Writing effective email subject lines

April 26, 2010 at 10:34 pm 4 comments

After seeing some particularly bad email subject lines lately, we thought it was about time for a blog about writing effective email subject lines. Here are a few tips:

  • Put the important words near the beginning of the subject line (e.g. Office party: Ideas for venue?). This is especially important if the subject line is long.
  • If the email is about an action that someone needs to do, indicate this action in the subject line (e.g. Status reports due Tuesday).
  • Don’t write half the sentence in the subject line, then continue the rest of the sentence in the email. Not only is it annoying, but it makes the subject of the email unclear for the reader.
  • Don’t write the subject line in all caps. All caps are harder to read.
  • If you have replied to an email several times and the subject no longer applies, write a new subject line to signal a change of focus.
  • If an email contains multiple topics, consider writing shorter emails with specific subject lines.

Do you have any more tips? Have you got any examples of really unclear subject lines?

Dilbert.com

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Aaron  |  April 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    “Don’t write half the sentence in the subject line, then continue the rest of the sentence in the email. Not only is it annoying, but it makes the subject of the email unclear for the reader.”

    Opps…I do that quite often 🙂

    Reply
    • 2. tacticsinnz  |  April 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm

      Yeah, and it’s annoying! 😛

      Reply
  • 3. Maria  |  April 26, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    I think people have gotten better! As we get used to ‘searching’ for a specific email in our inboxes (rather than relying on folders or browsing by sender, etc), you tend to realise how important an accurate, descriptive subject line is.

    My pet hate is when people’s out-of-office auto replies aren’t called “Out of Office AutoReply”, so you open the message when you don’t need to.

    Also, this is slightly off subject, but that little red ‘Important!’ exclamation mark on messages that, well, aren’t. Is there etiquette for this? To help us all distinguish between when it’s needed (“Office closed due to nuclear fallout”) versus when it’s not (“We need trim milk instead of full fat”)?

    Reply
  • 4. Lianne  |  April 26, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    These are all great points. I would like to add that heading up your email with “free chocolate” is the only way to guarantee it will be read.

    Reply

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