Make your emails stand out: subject lines to encourage action

culture cuppa make your emails stand out

Email is an integral part of professional written communication, with an estimated 376 billion emails sent every day at work, and the average person receiving 121 emails daily. So it is crucial to make your message stand out in a crowded inbox, especially if you are writing to co-workers, colleagues, customers or partners who work in different locations to you and you never meet.

First impressions count, as the old adage says, and the first thing your recipient sees of your email is the subject line. Reports suggest that email open rates of 35% – 45% can be expected, based solely on the subject line, making it a critical factor in determining whether your emails get noticed and opened, or are ignored, or even missed.

In this blog post we will explore the importance of good email subject lines, considering what works best for your audience, and share practical tips for creating effective emails that draw attention, based on learnings from email marketing and best practices in written communication.

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Writing great email subject lines that get noticed and opened

Sharing information or requesting action?:

Differentiate between emails that are FYI (for your information) and those that are a call to action by highlighting them in the subject line. This helps the recipient understand the purpose of the email and prioritise accordingly.

Keep it short and concise:

Aim to keep your subject line short and to the point. Long subject lines often get cut off, especially on mobile devices, leading to crucial information being lost. Be clear and concise to capture the recipient’s attention at a glance, so they can recognise the topic.


Personalisation matters:

When sending an email to one person, why not take learning from email marketing campaigns, and use their name in a personalized subject line to attract their attention and stand out. Personalisation builds connection and helps the recipient ‘hear’ your voice, increasing the likelihood of the recipient opening the email promptly. If you have a mutual connection who has shared their details for a conversation, mention their name in the subject line. This establishes a personal connection and increases the chances of your email being opened and not going straight to spam.

Be descriptive and specific:

Include relevant details such as dates and times in your subject line. For example, ‘Meeting, 30th June at 4 pm’, instead of the generic ‘Re: meeting’. This level of detail helps recipients understand the context and importance of your email.

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Maintain a positive, professional tone:

No matter what the topic is, maintain a positive tone of voice in your emails to create a professional, can-do and proactive impression. Positive language can help your recipients to feel more receptive to your email and increase the likelihood of them opening it.

Flag deadlines:

Help the recipient prioritise their emails, by including a deadline in the subject line for them to respond by. This sense of urgency encourages them to open the email and take action.

Ask open-ended questions:

Engage your recipients by asking open-ended questions in the subject line. For example, “What do you think about…?” This approach encourages them to open the email and share their views, building interaction and engagement.

Use action-oriented verbs:

If action is needed, then use a catchy email subject line, starting with an action-oriented verb to prompt immediate response. For example, ‘Join us tomorrow’ or ‘Complete the survey now’ demand attention, and encourage recipients to take that action.

Highlight a key number:

If your email contains important data, such as from an executive summary, flag it in the subject line. This can spark curiosity and prompt recipients to open the email to learn more.pients to take that action.

Express gratitude:

Show appreciation by incorporating a ‘thank you’ in your subject line, when appropriate. Expressing gratitude in a personal email can create a positive impression- people love a ‘thank you’, and it encourages recipients to open your email because they feel valued.

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Avoiding these common mistakes in writing email subject lines

Carefully consider humour:

While humour can be effective in some contexts, and there are examples of its success in email marketing, it is generally advisable to avoid trying to be funny in professional email subject lines, unless you know the recipients well and you feel they will connect with it. Bear in mind humour in the workplace can be subjective and culturally-influenced, so may not resonate with everyone or even may be misunderstood, potentially diminishing the impact of your message and, in the worst case scenario, your personal reputation. Use your cultural intelligence to consider what is appropriate.


Avoid excessive punctuation and capitals:

Limit using excessive exclamation marks or capital letters in your subject line. Overusing this type of punctuation can make your email appear over-excited, or as if you are shouting, potentially impacting your professional image.

Double check your spelling:

Remember your subject line is your first impression, so always proofread it to ensure correct spelling and grammar. Typos or errors can give a negative impression and reduce the professionalism perceived in your email.

To emoji or not: should you include emojis?:

While emojis can add a touch of personality and fun to subject lines, consider carefully before using them in a professional email. Reflect whether emails you receive from others at work contain emojis, and adjust to reflect what they do. If you choose to include an emoji in the subject line, limit it to one only to avoid overwhelming the recipient and maintain a professional tone.

Crafting an effective email subject line is crucial in capturing the attention of your recipients and improving open rates, as email marketing specialists know. These principles can also apply to writing your professional emails at work to create connection, engagement and generate action.

By keeping subject lines concise, personalising when possible, creating a sense of urgency through deadlines, and using action-oriented language, you can significantly enhance the impact of your email communication.

Remember to maintain a positive tone, be descriptive and specific, and avoid humour in professional contexts. Avoid these email writing mistakes and keep these tips in mind, so you will be well-equipped to create compelling subject lines that encourage recipients to open and engage with your emails.

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