June 1st, 2015 | by
3 min read

A 4 Paragraph Email on Why Not to Write a 4 Paragraph Email

Dear Long Copy Emailer,

I hope you are doing well. I wanted to write you concerning the topic of the oh-so-prevalent-but-not-so-popular 4-paragraph email and why constructing such lengthy emails is not a best practice for sales prospecting. By the time you have finished reading this, I truly believe that you will be on board with employing the short-and-sweet approach when trying to build relationships and connect your product & service with potential new customers.

Shorter emails are associated with people higher up on the food chain.

For example:

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos is known at his company for sending unnervingly short emails. Bezos’s email address is public, and he receives many emails from customers, which he forwards to the relevant people with one single addition: a question mark. “When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark email, they react as though they’ve discovered a ticking bomb.”

So, if we take this example and apply it to sales prospecting emails, it seems logical that if you send a long and drawn out email, you, the sender of the email, will come off as one of the following:

  1. not a decision maker with answers and someone one who will inevitably have to pass off the potential customer to someone else in the sales cycle;
  2. a newb who isn’t familiar with the product and wants to sell the prospect in the email vs not being able to answer questions over the phone; and/or
  3. a long-winded jerk who will turn the “quick 15 minute chat” into an hour long Q&A while trying to figure out if your business is worth their time

Read It: 8 Great Cold Email Examples

A lot has changed since the 1990s.

Gone are the days of that “eeeeer-eek-phrrrruuum-blip-blip-iiirr-yok” greeting from the internet as you dial up. Nor do you sign into AOL wondering if anyone has emailed or chatted you. These days, there’s no doubt that you’ll have 25 new emails screaming for your attention. In each of your 5 email accounts. Since the last time you checked. About 15 minutes ago. The truth of the matter is that email started out as a desktop phenomenon – poised as an alternative to direct mail – which had 1 shot to provide as much useful information as possible. The goal and hope of direct mail was to avoid being thrown into the literal trash bin – the precursor to the digital recycling bin of the 21st century. Today, mobile email accounts for 15 to 70% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type. Due to the sheer amount of digital communications we receive today, length and clarity of message have become the strategic drivers of constructing a winning message. The shorter and more succinct the message, the more likely it is to be opened and read start to finish. There is even “official” advice out there in the interwebs that advise writers to treat all emails like SMS messages and to never have more the 5 sentences. Heck, there’s even a site dedicated to it.

As Clarice Lispector once said, “I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.”

In the same way that the 30-second elevator pitch is extremely useful and effective, a concise email helps provide high-level intrigue and presents the speaker as a knowledgeable, wise, and a modern problem-solver. This well constructed pitch hopefully elicits this response “Oh! That’s very cool. I’d love to hear more about that…” That’s the end game of your email, isn’t it? Sure, there’s a time and a place for more detailed illustrations, beautiful prose, and an iambic pentameter or two; however, a prospecting sales email isn’t it.

In conclusion, dear reader, I hope that this 4 paragraph email about not writing 4 paragraph emails has helped to inspire better writing practices for you and your team. As always, we are here to help should you need further resources.

Have a great day!





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Claire McEachern
About the author

Claire McEachern

Claire has 15+ years of creative communications, digital marketing, account and project management expertise in both the B2B and B2C environments. She has a passion for merging technical and creative skills in order to create narratives that educate, entertain, and call-to-action audiences on both the prospect and customer sides of the house. She has a B.S. in Sociology from James Madison University and an M.S. in Sustainable Design from Philadelphia University.