08/21/2014 05:18 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2014

Email Subject Lines Are Like Newspaper Headlines

If you want your email to be noticed and answered quickly, think about your email subject lines as being a lot like newspaper headlines or great advertising headlines.

Ask any newspaper editor, advertiser or marketer... it's commonly agreed that the headline is responsible for as much as 90% of the success of a story or advertisement. Consider:
  • Great headlines make us look... and they entice us to want it and/or buy it.
  • We ignore bad headlines.

Same holds true for your email subject lines and that's why they're one of the most important parts of your email.

Don't lose the opportunity to make an impression in places where you have the greatest control and that cost you the least amount of money.

When Should You Re-write Your Email Subject Line?

One, two or three word email subject lines might be common, but they are often the least effective. Try to land in the 5 to 8 word area; if you write one, two or three word email subject lines it's a clue to re-write.

Three Ways Email Subject Lines Are Like Newspaper Headlines

Every newspaper headline is meant to get your attention and make you want to read the story. Advertisers and marketers write headlines that entice their readers and promise something useful. So, when you write your email subject lines, think like a newspaper editor, advertiser or marketer. Do these three things:

  1. Think of keywords and integrate those keywords and phrases into your email subject line.
  2. Readers love lists: Using numbers makes your writing memorable and also manages everyone's expectations.
  3. Be specific: Help your reader see how they'll use what you're giving them / telling them. Don't make them guess.


  • Good Email Subject Lines: Two Objectives To Add To Soft Skills Training
  • Bad Email Subject Lines: Soft Skills Training


  • Good Email Subject Lines: One Quick Question for Mayhew Etiquette Training
  • Bad Email Subject Lines: Question: Mayhew Etiquette Training

250 Reasons Why You Should Bother

Most business people write 100 to 250 emails each day. That translates to 100 to 250 chances you - and everyone in your department has to make a great impression... or make a mediocre / bad impression.

Small changes will make a big impact to your personal and professional brand.

What's good for your email subject line is good for your business plan or proposal.

You have to sell yourself and your work all the time.

Headings are used to label important sections and subsections of our business documents. Whether people are reading your document the first time - or going back to re-read important sections, it's important to make it easy for your reader to see the value and think Yes Yes Yes all the way through it.

Great headings will help you keep the attention of the people you need to impress, and great headings will help make your business plan or proposal relevant and meaningful.

Last idea on how you can juice up your subject lines and headings

  1. Write them last

Your company might spend lots of money running ads in newspapers, on street-level billboards, social media sites and an endless list other places. That expense is seen as an investment; they are opportunities for great headlines to make positive impressions and build your brand reputation.

Happy email writing.

Click here if you have a question about email reading or email writing.