Sharpen Email Copy a Bit, Using Numerals the “Wrong” Way

You’ll have to… (gasp) break some rules.

Adelina Vasile


Image by NoName_13 from Pixabay

I’ve got 1 or 2 things to tell you on using numbers in email copy the “wrong” way, to get the “right” results.

Emails are about changing beliefs. But to introduce someone to a new belief, you have to make them read it.

And just because you’re in their inbox, doesn’t mean they’re sold on your message.

In fact, the moment someone opens your email, they give it an aerial view. And search for both a quick takeaway and a reason to walk away.

They want to know what’s this about. So, they skim. But they won’t need more than one reason to hit the ⬅️ icon or, worse, the 🗑 and delete you forever.

Unless you find a way to make them linger.

Numbers can do that. If you use them wrong (that’s not a typo).

2 reasons why numbers sharpen email copy

Great writing fleshes out vivid details down to the bone.

It’s specific and excites the eye. Using numbers is one way to get both effects. Numbers will paint a clear “what’s in it for me” picture in a specific way. And will halt the skimmers on the page.

Because numerals always pop, you’ll want to use them. But in a way that makes them paddle above the text.

That way involves breaking a rule. Or 2. Or several.

Picasso allegedly said, “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.

So, step 1: let’s remind you of the rules you need to break.

4 number rules you should forget

Your English teacher will hate this, so, if she’s around, ask her to look another way.

We’re supposed to:

  1. Always spell out the numbers at the beginning of a sentence: Twenty-four hours later, I still have that throbbing pain.
  2. Spell out the numbers we use casually: I told you a hundred times to stop eating my chocolate stash, dammit!
  3. Spell out numbers one through nine (with a couple of exceptions like addresses, ages…



Adelina Vasile

Mother, educator, journalist, copywriter. I write about the things I need to learn myself.