header image
Traci Riley Tip of the Month: Issue 2
By Traci Riley

Email is one of today’s most common forms of communication. We once hired people to print, fold & stuff bulk mail. That still happens but less frequently. You already know the benefits: it’s quick and saves you time, there’s no paper or mailing and it takes just your manpower. But writing effective emails can be a challenge. Many people struggle with this and the best place to begin is the subject line.

Just this morning I received an email that said “band name” and I wondered if it was junk email or I should open it. Thankfully I did open it because it was a friend wanting the name of a band we heard last summer, so she can hire them for an upcoming event at her church! Had she written “Last year’s VBS ho-down band name?” I would have likely realized what she was talking about and opened it immediately. I didn’t have the contact information myself, but I did know exactly where to go for it!

Experts agree that if you use more than 50 characters you’ve lost them. So with just a small amount of space for the subject line, you need to find a way to make an impact on your audience. Readers will take just a moment, a brief glance, to determine whether or not they open the mail or send it to the trash. Here are some helpful hints.

  1. It must be meaningful. If you don’t get your point across in those few key strokes, your email will be dumped or sent as spam. You know that’s how you read your own email. Your audience will do the same for your emails as well.
  2. List key information first. Due dates, for example, would be considered key information. I’ve had success getting feedback for articles by writing something like, “Due 6/21 @ noon—quarterly report detail.” There’s urgency in this subject line. Once they open it, you can address things in greater detail, like exactly what you want them to provide.
  3. Consider spam filters. There are filters out there that try to catch “spammy” words and send those emails directly out of an inbox. Things like using the word FREE in all caps with exclamation points or Hey or Hello may end up being filtered.
  4. Test it out. See what works. Remember that what works for one group might not work for another. Consider what you’ve done in the past and whether or not to change things up for future communications.

There are many articles and suggestions out there. Some have 10 rules for success and other have 25. But all agree that subject lines are tricky. With a little practice and attention to detail, you’ll find success!

Join us next month for Effective Email Part II - Some Do’s and Don’ts For Email

Traci Riley has worked in marketing in the technology industry for 8 years. She spends her days with Katalyst Solutions researching and writing to be a ‘katalyst for your online success.’


“From our first conversation, Katalyst made a concerted effort to address our questions and concerns in language we could understand.”
– James J. Patterson

Request Proposal