Find Email Content in Elementary Grammar Lessons

Elementary school teaches the basics of communication through four sentence types: imperative, declarative, exclamatory and interrogative.


You can convey anything you want to say through these four sentences. The principles behind these sentence types make it easy to communicate with subscribers in your email marketing campaign.

Whether you’re stating the facts in a weekly broadcast or engaging subscribers with a survey, you can draw inspiration for messages in every stage of your campaign by relating to these simple communication strategies from elementary school grammar lessons.

Imperative: Clear and Commanding Sign-Ups

“Click here to sign up.” “Confirm your subscription.” “Add us to your address book.” “Use this link to unsubscribe.”

Imperative sentences give clear commands that new subscribers need. Sometimes it’s appropriate to command subscribers, especially in your early communications with them. Confirmation emails and welcome messages should clearly introduce your brand and direct new subscribers to engage with your content.

Make the most of your confirmation email by customizing it with information about your company and content along with instructions to confirm their subscription, like Wicked Lasers does here:

Continue the directives in your welcome email. If your welcome message resembles the example below, you may want to consider some pertinent revisions:

I’m glad you’re glad that I joined your list, but this message does nothing to set expectations for future emails or introduce me to your brand.

Instead, you can instruct new subscribers to connect with you on social networks or stay up to date on your blog like Urban Outfitters does here:

Or direct them to personalize their content, like Banana Republic:

Lesson Review:
It’s okay to get a little bossy with your subscribers in the beginning with clear directions in your sign-up process.

Declarative: Effective and Relevant Newsletters

“There isn’t any thought or idea that can’t be expressed in a fairly simple declarative sentence, or in a series of fairly simple declarative sentences.” E. B. White’s statement on declarative sentences applies nicely to the content of your broadcast messages.

Broadcast messages are the declarative sentences of email marketing. Declarative sentences communicate fact and they do it efficiently by sticking to the point. Your broadcast messages should also stay on topic by delivering the information your subscribers requested. Keep your campaign relevant by sending helpful content in addition to sales or alerts, as Social Email Marketing recommends.

Film and camera retailer Lomography combines sales and informative content in this recent message, opening with a sale announcement:

And offering tips for when to use certain films with examples photographers can appreciate:

Lomography creates more than just a sales pitch and speaks to their subscribers’ interests with facts they can use.

Lesson Review:
Supplement sales pitches with relevant content your subscribers will appreciate. Informing them with valuable facts builds a better relationship.

Exclamatory: Excitement and Urgency Used Sparingly

Sometimes you need your subscribers to act now or pay attention to important information. Think of urgent and time sensitive emails as the exclamatory sentences in your campaign.

Take advantage of your subject line to build a sense of urgency for limited-time offers, like this email I received from Ancestry.com:

An exclamatory email is all about the timing, like this example from Groupon, who emailed the author just as his coupons were ready to expire.

The Container Store also takes advantage of targeted timeliness with this subject line:

I travel a lot, so the relevance caught my attention right away. “Don’t miss this!” drives the urgency. It’s a product I’ll want available for a limited time. I know everything I need to know and can decide to take action before even opening the email.

One other point to keep in mind about exclamatory sentences: They’re most effective when used sparingly. Too many exclamations can desensitize a subscriber as the sense of urgency is lost. Nothing is important any more if everything is important. Like these emails from Newegg:

I don’t need to rush to take advantage of their 72-hour weekend deal, because I know another one will happen again next week, with several more sales in between.

Lesson Review:
Don’t overwhelm your subscribers with exclamatory statements. Save them for timely information that really counts.

Interrogative: Ask Your Subscribers the Right Questions

Interrogative sentences ask questions. Asking questions starts a conversation with your subscribers and encourages interaction with your brand, increasing your value and relevance.

Using surveys in your emails is a great way to start asking your subscribers the right questions about your content. You can then segment your list based on survey results to start delivering more personalized emails based on your subscribers’ preferences.

Wendy’s recently invited customer feedback by asking customers to share their ideas for improving the fast food chain’s menu. They even invite interaction by sharing a customer’s suggestion that they implemented in one of their stores:

Lesson Review:
Asking questions shows that you value your subscribers’ input and builds a better relationship that can lead to more trust and loyalty.

Final Review

What are you trying to say to your subscribers? Is your sign-up process clear and direct?

Do you offer relevant content in your declarative broadcasts? Have you engaged your subscribers with good questions?

What kind of communication works best for you?

5 Comments

  1. Jeff Wilson

    7/21/2011 10:29 am

    I was a little lost at first with. “the four message types.” But, the way you broke-it-down and the great examples provided were extremely helpful. Your elementary English teacher would be proud!

  2. Lynda Davis

    7/21/2011 4:53 pm

    Sometimes, I refer to elementary grammar lessons found in a 6th grade language book that I keep handy. You’re right, the information there is simple and direct … I like the way you created this email content by employing information found in the elementary school textbook. Great idea!

  3. Gidon Ariel

    7/22/2011 1:12 am

    You guys just outdo yourselves every email.
    Besides the actual lesson[s] in this one, how many best practices were implemented in THIS email?

  4. richard frimpong

    7/23/2011 8:28 am

    i thank you so much for your concern i hope more things will come into my way.your teaching are very good and helping me a lot .

  5. Michelle

    8/18/2011 10:18 pm

    This may also help: It’s okay to get a little bossy with your subscribers in the beginning with clear directions in your sign-up process.