Writing your email

Follow the guidelines for writing text in the Editorial Style Guide.

Announcement or invitation

Be clear and concise to make your messaging accessible, have one call-to-action (CTA) and make it easily actionable with a button or link. Keep the email brief and targeted, using the fewest words possible. Most readers will only spend a few seconds looking at your email, so make sure it’s easy to scan. 

Good example: Holiday Greetings from JMU! Has minimal text and one call-to-action. 


For longer stories/news items, write an interesting summary for each news item in the email and then provide a link to “read more” online rather than providing lots of text in the email. 

Good Example: Madison Update: Sugar Crash  This email is easy to scan and provides links to read more.

From name
  • Often, the sender name affects open rate more than the subject line does. If the sender is familiar and trusted, it boosts the likelihood that your recipient will open the email.
  • As a general rule, emails should come from a department/school/division, NOT an individual. Use a from email address that is associated with your area, and make sure that it is a monitored email box. 
  • Identify James Madison University or JMU in the from name or the subject line. 
Subject Lines
  • Give information about what your email is about; your recipient wants to know that the content of the email will be interesting and relevant to them.
  • Write several subject lines, then choose the best one.
  • Don’t use more than 50 characters, so it doesn’t get cut off in the inbox.
  • This is the line of text that shows after the subject line in the inbox
  • Tease the email content, build off of the subject line
  •  You can test your subject line with the subject line preview tool


  • Don’t say “click here”, give info about the link: “read on JMUSports” “Madison Grill menu”
  • If the text of the link is a url, don’t include “http://“ and “.html”
  • Avoid putting links in the middle of a sentence, it's easier to click them at the end of a sentence
  • Use a button, it screams "push me" (and there's more surface area for fat fingers on tiny screens)
"Countdown" Timer Feature
  • You can also add a "countdown" timer feature to your emails by downloading it for free from here
  • Click on the link and complete the form on the page
    • For the digits and label colors, set the hex code to #450084 (JMU's dark purple)
    • For the background color set the hex code to #FFFFFF (white)
  • Once you complete the form, click "Generate"
  • Copy the HTML code and paste it into your email template; the code will automatically convert to the countdown timer
Animated .gifs in Email
  • To learn how to create animated .gifs for your email, watch this video
  • If you do not have time for the video, read through this Adobe tutorial on creating animated .gifs; it shows you how to build from both images and videos
  • To guarantee that you make the right choices to make smart and effective .gifs specifically for email, it is recommended you watch the video
  • Remember, it is important to keep the size of .gifs small in an email

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