Email Communications at NYU

Email is a critical communication tool. Following the NYU Digital Communications Group’s best practices will help your content stand out in inboxes. NYU administrators can use Email Direct, a free and useful resource, to create and monitor email communications and campaigns.

Sender Details and Considerations

  • Sender Name
    • This tells your recipients who you are. The type of email may inform whether you use your school or department name (e.g., a transaction email) or a person’s name(s) (e.g., a letter from a dean or department leader).
    • Keep consistency, trustworthiness, and brand recognition in mind.
    • Keep it short.
    • Don’t use an email address for the sender name.
  • Sender Email and Reply-To
    • Using a no-reply address is a common mistake communicators make. This is known to decrease response rates and overall deliverability as it suggests a one-way relationship.
    • Use an email with an official domain (e.g., @nyu.edu, @stern.nyu.edu).
    • Set a separate reply-to email address when you need direct replies sent to another individual or alias.
  • Subject Line
    • Keep it short and simple.
    • Consider personalization.
    • Avoid bait and switch. The subject line should only tease content contained in the email.
    • For additional tips on how to elevate your email subject lines, check out this great resource from Campaign Monitor.
  • Preheader Text
    • Preheader text is the text that appears after the subject line in the inbox before an individual opens the email.
    • Use preheader text to provide the recipient with a preview of the email’s content; use it to pique their interest to open it.
    • Keep it short—about 35 to 40 characters. Any longer and the text may be clipped.
    • If you don’t set the preheader text, the email service provider automatically pulls the first line of text from your email. This may be less engaging.

^ Back to Top

Purple divider line

Email Copy

  • Use Personalization
    • The best email feels personal. Strive for individualized attention.
    • Test second-person voice in email copy.
    • Use salutations when possible.
    • Depending on the capabilities of your email system, consider using dynamic content based on available audience data. For example, create an email that has content specific to an individual, like information about their program or areas of interest.
  • Minimize Cognitive Load
    • Do not bury the lead.
    • Avoid sending walls of text. Break up text with headings, bullet points, and images.
    • Lead with the most important content.
  • Use Message Hierarchy
    • Create a semantic structure using headings.
    • Prioritize and emphasize the most important message.
  • Use Straightforward Language
  • Make Every Word Count—Don’t Waste Time
    • In general, aim for 200 words or fewer. A newsletter might be a bit longer, while an event announcement should be even shorter for the best possible click-through rate.
    • When a click-through is the goal, every word should help deliver it.
    • Put yourself in your audience’s shoes; empathize with them. Would you read this email?
    • Email copy should solve someone’s problems, not list product features and use jargon.
    • Avoid long, run-on sentences.
  • Avoid “Dark Patterns” (i.e., tricks to get more opens/clicks)
    • Do not use “RE:” in the subject line, making it look like an email thread.
    • Avoiding using a name(s) that doesn’t represent the sender and may confuse the recipient.

^ Back to Top

Purple divider line

Accessibility

  • Is That GIF/Motion Necessary?
    • Avoid looping and flashing GIFs.
    • Animations should stop after five seconds.
  • Make sure your email makes sense without images (i.e., if your images don’t load, will the email lack essential information?).
    • Do not use images as headings.
  • Use two visual indicators for link styles (e.g., bold and color, color and underline).
    • Do not use color alone.

NYU IT Digital Accessibility’s Tips for Writing Accessible Emails

  • Make sure information and text is clear and easy to read and understand.
  • Ensure images are available to all users.
  • Create a layout that is easy to follow.
  • Use care when linking to other pages or resources.

^ Back to Top

Purple divider line

Visual and Design Elements

Rules to Follow

  • Email design is not the same as web design.
  • Focus your message and be concise. Most people spend less than 15 seconds on an email, so prioritize your content from top to bottom.
  • Organize your content with a clear hierarchy.
    • Use headings and bullet points.
    • Make it scannable.
    • Link out.
  • Design for mobile first.
    • There’s not a lot of screen real estate on mobile.
    • One-column emails work best and reflow easily to mobile devices.
  • Simplify your design to ensure it works across all email platforms; support for some design elements vary greatly.
  • Choose system fonts that are widely used. Body text should be between 14 to 16 px (i.e., 10 to 12 pt) type size for legibility.
  • Break up your message into content blocks.
    • Create a clear header and footer style.
    • Define your sections using borders and dividers.
    • Consider your elements’ padding and margins.
    • Create a consistent button style.
  • Label your email with your logo. Place it prominently at the top so people know who is sending the message.
  • Keep the color palette to one or two colors.
    • The fewer the colors, the cleaner the design and the less distracted readers will be.
    • Use brand colors.
  • Use only essential photos to keep file size down.
    • Consider your photo placement and size.
    • Photo size should appear in descending order with the largest at the top.
    • .JPG and .PNG are the best image file types to use.
  • Use plenty of negative space to give your content room.
  • Align your content.
    • Centering works only for minimal content; left alignment for a lot of content.
    • Always try to keep alignment consistent across the entire email.

Mailchimp has a great design guide that’s easy to scan.

^ Back to Top

Purple divider line