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Email Effectiveness–Write Good Subject Lines

Email is a significant part of my business life, and probably yours as well. I really appreciate a well-written email. And, I’m frequently frustrated by a poorly written one. Janelle Estes’ recent post, Email Subject Lines: 5 Tips to Attract Readers is written with newsletters in mind, but I think most of the points generalize to apply to any email.

Her first point about the content of the subject line easily generalizes to use specific meaningful content in a subject line. Have you ever received an email where the subject is “Question” and the body is something like “Could you send me the link to the project folder?”  I always wonder why the sender didn’t just have a subject “Please send me the link to the project folder”. I could process that a lot faster. I have to admit, I’m pleased to know this is not just me, because Estes does mention that the interaction cost of opening an email is high.

The second point is to front-load subject lines. This doesn’t need generalization, it’s already general. I wondered if it meant I should move the “Please” in my earlier subject line to the end? I decided that  I’m okay with “Please” staying at the front because it very concisely (and politely) conveys that I am making a request. The limit to 40 characters was a good reminder for me. I’ve been known to write a long subject line…

Not repeating sender information and not using recipient’s names, Estes’ third and fourth points, are interesting, but probably not as applicable to our email. They do drive home the point of really thinking about what you are saying and conveying meaningful information.

I found her fifth point, about avoiding symbols and special characters, informative. I’ve never used them in subject lines, and now I know it wouldn’t be a great idea to start.

So much of our jobs are about effective communication. I love tips likes Estes’ to make my communication more effective.

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