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  • Writer's pictureValerie Bolden-Barrett

Email subject lines: Love 'em or hate 'em

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

By Valerie Bolden-Barrett

How many emails do you get a day? How many have subject lines that instantly tell you what they’re about?

If you’re like me, you get at least three dozen emails a day – more than you could possibly open and read in the time you have. And unless the subject line cuts to the chase by clearly stating the topic, you quickly delete it.

When you're the sender, do you know what will likely make the receiver read your message? It’s probably a subject line that …

  • · Has fewer than 10 words.

  • · Relates to the receiver’s interests or expertise.

  • · Avoids ambiguous words.

  • · Never starts with “Breaking News.”

Here’s why:

  • · We’re busy people. We want to know instantly whether an email is worth reading. Wordy subject lines that bury the email’s topic make that harder to do.

  • · Getting an email on how to buy a saddle is useless if you can’t ride a horse.

  • · Ambiguity causes confusion, a major turn-off for email receivers.

  • · “Breaking news” is breaking for the sender, not necessarily for the receiver.

Here are examples of actual no-nonsense subject lines:

1. Your Whole Foods Market order has been cancelled

2. 11 uses for baking soda will change your life

3. The tax rules you need to know this year

Turn-off subject lines read like this:

1. Almost 30,000 Bitcoin millionaires wiped in the last 3 months

2. [Company name} releases software updates providing operations managers with the ability to define, plan and deliver hybrid working

3. Join us for our press conference in person or virtually…

What kinds of emails agitate you? Let me know what you think.

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