Writing Good Email Subject Lines. Get your Email opened.

This post extends the 6 Ways to Get Your Email Ignored where I talked about 6 ways to increase the possibility that the reader acts upon your email.

Content does not matter if the reader is not opening your emails.

Vickram Ahuja commented on that post “How do you ensure your email gets READ” , highlighting the importance of an appropriate “subject” for your email. Would be interested to hear your thoughts around do’s and don’ts of the “subject” in the context of email communication and how a strong subject can convey your intention before your intended receiver even opens the email.

I receive too much email to read it all.  So do you.  The average business user in a 1,000 user organisation receives 110 emails per day and sends 36 emails (source).  I scan and delete first before beginning to process my email inbox.  This is an effective inbox management process that more and more people are using.  You need to write emails that pass this first filter.

Shark
Gratuitous shark picture. Avoid your email ending up in this guy’s gut.

What am I looking for as I scan email in delete mode?  If I know your name, then you are safe.  If it looks like a newsletter and I am busy, delete.  If it appears vague and rambling, I delete.  If it appears clear and to be something I am interested in (great books, new business, thank you’s, expansion of ideas I have blogged) then you are safe.

What do you write in Good Email Subject lines?

A good email subject is a summary of the key message of the email that serves the reader.

Sorry if you were looking for magic or rocket science.  Nothing here.  Simple.  KISS.  But make sure it is a good summary for the reader, not for you the writer.


What is a Poor Email Subject line?

A poor email subject is pretty much anything else.  Some poor email subjects are:

  • “hey”
  • “open this”
  • “your file”
  • “message from Conor”
  • “coffee”
  • “meeting with Conor” [where I am Conor and I am the receiver…  this is clearly written by somebody not thinking from the reader’s point of view]
On specific email types:
  1. Don’t risk being Spam: There are a number of ways to guarantee that most spam filters move you to the spam folder.  Starting the subject with “Free!” is pretty much guaranteed to go spam. Don’t write your subject lines like advertisements.   Avoid words like “exclusive”, “free”, “opportunity”, “limited time”, “hurry” and “only”.  The word “you” is a spam-predictor in subject lines.  Nobody really uses the word “you” in e-mails to friends; lots of spammers use it.
  2. Invitations: If you invite me to a conference, use “Invitation: Persuasive Communication Conference, Barcelona Aug 14-16” instead of a plain “Persuasive Communication Conference”.
  3. Newsletters: Mailchimp has a good post on writing effective newsletter subject lines.
Any other thoughts on good email subject lines?  How do you process your inbox?  Do you delete emails before opening?  What criteria do you use?  I love comments here on the blog.

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