How to Format an Email to Boost Response Rate

2 minute read

If you are in sales, you know that all the prospects you're emailing are busy. So, not every email in their inbox will get noticed or opened. And consequently, only a fraction of emails get a response.

Crafting sales emails that get opened and drive action can feel challenging. 

So, how do you write emails that get opened and, even better—a response? 

Worry no more! In this post, we discuss everything you need to know, from how to format an email (demystify the essentials of email format) to writing techniques and powerful examples that'll help you compose emails that are professional and engaging.

Why format an email?

Clarity and organization

When you format an email, you're laying out your content in a way that's easy for the reader to digest. This involves using paragraphs, bullet points, and headings appropriately. Such an organization aids in guiding the recipient through your message, making sure the key points are easily identifiable. This clarity is essential for effective communication.

Eliminating ambiguity 

Formatting an email helps in eliminating ambiguities, making your message more straightforward. By organizing your thoughts logically and clearly delineating your points, you reduce the risk of misinterpreting your words. This is critical in professional settings where clear communication is imperative.

Attention to detail

A well-formatted email speaks volumes about your professionalism and attention to detail. It shows that you have taken the time to consider how your message will be perceived. This not only enhances the readability of your email but also contributes to a positive impression, fostering a professional image in the eyes of the recipient.

Saves time for both parties

By making your email clear and to the point from the outset, you effectively reduce the likelihood of back-and-forth clarification emails. This efficiency saves time for both you and the recipient, streamlining communication. This can significantly enhance productivity and reduce frustrations, especially in a fast-paced work environment.

Improves overall readability

A well-structured email is inherently more readable. Utilizing formatting tools like bullet points, numbered lists, and bold text for emphasis helps break down information into digestible chunks. This improved readability ensures the recipient can quickly grasp the key points, making the communication process more effective.

How to format a professional email in 2024

The right format can make your email easier to read and understand, ensuring your message gets across clearly.

What is email formatting?

Email formatting encompasses the structuring and styling of your email content to enhance readability and engagement. Proper email formatting involves various elements, from the use of appropriate fonts and colors to the strategic placement of links and images. With thoughtfully structured emails, you can significantly improve your communication effectiveness, making your messages more accessible and visually appealing to your recipients.

The first step in mastering email format is to recognize the different types of emails you might send and understand that each has its own formatting rules. Let's look at each of the components of an email and how to format them.

1. Subject Line

What good are emails that land in inboxes if no one opens them? Your perfect email body will never be read unless your subject line lures the recipient to open it.

Crafting a compelling subject line is your first step in mastering how to format an email. It should be concise, clear, and indicative of the email's content. This respects the recipient's time and increases the chances of your email being read.

At Plena, we recently analyzed the subject lines of over 100K emails our customers' bots sent last quarter.

Two of the most significant insights were:

49% of email recipients decide to open emails based on the subject line.
And 71.4% of emails were reported spam solely based on the subject line.

Let that sink in. Almost 72% reported spam, let alone opening the email!

The shorter your subject line  2-4 words), the more email opens you get, because, shorter subject lines also make it easy for the recipients to view the preview text.

how to format an email

Avoid these subject lines at all costs 👇

While shorter subjects work best, they shouldn’t be obviously salesy. We’ve collated a few subject lines based on our experience that you might want to avoid.

❌ Quick question

❌ <First name>, want xyz?

❌ Thoughts? (And any of the cliches)

❌ RE: (screams “shady”)

❌ 2x/10x revenue/conversion or anything merely transactional

Why do the above subject lines not work?

  • Quick question/ Thoughts?/ RE: — These are done and dusted subject lines that make people automatically tune out or hit delete unless the email is from a known contact.
  • Using a first name in the subject line is NOT personalization. It is actually a clear giveaway of it being an automated email. You wouldn’t usually use a first name in the subject when writing to someone.
  • ROI and transactional subject lines — Surprising, right? You would think personalized, ROI-oriented subjects would actually help. But no! Such headlines, by default, go into the Promotion and SPAM category. For a minute, look at the subject lines below. Would you click and open any of those emails?
email formatting

Cold email subject lines that got us more than 50% opens

✅ Reply rate issues
✅ LinkedIn prospecting
✅ Low replies
✅ Next steps
✅ Intent based list in 3 clicks
✅ Best performing outreach templates
✅ This might help
✅ Does your outreach work?
✅ Find your potential buyers

The subject lines are based mainly on whom it is sent to. For instance, when you’re reaching out to founders who get tons of emails every day, you might want to grab their attention based on things that might be on their minds.

Here are a couple of founder specific subject line templates you might want to try:

✅ How <your competitor> does <your pain>? (based on FOMO)
Example: How ClickUp drives user adoption?

✅ Here’s how you <solve pain point> (generates curiosity)
Example: Here’s how you 10x your response rate

2. Opening line

When it comes to your sales email's opening line—it needs to address something specific to the recipient so that they are encouraged to read further. 

We suggest you avoid beginning your email with sentences like:

  • "Hope this email finds you in good health…"
  • "Hi, my name is…."
  • In the current turbulent times…

They are unoriginal, boring, and don't work. 

Instead, build relevance and show them you genuinely care. Your email needs to stand out from the thousands of generic email campaigns in their inbox daily. 

Try to open with something specific to them based on your research. It can be something like:

  • In your [recent newsletter], you mentioned…
  • [Mutual connection] mentioned that…
  • Congrats on your recent [product launch]…
  • Interesting that in your [LinkedIn post], you spoke about…
  • Congrats on your new role at [company name]…

The idea is to catch your recipient's attention by making your first line as relevant and personalized as possible. All it takes is a few minutes of research.

