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Emailing Effectively

Subject Lines That Get Your Email Opened
(part 2)


Why don’t people open your emails? Primarily, it’s because they don’t see why they should.  And why do they not see why they should open your email? Because you have not shown them why. 
When deciding whether to open emails, readers look first at the sender. Everyone has a small group of people in their lives whose emails they will always open, no matter how stupid the subject line is. But that leaves a huge number of emails hanging in the balance. How do readers decide whether to open emails? Often, it is on the basis of the subject line.
This month’s Writamin continues last month’s list of the first five tips for writing smarter subject lines.

6.         Proofread carefully.

The subject line is the first thing your readers see: Don’t mess it up. Spell-check does not work in subject lines, which makes it all the more crucial to check it slowly and carefully yourself. If you stay up until 2:00 a.m. working on an important document and then send the client an email with the subject line, “Please sing the atached document,” the client will doubt the accuracy of all your work. Stop, take a breath, and read every subject line slowly. You do not have room for error.

7.         Use logical keywords for search and filtering.

Most people file or archive their emails. When they want to determine the history of a matter or transaction, they will start by searching subject lines for relevant key words. If the subject lines relied on stale terms such as “Meeting followup” or “Touching base”,  the searcher is lost.
Professional service firms should include the client’s name, the matter in question, and the essential message in the subject line. For example, a law firm could write, “Smith Company Deposition Subpoena for review” instead of “See attached document”.  All writers should include enough relevant key words in the subject line to make the email distinct from the other hundreds of emails the reader is receiving.

8.        Use fewer than 50 characters (6 to 8 words).

Keep your subject line long enough to hook your reader’s attention, but short enough that it does not get cut off on mobile devices.

9.        Tell whether you need action or a response.

Do you always read to the end of every email? Right. Your reader doesn’t always read to the end, either. If your email contains a request for action or a response, and the request does not appear in the first two lines of the email, the reader might never see the request.  Give the reader a heads-up that the message contains a request. He or she will pay closer attention to the whole message.

10.       State your deadline.

If you have a deadline, let your reader know it. Even if you do not have a fixed deadline but you want to put some urgency into your message, include a deadline in the subject line. For example, you could write, “Please review attached document by Friday.”

The subject line is your best shot at getting the reader to open your email.Use it to answer your reader's inner question, "What's in it for me?"  Be concise, correct, and catchy. Your reader will reward you the magical click that says, "I got the message."

To see the first five subject line tips, go to Subject Lines That Get Your Emails Opened, part 1.
The Worktalk Effective Email program covers all ten tips on subject lines, plus nine other key principles for using email effectively. For more information, contact Liz Danziger at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

© Elizabeth Danziger 2015  

Read Writamins on these topics:

Emailing Effectively

Writing Well

Choosing the Right Word

Thoughts on Writing

Writing Within Organizations

Online Email Course Still Available
Email is fast becoming the medium of choice for business communications. Make sure that you are using it optimally. Sign up for the Ten Principles of Smart Email free online course at www.worktalk.com.

Why choose WorkTalk trainings?

  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
  • Customized. +

    Every Worktalk training is customized to the client's needs. We meet with you, analyze writing samples from your organization, and customize our training to target the specific challenges that employees in your organization face.
  • Energetic and entertaining. +

    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
  • Proven results. +

    In trainings all over the country, Ms. Danziger has enabled participants to streamline their organizing process, eliminate persistent errors, and drastically cut their revision time. Clients spend less time on key communications while producing better relationships and results. Sales people get more positive responses from prospects.
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