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Quick reference for writing emails

Looking for tips and guidelines on crafting that perfect email? You've come to the right place.

 

Remember…

  1. Go for the How? to avoid the Huh?

  2. Remember the 3 Rs of image selection: Real, Relevant and Resolution.

  3. Ratio reco: 50% images, 25% copy and 25% white space.


Buttons

  • In general, button copy should be less than 20 characters
  • Pulled out text links are always formatted as follows: blah blah blah >
  • Links/buttons always actionable
  • Links/buttons same if they go to same place
  • Correct: *Email Claudia Knight* for more information. Incorrect: *Click here* to email Claudia Knight. Incorrect: Email Claudia Knight at *cknight@stanford.edu*. This is an accessibility issue.
  • Punctuation after linked text should revert to black. 
  • Use sentence case for button copy (Correct: "Learn more and register" incorrect: "Learn More and Register")


Character counts

When determining character counts, please use "characters including spaces."


Copy resources

Peruse SAA's preferred style guides for sentence structure and grammar guidelines, and check out the other nifty resources for additional help on composing creative, clear emails!

SAA's style guides and references in (most of the time) order of preference

General help


Have a copy-related question? Ping #fran_grammar_hotline on Slack
 

Design resources

Find out more about overall email construction, selecting (or making!) the perfect image and choosing icons.

Overall construction


Images

Image resolution should always be 150dpi to support retina display devices.


Icons

 

Formatting alumni bios

Alumni name followed by list of degrees:
Michael Tate, '89, JD '92 University of Virginia, MBA '00 Harvard

If all degrees were received from Stanford:
Michael Tate, '89, JD '92, MBA '00

If only advanced degrees were received from Stanford:
Michael Tate, '89 University of Virginia, JD '92, MBA '00
Note: In this instance, it is also fine to leave out the undergrad degree entirely.

 

Formatting Google Docs

In order to make copy easy to flow into design, documents should be formatted with the name of the section (or module) clearly labeled before each blurb of copy. Copy that is going to be linked should be underlined and followed by: [LINK: ]. This makes it easier for the program partner or account manager to see where they need to drop in URLs. [LINK: ] should also be placed underneath all button copy. Please do not embed your links (they should be black text, not blue), as un-hyperlinked URLs make it easier for the digital team to build the email. If you are cutting and pasting a link, just single/right click it, select "remove link" and you’re good to go. You should also remove any "www." in links--so "https://stanford.edu" not "https://www.stanford.edu." The "www" has a tendency to result in a broken link. 

Please format your Google Docs in the style of the following examples ( a colored copy is used to indicate to designers edits between revs):

1) Webcast template with character count ranges provided

2) Email sample with character counts provided

3) Email sample/complete, sent to digital

Please feel free to contact marketing with questions.

 

GDPR language

For detailed information on when, why and where you should include GDPR language, view the GDPR FAQs on Box. The FAQs also include sample language that you can use in your communications. 

Sample of approved email language to use if you are mailing to the EU:
If you would prefer not to be contacted about [XYZ], please call [PHONE NUMBER] or email [XYZ@stanford.edu]. The Stanford Alumni Association abides by Stanford University’s privacy policy, which can be found at https://www.stanford.edu/site/privacy/

Your XYZ should mirror (in plain, understandable English) the list/mailing code that we will remove them from in PostGrads. 

Phone number should be a local program number (a staffer or department's phone number) and the email address should be a staffer or department’s work email address.

 

Ghosted preheaders

Ghosted preheaders (preheaders that show up in the preview pane, but not the actual body of the email) should be at least 300 characters. Long preheaders prevent bits of code showing up in the preview pane. The first 1–2 sentences should reflect the primary messaging of the email, the remainder of the copy can be general text around the theme of the email.

Example:

SUBJECT: Find fabulous non-tech interns with BEAM Fellows

GHOSTED PREHEADER: Looking for a great humanities student to fill one of your internship slots? Stanford’s BEAM Fellows program can help you find an undeclared student looking for opportunities to explore different career options. The BEAM Fellows program helps outstanding Stanford students find unique summer internships to help them get started on their professional journeys!

 

Header help

Headers can be crafted without any punctuation or have full stops, except in the following cases:

  1. If a header has other punctuation (e.g. comma, semicolon), there must be a full stop at the end.

  2. If a header is not a complete sentence, it should not have any punctuation including a full stop.

  3. If a header consists of two complete sentences, both lines of copy should have full stops.​

Header punctuation should be consistent throughout the email. If one header requires punctuation and the other(s) looks incorrect with it, all headers should be re-worked until consistency is achieved.

Sentence case is used for headers.

Header character count maximum total: 48.

Header character count maximum to keep header on single line: 28.

 

Promo codes

If your email contains a promo code, it is best practice for that promo code to be included as plain text somewhere in the email so that recipients can copy and paste it. If your promo code is included in a hero image, it would be best to repeat the promo code somewhere in the copy. 

 

Sponsorships

DO NOT say an event is "sponsored by" or "supported by" Stanford University or SAA unless it is a true sponsorship. Suggesting that we have sponsored something (when we have not) jeopardizes our nonprofit status. Instead, say "hosted by" or "presented by."

 

Stanford things

  • Unless "university" is preceded by its name, don't capitalize it! Ever!
  • The word "alumni" is never capitalized unless it is part of a formal title.
  • Cardinal is always capitalized.
  • Do not capitalize "the" in "the Farm."
  • Members get "benefits"; all alumni get "perks."
  • "Stanford pride" suggests a reference to the campus organization.
  • Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center upon first reference (whenever possible), Arrillaga Alumni Center or Stanford Alumni Center for subsequent references—never "Alumni Center" unless referring to a generic alumni center.
  • For more, check out the A-Z copy style guide.

 

Voice

SAA voice is fresh and conversational--but a conversation you would have with a colleague, not your best pal.

 

Let's do this

Ready to request an email? Use our Email Request Form.