Crafting Compelling Email Subject Lines

Many writers overlook the power of their email subject lines. A well-crafted subject line can significantly increase the likelihood of your email being opened and getting the response you want, and faster too.

Statistics show that the average business person receives over 100 emails each workday. Now, imagine those emails are like books on a shelf, but instead of clear titles, they have vague labels like “Question?” or “Project Update.” These generic subject lines don’t help the reader understand what the email is about or prompt them to open it. It’s like a mystery novel, leaving the recipient clueless about what’s inside.

To avoid turning your emails into mysteries, your subject lines should actually describe what the email contains and, if needed, what action the recipient should take. For instance:

  • Instead of “Question,” try “Question about location for Writing Skills Training at Kent State.”
  • Instead of “Project Update,” try “Quarterly Project Update: Onboarding Process Improvement.”
  • Instead of “Need help!,” try “Need help covering reception desk week of June 10.”

Sure, these subject lines may take a few extra seconds to write, but the time investment pays off in quicker and better responses.

Standing Out in a Crowded Inbox

When your inbox is flooded with new emails, you quickly scan through them. Strong subject lines make your emails stand out. They let the recipient know at a glance whether the email needs immediate attention or can be deferred for later.

Moreover, they help recipients identify informational emails that don’t require any action, saving them time and effort.

On the Record

Even after the recipient has opened, responded to, and filed or deleted your email, the benefits of strong subject lines continue. Email communication leaves a record of the conversation, but this trail can be hard to follow if the subject lines are vague. Including key words in your subject line makes it easier to find specific emails later on.

For instance, if your work is project-based, you can prefix each email related to a project with the project name or acronym. This simple trick makes it effortless to find all emails related to a particular project.

A Handy Tip

Here’s a bonus tip: When trying to follow an email thread, simply right-click on any email in the thread and select “Find Related.” This feature makes it easy to locate all emails in that thread.

The No-Body Email

For quick information or action requests that can be communicated in a single sentence, consider using the subject line as the entire message and leaving the body of the email blank. While some may find this technique abrupt, it’s efficient and appreciated by many recipients. You can add “EOM” (end of message) or similar characters at the end of the subject line to indicate that the subject line contains the entire message.

Boost Your Email Impact

Research indicates that recipients decide whether to respond, delete, or defer an email within five seconds of viewing it. A clear, action-oriented subject line increases the likelihood of prompt action. Whether your email aims to share information or prompt action, stronger subject lines will help achieve your communication goals.