So many times we receive emails with very poor subject lines, the title of an email. The email content can be hugely important, and have taken hours to craft, but the subject line is just a single word – “website”.

Poor subject lines are letting people down in making sure that their emails are read. You all know how many emails you get and some stand out more than other. Usually from nothing more than just reading the subject line.

So what can you do to make sure that your emails are read and not ignored?

An email subject like the headline above can irresistibly pull readers into opening an email and reading its every stimulating word. Often though, it will not — so how do you make sure that even just a simple email gets through the masses of other emails in your recipients box.

Your email’s subject line is, next to your name is the first thing the recipient sees.

It is massively important.

What NOT to do

Stop sending emails with single word subject lines, they are meaningless.

We said above that we get lots of emails with the subject line “website”, well we do. After all we are website designers so why wouldn’t we, but imagine if we get 10 emails all with the subject “website” (and oh yes it does happen) – it’s all meaningless to us. 99% of the emails we receive are about websites because that’s what we spend all day doing, so whilst you know it’s your website and you have just one, we deal with hundreds of websites, so imagine how meaningless it is to us.

How about a better email subject line like “Fred’s Outdoor Tent Hire Website – Change of phone number needed”

We know who it’s from, what it’s about and have a vague idea what we might need to do without even opening the email. It sounds fairly important to us, as changing a company phone number affects the business. So we are likely to respond to this fairly swiftly because we can see that it’s urgent and important. We can also see that it’s probably only a five minute job, so can get on with it quite quickly and respond to our customer fast.

If they’d sent exactly the same email with a subject line like “website update”, it would just blend into the raft of other emails we get every day…

Think About your Recipient

Put yourself in the chair of the recipient and think about how they will interpret the subject line that you have written.

  • Will it mean something to them?
  • Does it convey the general topic of the rest of the email?
  • Does it have the right sense of urgency?
  • Does it explain the email succinctly?

If it doesn’t, rewrite it.

Sometimes you might not know the complete subject line until you’ve finished the entire email or the gist of the email may change as you compose it.

So before you send the email, proof read it all and don’t forget to revisit the subject line.

Think about replying as well

When you reply to an email it’s so easy to just write your reply and hit send. Completely ignoring the poor subject line and letting it get copied automatically for you.

Most email clients will allow you to change the subject line of a replied to or forwarded email.

So before you start to compose your comments, think “does this subject line work any more?”

If it needs changing  – change it…

Words not to use

Stop using words like URGENT, IMPORTANT and NOW.

Of course you want it doing now and it’s important otherwise you wouldn’t have sent the email in the first place.

However if you use this too often and it really isn’t that urgent or important, next time your reader will be more likely to ignore it.

Besides, if it’s that urgent or important, pick up the phone instead.

In Conclusion

We all send so many emails every day, that’s it’s very easy to just type and hit send almost without thinking.

Remember that emails ARE NOT A CONVERSATION, they are a one-way delivery of information and need to be treated as such.

Make the subject line stand out and be informative and you’ll find that your emails stand out in your recipients inbox and get read faster.