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e-mail subject lines November 7, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Observations.
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You probably get hundreds of e-mails a day. With at least 50 percent of them, you’ll probably glance at the subject line and then delete them outright. So when you send an e-mail, you have to make sure people will click in and read it. Therefore, your subject line has to be accurate and attention-grabbing.

Yes, you’re not actually selling something, but with the sheer volume of distractions in the corporate world, if you’re not selling your e-mail to your co-workers, they won’t open it.

That doesn’t mean you should put your entire message in the subject line.

Let’s take an e-mail about a found object:

GOOD: Earring found in second-floor ladies room.
BAD: If you lost an earring in the second-floor ladies room please call Bert at x5191 and describe it and I will give it back to you.

People who lost an earring can read the e-mail, but anyone without pierced ears, and anyone who wouldn’t have been in that ladies room, can skip right over.

The point of an e-mail subject line is to tell your readers what the e-mail is about, not to tell them the whole message. Plus, when you put the whole subject line in the e-mail, it makes you look stupid. E-mail isn’t a bulletin board. It isn’t a soapbox. It’s a professional method of communication. A professional subject line is the least you can do.

By the way… do a little informal study, and correlate the people who use e-mail stationery with the people who put the entire message into the subject line. You’ll find a strong relationship, I think.

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