The anatomy of an email, that everyone wants to read

Sep 21, 2020

There are so many emails dropping into our inbox each day (and plenty that don’t even make it that far), so how do we decide which ones we open? Which ones deserve a big chunk of our valuable time, and which go straight in the bin?

Well, the following article is chock-full of tips and tricks into best email design practices—the essential areas that you must get right, and how.

Anatomy of an email

There are 3 main sections that add up to the anatomy of an email. Getting each area right is like following a guide to beat a video game; it’s a linear process, and if you get anyone part wrong, then chances are, you’ll fail to get to the next level.

Here’s the typical email structure:

  • Message Header
  • Email Body
  • Footer/ Email Signature

Or, as we prefer to label the same sections:

  • Convincing your customer to open your email
  • Convincing your customer they need your product/service
  • Convincing your customer to make a purchase/get in touch/stay in touch/say goodbye

Follow our email design mantra, and you won’t go far wrong: Get them opened, get them interested, and get them clicking.
If you concentrate on each of these critical areas, your emails stand the best chance of doing the job they were created for.

So, with no further ado, let’s get stuck into those crucial factors that lead to sales and conversions—welcome to Bouncer’s all-in ‘How to design an email’ complete guide.

The header or ‘Convince your customer to open your email’

Subject line

This is your best chance to convince your email clients to open your message. So, your subject line has to be personal, engaging, relevant, concise, and have a sense of urgency. It should let them know that you’ve got something that they want or need.

Now, getting all the elements into around 7 words, or less than 130 characters, is where the real creativity comes in.

What you must do:

  • Use energetic and exciting copy – terms like discover, earn, and grow, suggest success and create intrigue and desire.
  • Personalize – If you can squeeze it in (and you should), personalizing a great subject line has shown to increase the chances of recipients opening your email messages.

What you mustn’t do:

  • Don’t use spammy words, phrases, etc. – Anything the spam spotters don’t like will bump up your chances of not even making it into the inbox. Don’t use words like free, win, coupon, or urgent and try to use a friendly tone.
  • Don’t use bad grammar or excessive punctuation (especially exclamation points). And don’t write copy that doesn’t make sense just to try and stay under the recommended 7 word, or 130-character, limit.

Pre header

The pre-header—or snippet—is the first few words of opening line of your message in the email body section. Too many senders waste this opportunity with an unsubscribe link or legal info.

Creative design can help to disguise those few words at the top of your email so that they don’t impact the attractive visual of your email body. It’s an excellent opportunity to back up your subject line, and make another strong point that the recipient really needs to open the email and find out more.

Send from name

This is all about building trust. Your ‘from’ name should appear to be from a person, and you must include your brand. It’s an absolute necessity that your recipient knows exactly who’s sending them an email at first glance.

If the name field shows Sue Jones from Business Name, then you’ll feel as though you’re connecting with a person from a company you recognize—instead of a stranger or a cog in any old corporate machine.

Think about who, ultimately, receives the replies and consider sending your emails from them. They’re going to be the ones responding to enquiries after all.

Some businesses have found that sending from the CEO gets the best response; for others, it’s the sales or leads team members. It’s whatever works for you. Just make sure that it works.

Reply-to address

Robotic sounding noreply@… or do-not-reply@… Addresses make recipients feel like part of a process instead of being part of a relationship. Consider both parts of an email address: how does sound compared to admin@… or sales@…?

Another thing about your reply-to address, make sure your recipients can reply to them, and if they do reply, that they’ll get a response. With high volume campaigns, it’s easy for replies to get lost, and with them, the opportunities they’d bring.

The body or ‘Convince your customer they need your product/service’

Keep everything clean and clear

Don’t confuse your customers. Entertain them, absolutely, but don’t overload them, and keep your message ultra-clear.

What are you trying to achieve by sending them this email? Make sure you concentrate on that and don’t dilute your message, trying to cram too many other less essential items in.

Be sure to optimize for desktop and mobile device, obviously, let each section of your message breathe, and use images to break up your copy and highlight a point—just don’t overdo it.

