Don’t Write These 20 Words in Marketing Emails

There’s a big chance that you performance marketers already know that emails rule in the business world.

Yes, email marketing doesn't sound as cutting-edge and sexy as other tactics such as storytelling, mobile optimization, or even – oh god, I can't believe I’m saying this – SEO. But numbers speak volumes:

  • Marketing Emails are 40 times more effective than social media.
  • Marketing Emails have an average ROI of $38 for each dollar spent.
  • Over 90% of all US consumers use email on a daily basis.

With that in mind, you manage email marketing campaigns of all shapes and sizes but might not always get the desired results: the average CTR of 3.75% is your maximum, and about 78% of your marketing emails get… nothing. (Source)

“What the heck am I doing wrong?”

This question haunts you every time you see the stats of your open rates.

And here goes the answer:

You write the wrong words in your subject lines and email bodies.

You see, words are all about human psychology and perception: our brains respond to specific stimulators, and when we read negative triggers – we'll react accordingly.

​Words to Avoid Using in Marketing Emails

As a marketer, you need to understand how to optimize emails and web content with the psychology of decision-making in mind. For that, avoid words with negative meanings in email subject lines to increase open rates. To get more sales use more powerful and persuasive language.

Long story short, avoid these 20 words in your marketing emails if you want them opened, read, and converted.


Let's face it:

No one cares about sales. You often have them, don't you? Why should people pay attention to your promotional offer this time? What's so different about it?

Describe the details and use actionable language instead. Power verbs help a lot. For instance, marketers from Plagiarism Check​ sent me an email with the subject line then offered a free check for plagiarism: “Save Your Writings From Duplications” 

Tip: ​​Incorporating ​words like “download,” “ask,” “save,” and ​similar verbs helps readers understand what they can do in your email.​

​Incorporating verbs like “download,” “ask,” “save,” and others helps readers understand what they can do in your email.Incorporating verbs like “download,” “ask,” “save,” and others helps readers understand what they can do in your email. via @pmmarketer

Stay honest and straightforward, and don't rely on manipulation.


We all understand that personalized and segmented marketing emails have higher performance rates. Specifically, they generate 58% of all revenue. Use personalization whenever possible and avoid generic greetings such as “Hey friend,” “Hello there,” and others of that kind.

marketing emails

Just remember, personalization in marketing emails means nothing if you write something like “Gina, check this offer!” when my name is Lesley.

If you aren't 100% sure the email marketing campaign is set right, “Hey friend!” would work best.


Superlatives in subject lines reduce open rates by around 28%. Also, forget words like “amazing” and “unique”. They frustrate readers and make your marketing emails look like aggressive ads or spam.

Another word to avoid is a mediocre “good.” That brings no valuable information to your audience of email subscribers.


Marketing emails are not about cheating. So don't trick your audience into thinking they are a part of some conversation with these email terms. Words/abbreviations such as “fw” or “re” don't engage but create distrust.

Even if people open these emails, they aren’t likely to click your CTA because they will know you weren't sincere.

Also, never write subject lines with ALL CAPS and don't use exclamation marks (!) or internet slang (dat, ​BAE, yort, flex, ​IMHO). Your audience might not understand or think you’re yelling at them.

email marketing strategy


Subject lines with the words "report" and "webinar" sound like they were taken from a lexicon of content marketers. It’ll make readers think you want to sell or, even worse, force them to do something.

The problem is, people are lazy creatures; and when they see an email with “report,” “book,” or “webinar” in the subject line – it signals that they need to make an effort: read that book, spend time on that webinar, or study a report.

It could work if your target market are content marketers. If not, words like “download” or “register” can help readers understand that they can get an offer now and check it out later.

That's how Content Marketing Institute does it:

email phrases


Email words like these are triggers for spam with both readers and email subscribers. Which means your marketing email can get buried in spam boxes even if you didn't mean to aggressively sell to your email list.

Email spam trigger words are many. Ideally, you'd learn them all and avoid using them in both the subject lines and bodies of your emails..


These words generate a sense of urgency and make people think you want nothing but to sell to them.

email campaign

For instance, when I got this email (see screenshot) with the subject line as “Here's your Instagram Workbook,” my first reaction was to bury it and here’s why:

  • “Here's” sounded like they were forcing me to take something I didn't ask for.
  • Instagram workbook? Who said I needed that?
  • I didn't know the sender, and he didn't even introduced himself in his email copy. (Well, at least he knew my name.)
  • He used emojis in the subject line. Doh! It made his email look childish in my opinion.

This 2017 study shows that “contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence.” So try to avoid smileys and emojis in subject lines as well as bodies of your marketing emails.


According to Alchemy Worx, these kinds of email terms can cause a drop in open rates because most people associate them with tons of emails they get for Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales. So, they’ll consider yours spam and, therefore, not even bother opening your holiday email.

email words

Image source: Econsultancy

For successful email marketing campaigns, you need emails that attract attention in the busy inboxes of your target audience.

To create such emails, consider the psychology of decision-making behind the content you create:

  • Personalize emails
  • Fill them with interesting graphics
  • Create compelling calls to action
  • And always remember the most powerful weapon you have at hand: words.

A single word, when poorly chosen, can destroy your email marketing endeavors. So, don't underestimate the power of the words you use to influence people. Every marketing message you share should be clear, have a point, and not turn off your audience.

Lesley J Vos

Lesley J. Vos is a web writer and content strategist, contributing to many publications on digital marketing, writing craft, and self-development. Feel free to read more works of hers on @LesleyVos in Twitter or network with Lesley on LinkedIn.

  • Cory Goneke says:

    Great post Lesley.


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