How to improve the subject line of an email

improve-email-subject-line

First, think of the response you want from the reader.

Second, put the most important point at the start.

Third, highlight one thing only.

The problem with most subject lines in emails is that they’re written either:

  • As a placeholder, something to put in while you write the actual email
  • After the email is written and then rushed through without much thought or
  • No longer reflect the original purpose of the email. Maybe you changed your mind half way through but didn’t update the subject line.

Improving Subject Lines

So, how do we fix this?

Write the email first in MS Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages etc.

In the first sentence, identify the purpose of the email.

In the second sentence, identify what you expect the reader to do. [The exception is an FYI email. Avoid these as much as possible to give more weight to your other emails.]

Structure the email.

List the critical points, numbering each one.

If a response is due by a specific date, state it. Don’t assume they are going to stop everything and get back to you immediately. Why should they if you didn’t explain its importance.

Now, after you have done all this, spellchecked it (I use Grammarly), remove the ‘placeholder’ subject line with the purpose of the email.

In the subject line:

  • Start with the topic/product/action item first.
  • Identify the item that needs attention. Sometimes I phrase this as a question. It’s hard to readers to ignore questions.
  • Don’t flag it as High Priority. Everyone hates this. If it’s really that important use UPPERCASE but use this very, very carefully.

Subject Line Examples

What works in these subject lines?

Just one more step to complete your Dropbox setup

Tells you, the reader, what you need to do next. And who it’s from

Confirmation of your MultiTrip Policy from Vhi

After you buy the policy, it sends you an email to confirm it went through, what policy you bought, and from whom.

Azure pricing and services updates

A no-nonsense email from Azure, the name of the product, about its updates

The Excel Addict – Print a List All Named Ranges in Your Workbook

Again, the name of the website comes first, followed by the tutorial

[MyCopyblogger] #20: Avoiding the “me too” blues

#20 is a nice way to flag that this is the latest email in a series.

Google Cloud Platform | Last day to preserve your work

Note the use of a | to separate the senders and the call to action

Takeaway.

For external emails, state who you are in the subject line, followed by the call to action (for sales) or the benefit (for the reader) if they click through.

Thousands of templates to jump start your project

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan

 

 

Want More Writing Tactics?

Over 127,000 readers rely on Klariti every month. Sign up now for Ivan’s fresh writing strategies, practical advice, and resources delivered to your inbox each week.