I recently got a slew of really bad (and I do mean baaaaaaad) email marketing messages in my inbox, so I knew I had to write about this topic. For the sake of the misguided, I won’t post any photos that would embarrass them; I’ll only pass on lessons you can learn from these sad, sad inbox disasters.

1. Comic Sans.

Seriously, are people still using this font? It should be banned from use for anything other than…well, gosh, I can’t even think of one reason to use it. I used to think a 3-year-old’s birthday party invitation was fair game, but there are so many other great kid-like fonts available now, that even that doesn’t warrant use of the worst font ever.

2. Distorted photos.

You are at risk of making this unfortunate mistake if you are using an email template that uses a placeholder image with both a set width and height (a really good template will only set one or the other, and will make automatic adjustments for you in order to keep the aspect ratio of the original image). When you upload a photo to replace the placeholder image, unless it has the exact same dimensions as the placeholder, you are going to end up with a distorted image. A distorted image will ruin the professional look of your entire email, provided you haven’t already destroyed it with Comic Sans.

3. Putting all the text in an image.

I’ve already written an entire blog post dedicated to the text-as-image topic. But it bears repeating. If your readers have images turned off (i.e. they have to click the show-images button in their email client), they will not see any information contained in the images of your email. If your images are just pretty photos that complement the text in your email, this isn’t a problem. But if you have NO text in your email, and all the details of your event/promotion/life story are contained in the image itself, this email will get trashed before you can say “But at least I didn’t use Comic Sans.”

4. Too much content.

This is an email, not a novel. What kinds of emails do you like to read? Ones that are quick, to the point, and visually appealing? Or ones that overwhelm you, make you squint and back away from the monitor, and have you scrolling for 20 minutes? Don’t smother your readers with everything you think MIGHT be of interest to them. Instead, give them highlights of the most important items, with links to read more about each, usually on your website. This strategy will not only produce increased web traffic, but also, through your email marketing platform, you should be able to see exactly who on your email list clicked which links, and then you can target your lists further in the future. Bottom line: use bullet points and subheads to separate sections of text and make the entire email more readable.

5. Mixing styles.

This one goes hand-in-hand with its good buddy shown above, Too Much Content. If you send one email that includes information about your upcoming book deal, your company’s latest project, your advice on New Year’s resolutions, and news that your dog died, what exactly would that look like? Upbeat? Self-promoting? Holiday-inspired? Somber? If your content is all over the place, the tone of the email will be as well. Your email should flow together and act as one connected composition.

6. Unnecessary quotations.

“This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.” Waaiiit, was that a trick? Why, yes, yes it was. Why in the world did I just quote the first sentence of this paragraph? Because I spoke those words? Well, that is true. But if I were to use the quotations to serve that purpose, then I should have attributed the quote with my name. Since this entire blog post is clearly written by me, let’s just save ourselves the trouble, and leave off the quotations.

In addition to direct quotes that someone said, you may also be tempted to use quotations to draw attention to the title of your event, promotion, or sale. Please don’t. “Neighborhood Carnival,” “Buy one, get one free,” and “End of year sale” are all examples where the quotations don’t add anything except for unnecessary punctuation and confusion. Is it really a carnival? Or are you using quotes like air quotes to insinuate that it’s sort of like a carnival, but really something else?

Tag lines are yet another culprit. I can’t tell you how many tag lines I see with quotes around them on company trucks, websites, and, of course, emails, too. They are superfluous, and worse yet, incorrect.

7. Underlined text.

Thanks to some sophisticated styling, many websites and emails don’t necessarily use the underline feature to indicate that text is a link. However, due to years of surfing the internet, most people have been trained to see underlined text and assume it’s a link. Here’s an example. Don’t act like you didn’t just try to click that.