While some email marketers will insist that the only type of email copy that needs work is the one that scores abysmally on their A/B Split Tests, being sensitive to these five warning signs will help you produce clear and effective emails:

1. It was written by an illiterate kindergardener

It never fails to amaze just how many emails from some of the biggest brands in the country (who you would figure should know better) are absolutely riddled with the kind of spelling and grammar mistakes that no one over the age of seven should ever commit. Never rely on a spell checker as any automated system will fail to recognize a myriad of errors that will negatively impact your brand’s image in the eyes of your email recipients. There is absolutely never any excuse to not have every single line in your emails checked word by word by a professional proof-reader, and thoroughly vetted to ensure that what you are stating is actually correct and accurate.

2. It’s more confusing than the ending of Inception

If you have to refer to psychological studies about the meanings of dreams in order to understand what happened in your movie or in your latest email then you should be ripe for a career change, preferably one that involves French fries and 99 cent specials. The kind of thoughts you should be provoking in your emails are positive, reaction-based, and linear, not obtuse, allegorical, and confusing. Email marketing is a very direct, straight to the point, clear communication channel so don’t try to shoe-horn obscure metaphors or touchy-feely experiential aspects into it. Tell your customer clearly and vividly what you’re offering and what the value is to them while leaving the fantastical writing to overpaid Hollywood hacks.

3. You’re writing novels, not emails

Classic French author Marcel Proust filled 4,211 pages with his novel In Search Of Lost Time, and if you want to avoid your own In Search Of A New Job, you should never try to emulate his herculean efforts in your emails. Your customers’ attention span is not too different from that of an ADHD five year old child, so it pays dividends to get to the point quickly and accurately. Emails are never the place to luxuriate in extensive details or overly flowery language, as they should be stripped down to the bone and cut right to the crux of your offer.

4. You need a Ph.D. to figure out your emails

Go through every single word of your emails and engage in a jargon search and destroy mission. Even if you’re marketing strictly special interest goods or services, you should still ensure that your emails are written in such a way that the lay person would easily be able to understand. Not only should technical jargon be eschewed to the extreme, but also the convolutions of modern business speak. Therefore if you find that your emails contain terms such as Aggregator, DevOps, Granularity, and Skeuomorphic, or the cheesy phrases Drink The Kool Aid, Low Hanging Fruit, Sea Change, and Push The Envelope, then it’s high time that you learned how to write in a way that mere mortals can actually read!

5. Your humor is patently offensive

Everyone insists that you should display a sense of humor in your email copy but at the same time, all those same people will likely be offended by something that you write under the guise of that same humor. You don’t have to be an email guru to figure out that you should never ever verge into the fields of race, sex, or faith in your online marketing but even silly little phrases like “many ways to skin a cat” can infuriate pet lovers, and “where’s the beef” can offend vegetarians. Yes, it may seem in this Politically Correct age that no matter what you write you’re going to offend someone somewhere, but at least examine the ramifications of your words to make sure that you don’t craft any overtly obvious offensive humor.

If your emails can avoid these five warning signs, you’re on the right track!