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Email format guide: Tips, best practices, and examples

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Many people think they don’t need to consider their email format as long as the message is clear and concise. This misconception can harm your professional reputation and make your communication less effective.

The reality is that email format is as important as its content. It’s crucial for any email, whether it’s a welcome email or a sales pitch. How you format an email can impact your engagement and response rates.

In this article, we’ll use tips and best practices to guide you on how to format an email. We’ll also provide email format examples to get you started.

Easily create professional and engaging emails with beautiful templates for free.

What is an email format?

Email format refers to the structure and layout of an email message. It encompasses font, color, spacing, images, and more.

The email format you choose impacts the delivery of your messages. It can also influence the way recipients respond to your messages.

Some of the most common formats are:

  • Multipart emails: Combine your email’s HTML and plain text versions in one message. This ensures proper rendering across any email client. The HTML allows design flexibility with images, fonts, and branding. Meanwhile, the plain text body displays as a fallback on programs unable to render HTML.
  • HTML emails: Use hypertext markup language to add visual styling to text-only messages. For example, images, colors, fonts, links, and other design elements. For a deeper dive, explore our guide to the basics of email HTML.
  • Text-only emails: This is a plain and simple email with no images or formatting. While easy to create and read, plain text emails can look dull and boring—but they load faster and have a consistent display across almost all platforms.
  • Rich text emails: Strike a balance between plain text and HTML. They allow for basic formatting, like bold or italic text, without the complexity of full HTML.

Another way to differentiate email formats is by their level of formality.

Formal email formats are appropriate for professional or academic situations. They’re structured with clear salutations, professional language, and a formal tone.

Informal email formats are more casual. You can use them with a friendly and relaxed tone for personal or social communication. They allow for more creativity and flexibility in formatting.

Why proper email format is crucial

Formatting messages isn’t only about aesthetics. Proper email format can make or break the effectiveness of your message. Here’s why:

  • Professionalism: How you format an email reflects professionalism and credibility. A well-formatted email shows respect for the recipients and their time.
  • Clarity and readability:Proper formatting enhances readability. Use clear fonts, thoughtful spacing, descriptive headings, and bulleted lists.
  • Efficiency:Concise writing helps recipients understand key information faster. Save time by getting to the point and avoiding unnecessary details.
  • Brand image and consistency: Maintain a consistent brand image across all your communications. On-brand elements like logos, colors, and fonts differentiate you, while also reinforcing your brand’s identity.
  • Avoid miscommunication: Clear formatting reduces the risk of misinterpretation. Well-arranged points or sections prevent confusion and overlooked details.
  • Enhanced engagement: Proper email format can help capture your readers’ attention and interest. Visual appeal, personalization, and other customer engagement marketing strategies inspire desired action.
  • Mobile responsiveness: Optimized formatting for on-the-go reading with smaller screens. Enhance user experience with short paragraphs, large buttons, and single-column layouts.
  • Legal and compliance reasons: Follow laws requiring businesses to include certain information in their emails. This includes physical addresses or unsubscribe links.

Here’s a case study showing how the right email format can increase conversion rates.

Amundsen Sports wanted to create simple, stylish, and inspirational emails. However, these emails had to match its brand persona.

Mailchimp was inadequate, so the team switched to Omnisend. Now, the team can easily automate and customize their email templates. Mailchimp and other platforms, like Klaviyo, also have the opportunities to build templates using blocks. But after some research, Omnisend scored highest. The template building was a big part of why we chose Omnisend.

A quote from Mailchimp

The result? A 1010% lift in revenue-per-email (RPE) from their automation. For more details, read Amundsen Sport’s story.

Components of a standard email format

Understanding how to format an email involves more than styling the body text. You must take a holistic approach to maximize clarity and professionalism. Here are the main components of a standard business email format:

  • Subject line: This is the first thing your recipient sees. So, make it clear, concise, and relevant. It should summarize your email’s purpose and encourage readers to open it. Keep subject lines catchy and benefit-focused.
  • Greeting/salutation: This is the opening line of your email, and it sets the tone of your email. Salutations are how you address and connect with recipients. Tailor it based on the level of formality you desire and your relationship with the recipient.
  • Introduction:This is the first paragraph of your email. Here, you introduce yourself and the reason for your email. Consider reminding the recipient of your connection.
  • Email body: This is the central part of your email. It should be well-structured, easy to read, and relevant to the recipient. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and headings to break up the text and make it more readable. 
  • Closing remarks: This is the concluding section of your email. It’s where you summarize your thoughts, express gratitude, and request action. Here, you restate the primary purpose of your email and provide any extra information.
  • Signature: This is where you sign off your email. You can provide your name, title, company name, and contact information. Include a logo, website link, or social media profile if appropriate.

