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Best Practices for Email Subject Lines

For many of us, E-mail has become a default way of communicating at work because of its convenience and accessibility. However, with time, there has been a significant evolution in e-mail behaviour. No longer are salutations like “Dear” used, and the custom of treating an e-mail as a digital version of a snail mail letter has long been tossed into the ocean!

Nowadays, most of the work e-mails are more like post-it notes than lengthy missives. In fact, the first messages sent from computer to computer on the ARPANET in the 1970s (before the internet became as we know it today), were a bunch of practical updates from colleague to colleague, rather than perfectly worded letters.

But we are not here to talk about how to write an e-mail in its entirety, which will be discussed in another article. Today we are going to talk about (drumroll!) “The importance of effective email subject lines”.

Effective Subject Lines for Emails

The famous Chinese Canadian business magnet, Dan Lok in one of his videos highlighted the importance of an ‘envelope’. He said that the very existence of an envelope is for someone to open it and look inside.

Similarly, the only purpose of the subject line of any e-mail is to get people to open and look inside!

So here are a few takeaways to not have your email subject find their way into either the trash can or spam folder:

  1. Do not make the sale on the subject line itself – 

Take a deep breath and take this in for a moment. Remember, the email subject lines itself is not designed to make the sale. The purpose of the email is to get customers to click on the link that takes them to the offer.

  1. Avoid painfully long subject lines –

We are all striding towards a world that will soon be free of buffering, physically, metaphorically, and technologically. In such a world, everyone is expecting you to get to the point (unless you’re writing an apology email to your creditor citing reasons for missing this month’s payment!).

Something intimate always does the trick.

For example, “Hey! 😊 or “Missed you, how’s Friday?”

  1. Email Subject lines don’t always need to be catchy or intimate 

If you are a banker and need to inform your colleagues, superiors, and subordinates about an urgent meeting tomorrow, you write just that in the subject line.

E.g., “Meeting tomorrow, please respond!” (Response assured!)

Or if you want to welcome a bunch of new joiners to the organisation, just welcome them.

E.g., “Welcome to ABC company”

  1. Marketing e-mails 

Marketing mass emails are perhaps one of the trickiest and getting the attention of your viewer without having it sent to the spam folder, is extremely important. Dan Lok (Canadian Chinese business magnet) puts across a brilliant strategy that can be used to gain attention – begin the subject line with “The real secret to ______”.

Everybody likes secrets because human beings are inherently nosy, and if someone has something that we want, we want to learn about their “secret”. This subject line plays around that psychology.

  1. Being concise doesn’t mean being rude 

The famous American writer Merlin Mann said, “Assume that everyone you’re communicating with is smarter than you and cares more than you and is busier than you.”

Brilliant advice, so you do not waste time asking about the health of your recipients. However, that does not mean you become too concise and begin to email one-word subject lines.

There are certain points when brevity transforms into rudeness.

E.g., Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is well known for forwarding messages from customers to his employees with just one character (not even a word) – “?” (Yes, just a question mark!).

Please bear in mind that even as a superior you are never too busy to type a proper email subject line.

E.g., “Please look into this”, “Please assist”, “Kindly advise”.

So next time when you e-mail, remember, you have to make them open that envelope.

Happy emailing!

Book your demo session with PracUp and upskill your communication skills. PracUp provides practice sessions with industry experts to make you ready to overcome any situation. 

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PracUp Team


Group of talented individuals, passionate to make a difference

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