What not to do when writing email subject lines

You log into your work email, only to be greeted by an email titled “REQUEST.”

*Gulp*  You’d much rather move it to the “Trash” folder than open it.

Certain subject lines really have the capacity to throw people off — especially in a professional setting. That being said, don’t make these mistakes the next time you’re about to send someone an email message.

And if you need some help immediately, there are a bunch of online editing tools that take out the stress of wondering whether you’ve made a grammar or spelling faux pas. My favorite is Grammarly

*From time-to-time Ladders uses affiliate links.


Did your heart rate go up while reading the sub-heading above? I know mine did — it sounds like I’m screaming into a technological abyss.a

Mickie Kennedy, the founder of eReleases, writes about why you shouldn’t use all capital letters in subject lines.

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“Some people mistakenly believe that using all capital letters in their subject line is a great way to get the attention of the recipient. What they fail to realize is that using all caps is a great way to trigger SPAM filters, and even if your message gets through, it’s annoying, makes you look shady, and just isn’t professional,” Kennedy writes.

Forbes also cautions against taking the “WeIRd CaPs SPelLInG” approach.

Don’t write ‘URGENT’

If it’s such a pressing issue, why didn’t you just pick up the phone and give the recipient a call?

“You’re really only hurting yourself when you use ‘Urgent’ or its cousin, ‘Need an answer ASAP,’ in your subject line. If a matter is truly urgent, your best chance of getting ahold of someone quickly is via the phone, text, or instant message. If it’s not —well — you’re just crying wolf for the next time there’s an actual fire to put out,” Inc. explains.

Imagine if they found your message days later, sitting in their inbox, gathering dust?

Don’t use a bunch of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yesware’s data scientists took a look at a staggering 115,886,636 emails sent across 356 days and put the results in an ebook called Email Subject Lines That Actually Work. It shows why using exclamation points isn’t a good idea.

The open rate for average email subject lines was 51.9%, but for ones with an exclamation point, it was 45.5%.

The reply rate for average emails was 29.8%, but the one for emails with an exclamation point is 22.2%.

“Chances are that email didn’t even make it to their inbox in the first place. Research shows that exclamation points in subject lines lead to lower than average open rates because this type of punctuation is actually a trigger for spam filters,” the ebook says.

Don’t only write one word

I mean, really? You didn’t have it in you to provide a little more context?

The recipient might just reply to you with the same amount of effort. So be brief and to the point — just don’t be one-word-brief.

This article was first published on October 13, 2010.

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