Email format for ecommerce purposes

The correct email format can drive ecommerce sales. It can also build customer loyalty and enhance brand reputation. Here’s why.

Key components of an ecommerce email

Ecommerce emails use several elements to create a positive impression and clear value. These elements are:

  • Subject line: Craft compelling subject lines that don’t include spam triggers. The best email subject lines arouse interest and offer value. This encourages the recipient to open the email.
  • Preheader text: Use it to complement the subject line. It provides extra context or a sneak peek into the email.
  • Header and footer: Use these sections to establish brand identity. Add your logo, navigation, social media links, and other useful information to them.
  • Body content: Structure it according to the type and purpose of your email. Include clear, concise language and persuasive calls to action (CTAs) to guide customers.
  • Visual elements: Optimize visuals for appeal and quick loading across devices. Use tasteful fonts and whitespace for an immersive, uncluttered experience. Check out these email design templates for inspiration.
  • Personalization: Use customer data for targeted product suggestions, personalized discounts, and tailored content. Effective email personalization makes customers feel valued, understood, and special.

Design considerations for ecommerce emails

Consider the following aspects when designing your ecommerce emails:

  • Responsive design: Ensure seamless resizing for small screens and large buttons.
  • Brand consistency: Use consistent color schemes, fonts, and layout styles to maintain familiarity.
  • Whitespace: Create contrast, hierarchy, and balance to enhance your email’s readability.

Engagement and retention strategies

Here are some strategies on how to use email format to engage and retain customers:

  • Personalized discounts:Offer personalized discounts based on customer data.  Data such as purchase history, preferences, and behavior. They incentivize repeat purchases and help recover abandoned carts.
  • Loyalty rewards: Offer loyalty rewards based on customer actions. Use them to encourage advocacy, feedback, and word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Engaging storytelling: Build trust and highlight the benefits of your products or services. Create product stories based on customer testimonials, case studies, or behind-the-scenes insights.

Email format and analytics

Analytics play a crucial role in refining email formats.

Track open, click-through, and conversion rates to measure email format performance. You can also A/B test different variables to reveal optimal engagement drivers, then analyze the results to identify areas of improvement in your email format. Explore email optimization strategies to improve email performance.

Boost your email and SMS marketing with Omnisend’s powerful automation

Advanced email formatting tips

Advanced email formatting can help you create engaging and effective email campaigns. These tips will help you stand out in crowded inboxes:

1. Use visuals

Visuals like email images, infographics, and videos grab attention and are effective ways to convey messages. They also break up dense text.

Avoid complex visual elements that might slow down the loading speed of the email. Apart from speed, these elements could also encourage certain email clients to block you.

3. Use mobile-friendly email formats

Prioritize mobile-responsive emails. Ensuring readability on all devices caters to a diverse audience.

4. Include interactive elements

Enhance engagement with elements like polls, surveys, or clickable tabs within emails. Use these to increase participation and feedback. 

5. Deploy personalization techniques

Implement advanced personalization techniques like dynamic content blocks and behavior triggers.

These allow you to tailor content based on individual recipient preferences and behaviors. Consider finding out the best time to send emails for different segments.

6. Test and optimize

Use A/B testing to compare two versions of an email format and measure their performance.

Track analytics like open rate, conversion rate, and click-through rate. This allows you to customize email formats using data. A subject line tester can also assist with finding out what resonates with your audience.

Email formats with examples

Let’s now look at some email formats with examples.

Professional email format

Professional emails are ideal for formal or official business communications.

They’re used for applying to jobs, requesting information, making appointments, or giving feedback. They should be clear, concise, and polite.

See how Formula 1 goes straight to the point in this official message to its fans. There’s an apology for canceled events, a promise to keep fans informed, and a courteous sign-off:

Professional email format by Formula 1
Image via ReallyGoodEmails

Welcome email format

Welcome emails engage new subscribers or customers.

