The Two Worst Email Mistakes - Or Why Most of Email Doesn’t Get Read

The Two Worst Email Mistakes - Or Why most of Email Doesn’t Get Read

Email messages are unread for two simple reasons:

  • The message is buried
  • The entire message is a graphic.

Wasted Space
The first mistake has to do with the physical limitation of e-mail - which is not a printed page that the eye can scan all at once.

At most, the recipient of an email sees 10 lines of text on the first screen of an email (less if they’re reading it on a mobile device.) If you don't get your message in the first three or four lines: it won't get read.

Between fancy mastheads, lengthy letters from publishers, boilerplate about privacy policies and just plain garbage prose, it's the rare email that presents the subject in the first few lines.

How publications and advertisers waste space and time include:

  • The HTML masthead takes up the entire first screen of the e-mail then expects us to read through advertising to get to the table of contents.
  • The entire first screen is taken up, and sometimes as many as three screens, reminding us that we subscribed to this publication so we are not being spammed; that the mailing list will not be shared and that new subscribers are welcome. And only then, as many as 40 lines later - that's 4 screens in Outlook, etc - are we told what the issue contains.
  • Lots of white space between paragraphs introducing the issue of a publication, and then making us plough through a 10-line ad, a few paragraphs about the newsletter and a privacy statement before we get to the beginning of the first article.

All-Image email
Set your email not to download images unless you manually determine that you want to see them.


Do not send attachments without saying: I can send you the report, photos, PDF, press release, etc. if you are interested. Or state what the attachment is in the main body of the message.

Email mistake regarding recipients

Do not send to people you don't know - emails about stuff they do not care about, or want to know.