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9 Ways to Write Sales Emails a Third-Grader Could Understand

Sales emails can be a tough nut to crack, especially cold emails. You want to sound professional and knowledgeable but don't want to come across as pushy or sales-y. It's a delicate balance, and sometimes emails become unreadable in the pursuit of striking it.
Riley Clark

If you’re interested in learning how to write effective sales emails, your email’s readability should be taken into consideration.

Open rate and response rate are important, as well as other factors like your opening line or the actual products and services you offer, but if you’re not writing emails that are readable, you're disrupting a major factor in your sales process. 

Luckily, there are some tried and true methods for writing sales emails that are highly readable from their opening line to their call to action. In this blog post, we'll go over the dos and don'ts of writing sales emails that are easy to understand from the moment they're opened.

What Is Email Readability? 

Email readability is what a sounds like- a gauge of how easy an email is to read. Think of it as an umbrella term for every decision you make during an email’s writing process. 

How many words do you use? Which words do you use? How does it look from a stylistic perspective? 

You’re already making these decisions, and as you do, they either contribute to an email that’s easy or difficult to read. 

Why Is Readability Important?

Inboxes are full, attention spans are short and buyers are busy. All of this adds up to one thing- if your email is opened, it better be readable. Email readability plays a role in replies, booked meetings, and even conversions. If an email is difficult to read, it doesn’t really matter if your prospect is a great fit for the solutions you offer. 

In other words, writing emails that are easy to read is important and should underpin every email you draft. 

Third-Grade Reading Level

If you look at reply rates, regie data consistently favors emails written around a third-grade reading level. To test for readability, our Insights feature uses 10 different readability indexes and formulas and can break down readability by email type, i.e. outbound, inbound, follow-up, events and customer success. 

But across the board, the highest reply rates linger around a third-grade reading level or its equivalent (depending on the index’s scale). Essentially the data consistently indicate, regardless of the parameters, that sending sales emails written at this specific reading level will improve performance. 

Take a look at the results from our most recent readability analysis. Reply rate by email readability for all email types:

Average Reply Rate by Readability

The graph above uses the Coleman-Liau index, which rates readability based on word and sentence length. According to Coleman and Liau, "Word length in letters is a better predictor of readability than syllables.” 

image attributed to

Check out the full list of the readability indexes and formulas used at regie:

Writing Readable Sales Emails

There are ways to edit the emails you’re already using, as well as ensure that the future emails you write hit your goals. Before you press send, make sure your emails:

- Use questions

When you frame your thoughts as questions, it’s difficult to ramble. Questions are a tool for keeping your sentences concise. The bonus is that you’ll learn more about your prospect when a question is answered. 

- Keep sentences short and simple

For the sentences that aren’t questions, you’ll still want to make sure they’re short. Many U.S. third-grade students are moving onto chapter books and fictional series at this time in their education- think Judy Blume or Roald Dahl. In these books, the sentences are short but still carry meaning. 

Here are a few sentences from the children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox. Notice how they might feel a bit choppy to read, but are effectively short and direct.

“Bean was a turkey-and-apple farmer. He kept thousands of turkeys in an orchard full of apple trees. He never ate any food at all.”

- Use easy words

It might be difficult to discern which words are “easy,” but it’s simpler than you think. First, pay attention to the number of syllables in a word. A useful rule of thumb is to aim for words with two syllables or less. 

Second, consider how common your word choices are. Is the word something you use daily? Do you hear others using it? For example, a word like “customarily” is far less common in daily speech than its synonym “mostly,” and might be a useful switch to make.

Tip: can become your new best friend as you look to replace your more complicated word choices.


- Use frequent paragraph breaks

Frequent paragraph breaks increase readability from a formatting perspective. Your email will look less imposing with more blank space than walls of text and if you format the paragraphs correctly, your prospect will have an easier time jumping directly to the information that’s most relevant to them.

Aim for a 2-3 sentence minimum per paragraph. If you use bullets or a list, make sure they’re in their own paragraph as well. 

- Be brief overall

Word count is important. Our monthly analysis consistently reports an optimal range of 90-120 words in the body copy of sales emails. This consistency differs from other variables we analyze like subject lines, where best practices are more volatile month to month. Stay up to date on all our monthly reports with our newsletter here.  

- Make sure your email is well-written and free of typos

Pretty straightforward but still worth covering- typos are rampant and so easy to miss. Apart from chipping away at professionalism, typos make text difficult to read.

Read your emails out loud to yourself, use grammar checkers like regie’s Chrome extension or Grammarly and triple-check old emails for mistakes. 

- Use bullet points to make your email easy to scan

Bullet point lists are great for keeping your sentences easy to read because they don’t require full sentences. They’re easy to scan, keep your word count down and are difficult to complicate. 

Tip: Another way to use bullet points or lists is through multiple choice emails. Learn more about incorporating multiple choice emails into your sales sequences or cadences here. 

- Avoid jargon

Apart from isolating certain segments of your audience, jargon can disrupt clear communication in general. It seems counterintuitive, but jargon can quickly become misused or come to represent a variety of ideas over time (often dependent on your location or line of work).

Instead, avoid miscommunication blunders by writing exactly what you’re trying to express without using jargon to do it. 

- Write in the active voice

Active voice will help keep your word count to a minimum and ensure that your writing flows. It’s also a commonly accepted that using the active voice can help your message feel more powerful and persuasive, which is a bonus. 

If you feel uncertain about the difference between active and passive voice, take a look at the following examples:

Active: Jerry knocked over the lamp. 

Passive: The lamp was knocked over by Jerry.

Active: He gave me an opportunity.

Passive: I was given an opportunity by him.

The difference here comes down to the subject of the sentence. If active voice is invoked, the subject carries out the action. If passive voice is invoked, the action happens to the subject. Look for words like “was” or “had been” as they’re usually indicators of passive voice. 

Testing Your Own Email Readability

It’s easy to test the readability of your emails. There are multitudes of free readability analyzers online, as well as extensions you can add to your computer that pop up conveniently when you’re writing. 

Regie’s Chrome extension analyzes for readability, as well as:

  • Subject Length
  • Message Length
  • Reading Time
  • Question Count
  • I:You Ratio
  • Spam Words
  • Gender Bias
  • Inclusion

Additionally, our Chrome extension can be used to generate an entire email, subject lines, value props, and pain points using AI, as well as offering tools for rewriting, shortening, lengthening and autocompleting text.

The extension is designed for sellers specifically, and is integrated with Gmail, Outlook, Salesloft, LinkedIn and Hubspot.

To try the Chrome extension for free, click here.

For other readability analyzers, check out these free sites online. They do require moving away from where you’re already writing to copy and paste your text, but are helpful tools nonetheless. Just keep in mind that these options aren’t optimized for email best practices.

Readability Makes A Difference

Again, sales email readability underpins communication. It plays a role in replies, booked meetings and eventually, conversions. Readable sales emails:

  • Are written at or near a third-grade reading level
  • Use questions
  • Use short and simple sentences
  • Use easy words
  • Use frequent paragraph breaks
  • Are brief overall
  • Are free of typos and grammatical errors
  • Use bullet points
  • Avoid jargon
  • Use active voice

Keep readability in mind by following these tips and you’ll write sales emails that communicate clearly, are easy to digest and get the results you want. For further guidance on sales writing and a look at how regie works, book a demo with us here.

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