The best welcome emails are friendly, engaging, and informative. They have a warm and energetic tone, making the brand approachable.

Here’s how Tiny Tags does it.

There’s a welcome discount, plus a beautifully arranged “Discover Our Story” section. This entices readers to learn more about Tiny Tags and join its loyalty program:

Welcome email format by Tiny Tags
Image via Milled

Promotional email format

Promotional emails advertise or announce a special offer, discount, event, or product launch.

Compelling promotional emails are catchy, persuasive, and convey a sense of urgency.

Here’s how Talbot uses clear calls to action, with benefit-reinforcing imagery, for marketing: 

Promotional email format by Talbots
Image via Milled

Transactional email format

Transactional emails provide essential details, such as order confirmation or receipt information. They also include shipping information or password reset notices.

While transactional emails are informational, they’re also typically concise. They often include ample customer service and documentation links to facilitate self-service next steps or troubleshooting.

See how Instacart ensures a positive post-purchase experience. This email highlights the order details, delivery address, and delivery time:

Transactional email format by Instacart
Image via Instacart

Cold email format

Cold emails are useful for reaching out to potential leads or contacts. They should be persuasive and engaging, with a compelling value proposition.

Even so, they mustn’t come off as too promotional. This may impede communication, particularly when recipients are unfamiliar with the sender.

Consider this cold email example from the Head of Content at Base. It uses formal yet conversational language and a business-appropriate tone. It’s easy to read and has a courteous closing and action request.

Cold email format by Base
Image via Stripo

Newsletter email format

Newsletters have engaging headers, eye-catching visual formatting, and clear organization.

As these newsletter templates show, organized sections optimize the ingestion of meaty content. There should also be links to relevant articles or resources.

Rocket Dollar’s email newsletter format example is a case in point. It uses visuals, teases its articles, and prompts readers to “read more.” The CTA to download a free ebook provides another opportunity for reader interaction:

Newsletter email format by Rocket Dollar
Image via Milled

Follow-up email format

Effective follow-up emails are persistent without being intrusive. They have pleasant reminders and usually include recaps of the original messaging.

This is how Dr. Tory of Sundays follows up on previous communications. Note the helpful links and tone as she checks in to see how their latest dog food client adjusts.

Follow-up email format by Sundays
Image via ReallyGoodEmails

How to format an email with Omnisend

Omnisend’s Email Builder simplifies the process of formatting all email campaigns.  You can access it in Omnisend through Campaigns > + New campaign > Create email.

New email builder by Omnisend
Image via Omnisend

Here’s how to format emails using Omnisend’s Email Builder:

  • Choose a template: Select one of the mobile-first email templates available. Create your own with plain text or HTML.
Email choice in Omnisend email builder
Image via Omnisend
  • Adjust the email settings: Go to the builder by selecting a template. Change your email’s width, theme, background, canvas, and button colors and styles here.
Email adjustment settings on Omnisend email builder
Image via Omnisend
  • Add a layout: Select a premade layout from the library or drag and drop items to create your own structure. Items include dynamic content blocks like discount codes, countdown timers, and product recommendations.
Layout add on Omnisend Email Builder
Image via Omnisend
  • Edit the layout and items: Customize the padding, background colors, and content of each layout and item. You can also move or delete them as needed.
Layout edit on Omnisend email builder
Image via Omnisend
  • Save the email: Save your design as a template for future use. You could also update an existing template with the current design. Undo or redo any changes you make.
Email save on Omnisend email builder
Image via Omnisend

Explore Omnisend’s Email Builder documentation to discover more.

Conclusion

Properly formatted emails greatly influence the success of communication and marketing efforts.

Structured layouts help to boost reader comprehension and conversions. Their hallmarks include short paragraphs, bullets, and headings. Pair all these with strong calls to action, and you have a good email format.

With some simple best practices, you can create well-formatted emails that captivate audiences.

Create high-performing emails + SMS with Omnisend’s automation.
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Article by
Karolina Petraškienė

Karolina is a writer, content marketer, and email enthusiast at Omnisend. When she's not curating articles, you can find her in the woods challenging herself in hiking boots or off-roading her bike.


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