your mailing address, website, and unsubscribe link, you can add a link or image there too, as long as it doesn’t distract people from the important information. It’s a good way to remind your readers that you care about the little things.

Read it out loud.

This is my favorite self-editing tip, and it doesn’t only apply to email. When you finish writing a draft, read it out loud to yourself. As you read aloud, do what I call a “human check” to make sure everything flows. You can also use a text-to-speech generator to hear your copy read in someone else’s voice. (Macs have one built in, and Google’s app gets great ratings as well.) That’s how some people will experience your emails in the first place, so it can be a valuable editing tool. As a bonus, reading out loud also helps you catch typos and errors. That’s super important for email, since once you click send, there’s no turning back.

Make room to grow.

Your voice will evolve as your company grows, and your email marketing will change over time. That’s a good thing! As you experiment with your communication style, remember that email is a great place to show off your personality and try new approaches.