Cold Email-Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Cold email marketing is still a valid approach in the modern business world. That said, old errors are still being made. When writing cold emails, avoid these etiquette mistakes at all costs.

Ashley Halsey
Ashley Halsey
Professional writer
November 29, 2019

Cold email marketing is still a valid approach in the modern business world. That said, old errors are still being made. When writing cold emails, avoid these etiquette mistakes at all costs.

The timing of your email

Timing is critical when it comes to cold emails, and this is something that you should consider carefully. Avoid emailing at weekends, and late at night, which will often mean paying careful consideration to time zones and the like. The optimum time is morning in the middle of the week, when people are most productive.

Who the email is addressed from

When sending out a cold email, make sure that it is addressed from an email with your name, or a real name, rather than a company name, or worse, something like ‘marketing’. If the receiver can see that the message has come from a real person, they are much less likely to treat it as spam.

Terrible subject lines

The subject line can often be the most important aspect of a cold email as it usually the deciding factor in whether someone will even open the email or not. The sender's name is important too of course, but now try to include something in the subject line that adds value, and is relevant to the person that is receiving the message. Don’t be too generic, and avoid salesy language and superlatives which put people off straight away. A good tactic here is to use the first name of the person you are sending the email to, if you have it of course. And definitely avoid gimmicks such as emoticons.

Incorrect salutations

Success! The receiver has opened your email. But then they are met with a horrible salutation that is at worst impolite (“Yo, John”) to plain wrong (“Dear Mr. John”). If you are dealing across cultures of language barriers, then be extremely careful in considering the politest and most respectful way of addressing someone in that culture of language. If it is your own language, then avoid being too informal as this can sometimes be viewed as being impertinent. Just get it right.


How are you going to write your email? Are you going to be so formal and generic that you sound like a writing bot, or are you going for the acutely informal approach that can quickly go awry? As you will guess from this introduction, the answer is somewhere in the middle, which means avoiding overly formal language but always maintaining a respectful boundary, because you don’t know this person, and pretending that you do can often be a little insulting.

It’s always best to avoid slang and colloquialisms, but use straightforward language that is full of the common courtesy words. Think, would your mother be proud?

Not getting to the point quickly

One of the greatest ways you can show respect to the person you are writing to is getting to the point quickly, and not wasting their time with ‘fluff’ that is not relevant. Once you have stated clearly who you are, the next step is to state clearly why you are writing. Don’t bury this half-way down the email, but have it clear as day in the opening couple of paragraphs. Get to the point quickly, and the receiver will appreciate you for it.

Writing too much

Another way time can be wasted, of course, is by including too much. You may have a lot to say, but think how much of that is relevant for the very first contact. And the fact is, if a receiver opens an email only to be greeted by an eye-watering amount of text, then the chances are they will click immediately off it again. It’s just overkill.

Not hyperlinking (but using URLs)

If you include links, then make sure you hyperlink everything cleanly which conveniently allows the receiver to follow the link via the relevant word. Including URLs looks messy, and it puts people off as they may have to copy and paste. It’s just not professional.

Not being respectful in your requests

You will probably have requests to make in your email, which is the point of your writing. First of all, be clear and upfront regarding what these are. Secondly, be respectful in the way you ask, which means including all the common courtesy words, and thanking the receiver afterward. Don’t be presumptuous or too aggressive in your approach here. Being straightforward can be an effective approach, but it must always be combined with politeness.

Being too forceful

Being forceful is not being straightforward. A forceful tone in an email sounds aggressive, and won’t get the desired reaction. Avoid it. An effective way of doing this is by using what is known as ‘softening language’, which are words that make requests much more indirect, such as ‘would you mind..?’ or ‘would it be possible...?’

Not including a CTA

So you have stated why you are writing, but what is it exactly that you want the receiver to do? What should the next step be? The Call to Action is a vital aspect of your contact, and if you have gone to all this trouble and successfully enticed the user to open up your email and read it, don’t fail now by not including a very clear CTA which overtly lays out what that person must do, whether it’s signing up, or sending a specific reply. Spell it out.

Not wrapping up succinctly

And then wrap it up, and do it cleanly, and without unnecessary waffle which adds no value. Get in, and get out, but always respectfully.

Not signing off in the right way

Then make sure you sign off with the correct wishes: something like ‘kind regards’ has worked well for years, so don’t venture too far from this path by being too clever. Use your first name too to keep it friendly.

(and emailing too frequently)

No one wants to be barraged by cold emails that fly into their inbox on an almost daily basis. Sure, you may want to follow up at a desirable stage afterward, but over-egging the pudding will put the receiver off completely. Don’t do it.

Written by
Ashley Halsey
Professional writer

Professional writer, marketing, management and recruitment expert Ashley Halsey can be found contributing her business insights at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, where she has established her reputation as an erudite and intelligent observer of marketing trends.

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