by Barbara McNichol
In the flood of today’s electronic communications, your email’s subject line—like all kinds of business writing—should be crafted with precision and purpose. But some would argue that the price you pay for NOT writing a strong subject line is high—i.e., when the subject line is dull, muddled, or full of hyperbole, you risk having your message ignored altogether, even spammed.
My colleague Beth Terry passionately “beats the drum” about writing better subject lines, especially with those she coaches. She sees how they limit their business success simply because critical emails never get read!
Beth shares the following technique to get us thinking strategically about subject line writing.
As you prepare to scan your email inbox over a cup of coffee, draw a line down the middle of a notepad. On one side write: “Got my attention.” On the other side write: “Boring.” Then jot down subject line examples under the appropriate column.
You might add a second page titled “Clues that it’s junk mail” and note giveaway elements (e.g., euphemistic or overwrought terms, lousy spelling, over-capitalization or punctuation, or no subject line at all)
In particular, notice:
- What grabbed your attention? One possibility: subject lines that address a current need/concern/worry/struggle—something important to you
- What didn’t grab you? Why not?
- What did you trash without a second thought? Why?
- Finally, what tells you it’s junk mail:ALLCAPS? Misspelled words? Weird or poor grammar? Unfamiliar or suspicious sender?
By the time you finish that coffee, you’ll be well on your way to creating attractive and/or intriguing subject lines—enticing your recipients to read your message.
The lesson: Make that subject line as important as your carefully crafted email. If you’re unsure, send a copy to a trusted friend (or competent editor) for a “second opinion.”
It also doesn’t hurt to let an important email linger in “Draft” for a day or two. Then you’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and a focused, intentional mindset.
What have you found makes your subject lines more effective? Share your “victories” on this blog.
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