Learn How to Write Email Subject Lines!

Writing the subject line of an e-mail might seem like a minor task. But subject lines are at least half the battle in e-mail promotions.

Writing the subject line of an e-mail might seem like a minor task. To professional copywriters, it often feels microscopic — just a few words, when a talented pen needs hundreds to do most jobs well.

But subject lines are at least half the battle in e-mail promotions. Many people delete e-mails whose subject lines turn them off without even opening the message. Others open the message expecting the worst, completely inoculated against joining, or buying, or thinking well of whatever service or product is being promoted, because the subject line turned them off.

So, how can you make those precious few words in the subject line work for you? Internet strategy consultant Peter Temes offers these rules of thumb that seem to work:

* First, short is vital. Fewer than 10 words is a must; fewer than five is even better. Two or three is probably ideal.

Look through your inbox, and you’ll see that the subject lines in messages from friends are usually two or three words — and often one word. Then, snuggled right in there next to subject lines like “Drinks?,” “Bob’s advice,” and “Thanks again,” you’ll see a couple of typically dreadful promotional subject lines like “Save Hundreds on Your Next Vacation!,” and “New Treatment for Premature Male Pattern Baldness.” Keep your subject line down to a few words, and you’ll be more credible.

* You’ll also need to make sure that you keep your subject lines completely free from exclamation points — it’s the rare personal e-mail that has a loud “!” at the end, while spam e-mails often seem stuffed with exclamation marks.

* Keep the tone light. Avoid selling-language — “Free” works like gangbusters in snail mail, but is a loser in e-mail marketing — at least in subject lines. While you don’t want to misrepresent yourself, the closer your subject line comes to the tone of ordinary e-mail, the more likely it is that your message will be opened.

* Avoid the kind of language that sets off people’s spam-sniffers — words like “exclusive”, “free”, “opportunity”, “limited time”, “hurry” and “only”. An interesting fact: While it’s generally a good thing to use the word “you” in promotional writing, it’s a spam-predictor in subject lines. Few folks use the word “you” in e-mails to friends; lots of spammers use it.

* Don’t pick up usernames and put them in subject lines. That suggests a false intimacy with the reader that will only get you in trouble.

* Do ask questions — if they sound plausible. “Did you see this?” works well. Putting a question mark after a simple statement is effective too, and adds a hint of healthy skepticism. Something like “Discount Tickets?” will be much more effective than “Get Low-Priced Tickets While They Last.”

Finally, nothing beats a worthwhile product at a fair price.

A simple, unassuming subject line that leads into an offer for a good product that doesn’t cost too much, is likely to be a winner.

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