Like many people, I gets lots and lots of email everyday. I spend several hours a day in my email inbox, and consequently I see a lot of email subject lines. In my opinion, an email subject line is very important for a number of reasons. It communicates the importance of the issue, helps orient the reader, and can convey a lot of information in just a few characters. Think of your email subject line as the "hook" that grabs the attention of your recipient. Given the volume of email I get on a daily basis, I know that I'm much more likely to respond to an email when it has a clear and concise subject line.
Everyday, I see such poor uses of email subject lines that I started keeping a list. Note that these guidelines only apply to general business communications, and are not intended to be a guide for writing compelling email subject lines for marketing newsletters (that's a topic for another day). Here's some guidance and things to think about when you write email subject lines.
- It is worth your time (and the recipient of your email) for you to spend 2 minutes thinking about the subject line of your email. How important is the email? What do you want the reader to know right upfront? Think about orienting the user in a way that they can quickly glance at the email and know the subject matter. Your subject line should be three to five words, and no more than eight.
- Please use full phrases, punctuation, and proper capitalization. It makes your email subject line much easier to read.
- Here are a couple of examples of poor email subjects:
- "Punchbowl" (yes, I know the name of the company. What do you want?)
- "Resume" (I get a lot of resumes, make yours stand out)
- "Follow Up" (a much better subject line is "XYZ Follow Up")
- "News" (news about what?)
- If it is urgent, use all caps like this: URGENT: Website issue.
- If it's just important, do this: IMPORTANT: Website issue.
- If you just want to get someone's attention about a topic, write UPDATE: Website issue.
These are my top email subject writing guidelines. What are yours? What did I miss? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
SWAMI SAYS: Like it or not, we work in the age of email. You can help improve efficiency and speed up communications by writing a logical and thoughtful subject line. Take an additional 2 minutes each time you send an email, and see how much your email communications improve.