Want People To Actually Read Your Emails? Use These Subject Line Tricks | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Photo: Thinkstock

Photo: Thinkstock

There’s always that moment when you’ve crafted the perfect email, re-read it twice, confirmed your contact’s email address, and find yourself staring at a blank subject line wondering how to proceed. “Nice to meet you”?….no. “Kelsey Manning – Met at XYZ Party”…absolutely not. That subject line just stares back at you, unblinking, daring you to come up with something pithy and brilliant that will stand out in that person’s inbox. It’s not easy. So we brought in some experts.

Get Personal

Erika Kauffman, General Manager and EVP of 5W Public Relations knows a thing or two about grabbing people’s attention. “The recipient of your email wants to feel special,” she says. “Add personalization to your subject line by including details that are sure to get noticed. Don’t be afraid to use your recipient’s name in the subject line, making it known that you’re speaking to them. Furthermore, use what you know! If your recipient is located in Denver, a subject line like ‘Denver decision makers’ is sure to stand out. If your recipient works in the fashion industry, use key words like ‘style,’ ‘flare’ or ‘dress-up’ that will grab their attention and make them feel like you did your research. If the message within your email body is highly personalized, your subject lines should be too!”

Keep It Short And Sweet

Just as you tend to click on Tweets that are short and snappy, emails with short subject lines stand out in an inbox. “It’s been proven that subject lines with 41 characters or less get the highest open rates,” Kauffman says. “There is no need to explain your entire email in the subject line, just give your audience a taste that will leave them wanting more! Long subject lines often get cut off and drown in a cluttered inbox; keep it short and sweet to get your email the attention it deserves. Furthermore, make sure the words you select relate directly to the content of your email, letting your recipient know what they’ll be reading before opening.”

Use A Verb

While you’re making sure your subject line is concise, don’t drop the verb. Communication expert Pamela A. Scott explains: “For example, ‘Monday morning meeting’ is useless. ‘Monday morning meeting cancelled’ is far more effective. Or ‘Bring donuts to Monday morning meeting.’” A call to action increases your chance of hooking your reader and receiving a quick response.

De-Spam Your Vocabulary

“Certain words like ‘help,’ ‘off,’ ‘free,’ ‘buy,’ ‘sale’ and ‘call’ will send your email directly to spam,” Kauffman says. “Familiarize yourself with the words that trigger the spam filter and avoid them at all cost. Before sending out your email, take an extra look to make sure the words you use sound professional and well thought out. Your email surely won’t get read if it’s sent to spam, so a double (or triple!) check is well worth the effort.” In addition, ShopletEmail Marketing Specialist Alli Heinz advises against using CAPS or exclamation points, as they come off spam-y and unprofessional. In the same vein, save “Urgent” for very select occasions, i.e. the building is burning down.

Use Your Connection

Career Coach Lavie Margolin reminds us that if you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never met, it can be beneficial to do a bit of name-dropping in your subject line. “The most effective subject line to get an email read is to reference a mutual contact or the person that suggested you send the email,” Margolin says. “For example, ‘Re: Recommendation from Sam Smith.’”

Ask A Question

This is one of the most popular email marketing tactics that absolutely applies to personal emails as well. “Using a question has a powerful effect on the reader, says online marketing guru Jon Rhodes. “It makes their brain think of an answer. This gets them involved, and more likely to want to read more.” For a personal work email that requires a quick response, this might be something like, “What are your thoughts on these edits?” or “Have you completed the paperwork?” When you do this, actually use a question mark, which triggers people’s attention.