The etiquette of email subject lines

Depending on what year it is, and what source you’re looking at, it is reported that more than 3 billion emails are exchanged each day. 

Because subject lines are like book titles, and we know the old “don’t judge a book by its cover” expression, emails are judged and, therefore, opened based on who sends them and the subject line. 

As a result, sending interesting, catchy and informative subject lines are critical; after all, it is the first impression for that day of you, your brand, your product or service and, absolutely, your connection.

Here’s a timely to-do list for subject-line success:

Do use a subject line. Blank subject lines are like calling someone and not leaving a message.

Do be honest and not misleading. Clickbait gets you sent to email jail, aka spam, junk or, worse yet, the blocked email list. 

Do focus on the subject line being 50 characters or less, ideally.

Do capitalize each word of the subject line, as this is similar to a book title. Don’t capitalize every letter in each of the words, as that is screaming at someone.

Do check your subscribers to ensure whether or not your email subject line will be translated into another language, and if so, ensure you are not being inadvertently offensive or inappropriate.

Do consider making subject lines based on segmentation of your teams, clients/customer, targeted prospects and others, and make the subject line relate to the area, segment and type of reader.

Do skip special characters (such as asterisks, at signs, pound signs, exclamation marks) and other “expressions,” since many service providers see them as an attempt to phish or spam. 

Do go ahead and use emojis, occasionally, as they are not considered special characters. (This is very new to most platforms).

Do change the subject line on a reply if something is being added, or omitted, in the response.

Do send an email of appreciation occasionally with a subject line of “Thank You for Being a Client/Subscriber/Top Client/Top Engager” with some statistics about your engagement with them. People like to be a part of successful practices.

With intriguing and true subject lines, watch your opportunity for opens to increase and for unsubscribes, deletes and blocks to decrease. After all, with billions of emails being sent each day, the subject line is your “book’s cover. You want yours opened and you want it read. 

Debbie Lundberg is the founder, and CEO, of the Florida-based firm, Presenting Powerfully. She is a 12-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant. She co-hosts the Business Of Life Master Class podcast. Her book, Remote Work Rockstar, has become a guide for working and leading virtually.

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