Tips & Tricks: Writing Email Subject Lines

Missy Hildebrand | October 12, 2015 Comments
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As someone who does a lot of writing and brainstorming in the marketing world, it’s inevitable to be faced with the frustrating phenomena known as writers’ block. Your prose has turned to mush, you don’t have a creative bone left in your body, and you want to throw in the towel. This can be especially true if you’re faced with the task of creating countless new subject lines for your email marketing efforts. Out of all the billions of emails that are sent daily, how can you make sure that yours stands out?

We did some research to find the best tips for crafting the perfect email subject lines, and consolidated them into this helpful guide.

How to write an excellent email subject line:

1. Write the subject line first. 

For many professionals, the subject line is an afterthought that you add just before you hit send. But from our experience, it can be the most important part of the email. Write the subject line first, so that it sets the tone and you don't forget.

2. The KISS method: Keep It Short and Simple. 

Most inboxes reveal around 60 characters of the email’s subject line, while mobile only shows 25 to 30. Get right to the point in about six to eight words. 

If you're sending a marketing email it should be focused on one action, which should be communicated in the subject line. Offer one takeaway, indicate how the reader can make use of it, and specify how you will deliver it. 

3. The most important words come first. 

A large majority of emails are read on mobile phones these days.  Since only a small amount of the subject line is visible on these devices, it’s critical to put the most important information at the beginning. Otherwise, compelling details could get cut off. With such precious space, don't waste it with unnecessary words like "hello," "nice to meet you," and "thanks," which can easily be included in the email's body. 

4. Be clear and specific about the topic of the email. 

The subject line should communicate exactly what the email is about so that the recipient can prioritize the email's importance without having to open it. For example, writing "Do you have a sec?" is vague, since the reader will have to open the email or reply to figure out what you want.

5. Use logical keywords for search and filtering. 

Most people have filters and folders set up to manage their email and probably won't focus on your message when they initially receive it. That's why it's important to include keywords related to the topic of the email that will make it searchable later. 

6. Highlight the value you have to offer. 

If you’re sending a marketing email blast to a large audience, you need a subject line that indicates value and communicates what they're going to get. Ensnare your readers by offering them something that's helpful. Whether you're providing a discount, or a service, make it clear in the subject line what's in it for them. 

7. Personalize it with the recipient's name. 

You have to know who you're sending the email to, and they have to recognize that it's about them or a subject interesting to them. Using their name is one of the best ways to do that, and makes the recipient much more likely to open the email.

8. Create urgency by limiting the timeframe.

To grab someone's attention and persuade them to take action, consider creating a deadline for your proposition or promotion. Common ways of creating urgency include "register today," “only X days left,” and “limited time only”.

9. Don't start a sentence that you finish in the email's body. 

If you begin a thought or question that ends in the email, then the reader is forced to open the email. It's annoying, and since clarity and being respectful of the recipient's time is the goal, it's not very helpful.

10. Don't put words in ALL CAPS. 

Using all caps may get someone's attention, but in the wrong way. It's the digital equivalent of yelling, and your job is to make the email as easy as possible for the recipient to read rather than giving them anxiety. Instead, use dashes or colons to separate thoughts, and avoid special characters like exclamation points.

11. Make sure you re-read the subject line. 

Sometimes when you’re sending a mass amount of email, you’re more inclined to focus on the content of the actual messages you’re sending and if they’re rendering properly in your recipients inbox. It’s easy to forget to review and proof read the subject line, which can result in spelling and grammatical errors. The easiest way to avoid this is to simply re-read the subject line before you hit send. 

 

Final thoughts:

Often times, hitting a roadblock when writing email subject lines is simply a result of the pressure we put on ourselves to perform. When you encounter this minor speed bump, simply think through these tips, and let the creativity flow.  Happy writing!

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