Personalization makes prizes

Even though we all understand that the email wasn’t created purely for us but for thousands of recipients on a list, psychologically, we still react to personalized emails rather than cold emails.

Don’t ask me to explain how the human subconscious works—just accept that including a recipient’s name will boost the reader’s attention and your chances of a response.

Turn your call to action into a magnet

Make the call to action impossible to miss. If you can make it feel unthinkable to not click on it, then your job here is done. It’s the most important part of completing your email to conversion journey. Whatever you do, don’t hide it in the shadows.

That doesn’t just mean making it huge and in the brightest colour in your palette, but the lure of the product, how it will improve your customers’ lifestyles—that’s what makes your product—and your call to action—irresistible.

The footer, or ‘Convince your customer to make a purchase/get in touch/stay in touch/say goodbye’

Contact information

Not only do you need all of your traditional contact details here and the most important information to make getting in touch with the right department as easy as possible, but you should also include all of your business’s social media points.

Social media buttons create a high volume of clicks as well as promote another marketing stream.

Subscription information

Your recipients will appreciate the opportunity to choose how many messages they get each week. You don’t want to annoy them—so don’t.

Try not to think of it as missing out on opportunities, by reducing the amount of marketing you send to them, but building a better relationship.

Relationships lead to trust, to interest, and ultimately to sales.


We keep highlighting the importance of a clean email list, how the unsubscribe link is your friend and not your enemy.

It’s far better to lose contact in a healthy way, instead of them regularly sending you to their junk folder, creating complaints, and damaging your email reputation.

The importance of the ‘to’ field

This guide into the anatomy of an email message, if you use it as a checklist, should help you create the ultimate tool for email opens, interactions, and conversions. But before we sign off, we want to add how important the ‘to’ field is for your email campaigns.

Everything we’ve spoken about won’t matter in the slightest if your emails don’t reach your recipient’s inboxes. And that’s where having clean email lists that operate on best list-hygiene practices is a must.


What is the importance of the email subject in the anatomy of an email?

The email subject is a crucial element in the anatomy of an email. It’s the first thing that the recipient sees and can significantly influence whether or not the email is opened. An effective email subject should be concise, relevant, and engaging, ideally within 40-50 characters. It should give the recipient a clear idea of what the email is about, enticing them to read further.

How does the pre-header contribute to a high-performing email?

The pre-header is an essential piece of real estate in an email. It’s the text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. Often overlooked, a well-crafted pre-header can boost the open rate of your emails. It provides additional insight into the email’s content, acting as a ‘second subject line’ and further enticing the recipient to open the email.

What role does the body content play in the perfect email design?

The body content is the main part of the email and carries the central theme of your message. It should be relevant and provide value to the recipient. The use of dynamic content, such as personalized greetings or tailored recommendations, can make the email more engaging. The body content should also be well-structured and easy to read, with clear headings, short paragraphs, and bullet points where appropriate.

How do hero images enhance the effectiveness of an email newsletter?

Hero images are large, eye-catching images used at the top of an email newsletter. They can significantly enhance the visual appeal of your email and grab the recipient’s attention. A well-chosen hero image can convey the main message of your email at a glance, making the recipient more likely to engage with the rest of the content.

Why is responsive design important for mobile email?

With a growing number of people checking their emails on mobile devices, responsive design has become a key element in the anatomy of an email. A responsive design ensures that your email looks and functions well on any device, whether it’s a desktop computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. This enhances the user experience, making it more likely that the recipient will engage with your email.

How can social buttons contribute to the success of a promotional email?

Social buttons, such as links to your company’s social media profiles or share buttons for the email content, can significantly enhance the effectiveness of a promotional email. They provide an easy way for recipients to connect with your brand on different platforms or share your content with their own networks. This can increase your reach and visibility, potentially leading to more engagement and conversions.




Verify email addresses without
sending email


Bouncer – your list cleaning tool

Make sure every email that makes it into your ‘to’ field is valid, healthy, and is someone who is ready to engage and wants to hear your news.

Using a program to verify email addresses, like Bouncer, will make sure you stand the strongest chance of maximizing your deliverability.

And with the perfect email landing in those inboxes, well, just watch the sales flood in.

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