The Smallest Conversation: 4 Tips to a Better E-mail Subject Line

To open or not to open?

That is the question your email recipients ask as they look at the subject line of your email, one of many in their overflowing in-boxes.  Why should they open your email?

Increase the readership and response to your emails by following four easy tips:

Tip #1: Maybe they don’t need to open the email. Using “(EOM)”

Have you ever been frustrated waiting for people to get back with you on something in your email, only to find out later that they didn’t read it?

Would you like to increase your email’s readership to 100%?  When you can, use your subject line as the entire message. Using “(EOM)” at the end of your subject line indicates that the entire message is conveyed wholly within the subject line.


Subject: Diane at Rogers Caribou 10:30 AM Monday (EOM)

Subject: 4/8 Staff meeting cancelled (EOM)

Of course, not everyone will know what “(EOM)” means, but they’ll catch on.

Tip #2: KISS and WIIFM

Remember when you had to write a thesis statement for an English class composition? Think of your subject line as a very short thesis statement for your email. If you can’t summarize your email in one descriptive, concise statement, you either lack clarity or are trying to cover too much in one email. If you have multiple topics to cover, consider sending separate emails. Keep It Short and Simple (KISS).

As a general rule, you want to keep email subject lines to 10 or few words or not more than about 50 characters, including spaces, so that the entire subject line is visible in the recipient’s in-box. Leave out non-essential words (such as the articles a, an, the). However, include essential information, such as times and dates. And, of paramount importance is to consider benefits to the recipient—answer the recipient’s WIIFM question, “What’s In It For Me?”


Subject: You’ve got money! (both KISS and WIIFM! but might get filtered out as spam)

Subject: Celebrate spring with free shipping on 50+ prints (tells a lot about content)


Subject: Register Now for the International Convention (what convention? When?)

Subject: Read the attachment!!! (Why? And why is this so bossy?)

Tip #3: Use Keyword Labels: Question, Action, FYI, Invitation, Confirmed

Every email has a general purpose—to ask or answer a question, to provide information, to confirm a plan, etc. Increase the response rate to your emails by making your first word in the subject line indicate the general purpose.


Subject: Action: please replace flyer on website with attached flyer

Subject: Confirmation: “Leadership Excellence!”

Tip #4  Don’t write a SPAM-like subject line

To avoid having your email filtered out, don’t write in all caps, don’t use more than one exclamation point (if any), don’t use the dollar sign ($) and avoid subject lines with words like FREE!  Here’s one list of 100 words to avoid:

Taking a few moments to craft a short, but descriptive subject line will not only make your recipients happier and more likely to read and respond to your email, but also will make it easier for you to find those email conversations later.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

One Response to The Smallest Conversation: 4 Tips to a Better E-mail Subject Line

  1. Dick Rosen says:

    All very good points Diane!

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