Here are a few things you can do to make your opening line appealing:

i. Look at their LinkedIn or blog or some relevant forms and try to add personal bits of information. 

ii. You can also research their company news such as press releases, product launches, funding announcements, mergers and acquisitions, strategic initiative announcements (in case of public companies)

3. Body content

When considering how to format an email from a sales perspective, the body of your message needs to be crisp, respecting the recipient’s time. Ensuring your email body is concise yet clearly conveying your message takes practice.

We’ve seen that the shorter the email, the better it is optimized for mobile and the higher the reply rate. When we say optimized for mobile, we mean reading an email on your phone without having to scroll.

Our customer campaigns show that the reply rate for emails under 50 words is 75% and reduces to 50% when the word count goes up to 75 words

Here’s an example of a cold email body content used by Jason, one of sales superstars at Plena 👇

how to format an email

The above email talks about the recipient’s email post, adds an observation, and follows up with a question. 

If you have an existing relationship or have had any previous communication with your prospect, start your email with a brief recap and then smoothly transition into the main content of your email. 

Remember, clarity is key—use bullet points or numbered lists to break down complex information, making it digestible for the reader.

Additionally, ensure your paragraphs are short, ideally not more than three sentences each. This email format aids in maintaining the reader's attention, makes your email more skimmable, and reduces cognitive load. 

Avoid pitching your product or service with generic value propositions like:

❌We help companies like you by offering the following services:

❌Guaranteed results on ABC with services starting at [price range]

❌ We've created a comprehensive XYZ that can help you with…

Make the entire email about the reader, not you!

Lastly, if you're attaching files, mention what these are and why they are relevant, directing the recipient on how to proceed. This level of detail ensures nothing gets overlooked.

4. Closing with a call to action

The closing section of your email is your chance to encourage a response or action from the recipient. Be clear about what you're asking for—feedback, a meeting, or a simple reply.

We often encourage our customers to use the closing lines to qualify interest before requesting a meeting. 

Our data shows that 83% of the emails that get ignored by recipients are emails that request for a call, anywhere between 15 minutes to 45 minutes.

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't ever push for meetings—but first, optimize for a response. For example, in the email below, you'll see that Dave validates the recipient's interest and also requests a meeting without being too salesy.

email formatting
Dave’s email got us a 27% reply rate 💥

Remember, the aim is to maintain a professional yet friendly tone throughout your email. Here are some closing lines that we've seen work really well for our customers:

✅ Does it make sense for us to talk?

✅ Do you have any questions?

✅ Are you hiring locally?

✅ Do you have 10 minutes to catch up this week?

After your call to action, include a professional closing, such as "Best regards" or "Sincerely," followed by your name. If your relationship with the recipient is more informal, using "Best" or "Thanks" can also be appropriate. This email format not only wraps up your message nicely but also reinforces the professional tone of your communication.

While all the above four points need a lot of manual research and trial and error—you can leverage an AI to scale your compelling emails and reduce potential errors.

How Plena’s AI creates compelling messages using prospect research

Imagine having a Sales Development Robot that scours the web and gathers real-time information about your prospects—that’s what Plena does for you. Plena’s AI utilizes publicly available information (social media profiles, company websites, and recent online activity) to research prospects and uncover relevant insights.

how to format an email

Using the insights gathered, Plena crafts contextual messages tailored to each recipient. It's like you're getting a first draft which you can improve on, thus empowering you to write smarter.

Common email formatting errors to avoid

While knowing how to format an email effectively is essential, one of the top mistakes is overcomplicating your email structure. 

This includes lengthy paragraphs, excessive use of different fonts or colors, and overcrowding of your message with too much information. These elements can make your email difficult to read and distract from the key messages you wish to convey.

Another common error is neglecting the mobile experience. 

With more people than ever accessing their emails via smartphones, your email format should be mobile-friendly. 

This means avoiding large images or attachments that might not load correctly and ensuring your text is easily readable on smaller screens. By avoiding these common errors, you can ensure your email is effective for all recipients.

Email etiquettes to remember

Beyond the physical format of an email, practicing good email etiquette is essential for effective communication. This includes promptly replying to emails, even if only to acknowledge receipt, and being mindful of the recipient's time by keeping your messages concise.

It also involves being selective with "Reply All" to prevent unnecessarily cluttering inboxes. Additionally, understanding the appropriate use of CC (carbon copy) and BCC (blind carbon copy) can help maintain privacy and relevance in email communications.

Furthermore, it's important to respect the tone and context of your interactions. This means adapting your email format and language based on the recipient and the nature of the message. 

A formal email to a prospective employer will look different from a casual update to a colleague. By practicing good email etiquette, you convey your message effectively and build and maintain positive relationships through your digital communication.


Email communication, though straightforward, requires immense attention to detail and a deep understanding of the recipient. Remember, the goal of your email is to elicit a response. 

Structuring your email with a compelling subject line, relevant opening line, crisp body content, and a direct closing call to action will improve the chances of getting a response and improve the overall effectiveness of your email.

Whether you're reaching out to a potential sales prospect, potential employer, a client, or a colleague, your emails reflect your professionalism and attention to detail. We hope this post serves as a condensed guide on how to format emails, keeping the focus on structure, tone, and clarity to help you improve the outcomes of your email campaigns.

Each day without Plena = Lost Sales

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