Golden Rules for Email #1: Subject Lines

What is the core purpose of a Subject Line? [please choose one]

1. To inform the recipient of your email’s content
2. To motivate them to read the email

Your Subject Line is the ‘headline’ for your email. So in some ways, informing the reader seems to make sense. After all, it’s there to give them the heads-up about your message. The trouble is, it immediately empowers them to assume they can safely ignore the email, and delete it. By giving the game away in your Subject Line, you’re also giving your reader an easy and quick way to ignore you and forget you.

Why make it this easy for them?

So the only time you should ever do this is with a ‘transactional’ message or an alert. For example: confirming an order; raising a complaint; reserving a place; enquiring about prices or terms; confirming legal issues or points of agreement; introducing an improved after-sales or customer support.

In other words, a recorded event, transaction, or confirmation of some kind.

Something you want to be ‘business-like’.

All your other emails – and usually that’s most of them – should pursue the second goal. Because after all, you want your reader to read and absorb your message, and then hopefully respond.

In pre-digital days, when print ruled the world, advertisement and editorial headlines were either categorised as ‘Index Words’ [Holiday flat to rent] or ‘Attention Grabbers’ [Dreaming of your next holiday?] Kind of the same principle really. If you want people to read your email, give them a relevant reason for doing so.

Always focus on the purpose of your message, and use your Subject Line to help you, not provide an easy escape route.

What do you think?

My next Golden Rules for Emails sheds light on ‘Stating the Obvious’!

Craig McGregor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *