You have some exciting news to share with your subscribers and you can’t wait to hit the send button. Wait! Take a minute to go through this (technical) checklist. You might have missed something…

Check your spelling (and Grammar)

With every browser now offering spellchecking, it feels impossible to miss a typo. Well, it still happens and if it’s not a typo, it’s a grammar mistake.

Tools like Grammarly can help you check on your copy before you send it.

Write a few subject lines; pick the best one

Have you spent enough time writing your subject line? Did you write a few and picked the best one? Your open rate depends on it!

Length wise, some sources recommend 28-39 characters max and that feels correct.

If you’re using emojis (it’s fairly well supported by email clients) make sure that your subject line makes sense if the emoji does not display correctly. I find it safe to insert the emojis at the beginning or the end of the subject line.

Use a preheader

I’m sure you receive 5 emails like this a day: There’s a sender name, a subject line, and… View this email in your browser.

Email Checklist: No preheader on iPhone

Not very exciting, right?

Making the best first impression right inside your subscribers’ inbox means a greater open rate. And that’s what you want because you worked a lot on that email.

It’s time to work on your preheader! The preheader is the text displayed in the email preview, before anything else, and that can convince your subscribers to open your email.

In Gmail, the same email with a preheader would look something like this:

Preheader in Gmail: Click on the image to enlarge.

Preheader in Gmail: Click on the image to enlarge.

Most Email Marketing Services (EMS) provide a field, either in the template or the email settings, to fill your preheader.

Note that, depending on the email client, you have a lot more room in a preheader than a subject line (between 35 and 140 characters; see this great Litmus article on preheaders).

Try not to repeat anything from your subject line in the preheader, but use it instead to reinforce it or play off it.

Check all your links

Yes, all of them.

The easy way to do this is to send yourself a test email and click every link. If you use MailChimp (hint: you should), then use the link checker.

By the way, if your email marketing service does not automatically integrate with Google Analytics, UTM tag your URLs. It’s really easy and powerful.

Test on multiple browsers, clients, and devices

What looks great on AOL sometimes break on Outlook, and what looks great on Apple Mail will look crappy on Gmail for Android. That’s the curse of email marketers.

The best way to avoid bad surprises it to test, again and again, on multiple browsers, clients, and devices.

You can do this yourself by sending test messages to all the devices that you (and your friends?) own. See how it looks and debug accordingly.

An old I CARE IF YOU LISTEN newsletter tested on Litmus.

An old I CARE IF YOU LISTEN newsletter tested on Litmus.

Here are two tools I use to preview emails: Litmus and Email on Acid. They’re both really solid but come with a price tag. MailChimp started rolling out Inbox Previews (powered by Litmus) for paid customers. I’ve tried and it works really well, too.

If you can’t budget an email testing tool, look at your stats, see what the top three email clients are, and optimize for them.

Add an alternate text for all images

In HTML, the alt is the image attribute that specifies an alternate text for an image when it cannot be displayed. You’ve see it on websites, I’m sure:


Well, it’s super important in HTML emails because some clients block images by default. Without an alt tag, a subscriber will see a bunch of empty rectangles and will most likely trash your message.

Pro tip 1: Alt attributes can be styled, too. See another great Litmus article on this topic.

Pro tip 2: If you’re wondering if your image really needs alt, you shouldn’t be using an image in the first place (example: super “cool” looking bullet, or using images for buttons).

Check your personalization defaults

This is something you won’t have to do every time you send an email but when you set up your list defaults.

If you are only requiring an email address to subscribe to your list, you are most likely missing a first name, a last name, etc.

According to Experian, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. But what should you do if you can’t personalize? Use friendly defaults. You can’t say Hi Bob? What about Hi friend, or Hi there?

It feels a bit silly but it’s always better than: Hi firstname! I’ve seen it… So make sure you have some good defaults in place before you start personalizing your emails.

Include a postal address

That one feels weird, right? Why should I give my postal address in a newsletter?

Because it’s the law. If you use email in your business, you must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

P.O. Boxes are fine.

Take a look at this (surprisingly short) CAN-SPAM Act compliance guide for business.

Include an unsubscribe link

Why? You’ve guessed it: it’s the law. The CAN-SPAM Act requires an unsubscribe link that is clearly labeled as such, and easy to find. See the link above for a refresher on the Act.


What about you?

Do you have your own checklist? Do you have email horror stories—stuff you’ve sent and regretted immediately? If your share an email horror story with me on Twitter, I’ll share one with you ;)

About Thomas Deneuville

Thomas lives in Freeville, NY with his wife and two sons, where he reads, codes, and plays the bagpipe.