Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails: 6 Lessons to Make Them Exciting

Legal speak isn’t the most exciting content, but sometimes terms of service and privacy policy emails are necessary. When brands are transparent and communicative, they reap the benefits of customer loyalty and trust. And—most importantly—they protect themselves legally.

Over the past few months, we’ve received a slew of TOS and privacy policy update emails from different businesses. So, we got curious: Do all these emails look the same? (No.) Are some easier to read than others? (Yes.) Could there be smart design tips to offer? (Yes!) We took a look at fifteen “legalese” emails and created a list of important design tip lessons.

Lesson 1: Tell it like it is in the subject line

When it comes to the subject line, you don’t need to get cheeky. Service terms and privacy policies are pretty serious issues, and it’s important your subscribers know what you’re sending them. The last thing you want to do is confuse your audience. Here’s a sample of the subject lines we’ve seen:

  • Changes to our Terms of Use and Cookie Policy
  • Important Updates to Meetup’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • Important Updates to Etsy’s Terms and Policies
  • Update to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • Updates to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • Notice of Update to Medium’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • Notice of Update to Hulu’s Terms and Privacy Policy
  • We’re updating our Terms of Service
  • We’re updating our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • We’re updating our Terms of Service, Payments Terms of Service, and Privacy Policy

Lesson 2: Personalization gets attention

Many legal emails we received included a personalized introduction. In other words, the emails were addressed to recipients by name using a firstname merge field. Here’s an example from OpenTable:

opentable Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Personalization makes sense for these letter-style memos that are dense with text. The goal is to get users to actually read your message, and it helps increase engagement when you call them by name. Here’s another example from Uber:

uber Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

LinkedIn takes personalization one step further by also including the recipient’s profile picture in the header. It’s a visual cue that essentially says “This email is about me” or “This email is for me.”

LinkedIn Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails


Lesson 3: Most brands either summarize or include information in the email itself

Instead of leaving your subscribers to click a link or CTA button to see updates, most brands offer a rundown of significant changes within the email itself. It’s wise to err on the side of transparency. The goal is to make sure your clients are informed about your updates, so presenting the information right away is effective. Here’s an example of a summary email from DropBox:

Dropbox Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Slack also included a summary portion of its email with just a few bullet points.

Slack Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Still, there are exceptions. Seamless sent a short, easy-to-read message with links to click on (Terms of Use and/or Summary of Changes) for more information.

Seamless Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Similarly, Twitter used its notification email to inform its users of updates, but the details of the updates themselves were not in the email.

Twitter Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails


Lesson 4: Skip navigation menus, secondary calls to action, or any other marketing material

Brands don’t muddle terms of service and privacy policy emails with off-topic content. Navigation menus? Nope. Social media CTAs? Nope. Other updates, calls to action, or upsell content? Nope. With legal notifications like these, it’s imperative to be straightforward. Take this email from Medium, for example. The first sentence gets right to the punch, and there is simply no clutter or extraneous content in the header or footer—or anywhere.

Medium Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

The same goes for this email from MailChimp:

MailChimp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails


Lesson 5: Improve legibility with text formatting best practices

As with any text-heavy email, you can improve legibility by following best practices for text formatting. Depending on your message, this probably includes header formatting, ample padding, proper line spacing, text styling (bold or italics), bullets or indentations, and color. Typeform sent one of the more elegantly formatted emails, using headers and questions to organize text.

Typeform Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Bulleted lists can also help your subscribers scan content, and the linked text is easy to spot. Be sure to check out our post on how to format text-heavy emails for easy reading.

Similarly, Meetup used headers and bullets for simple scanning. And, its red CTA buttons are easy to spot.

Meetup Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Skype used a particularly large font in its update email, along with checkmarks instead of bullet points.

Skype Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails


Lesson 6: Use an HTML background color to make your content pop

Using background colors won’t just add visual interest to your message; they can help improve legibility and organize your content better. Hulu’s terms of use update email was one of most colorful that we received. The email also used a huge personalized header, easy-to-read text, and scannable bulleted lists.

Hulu Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Indiegogo used a background color in a different way—to create a “boxed” email effect. Using an HTML color like gray around the body content puts emphasis on the text, potentially improving focus and legibility.

Indiegogo Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails

Etsy uses the same approach by showing that the background color doesn’t have to be gray; it can be a muted brand color instead.

Etsy Terms of Service and Privacy Policy Emails


Wrap-up: Design tips for terms of service and privacy policy emails

Make your legal notification emails look clean, simple, and well-designed. Follow these tips from other brands:

  1. Start with transparency in the subject line. Indicate exactly what the email contains.
  2. Personalize your message with names. Grab attention right away. Also, consider using a header style.
  3. Include a summary of the important info within the email. Don’t assume subscribers will click to your site.
  4. Don’t add any secondary content in legal notification emails. Keep them clean and clutter-free.
  5. Use formatting to improve legibility. These can be text styling, bullets, and colorful links.
  6. Incorporate a background color. Keep in mind of your overall layout and heading.

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