Are Your Email Subject Lines Too Vague or Annoying?

BY Jessica Helinski

How are your open rates when it comes to emails? How about response rates? If you aren’t happy with either, you may be mishandling a vital part writing email: The subject line. The small-​but-​mighty subject line is what sets your email apart from the hundreds of others flooding your recipient’s inbox. So, if you find your emails aren’t getting the desired response, it might be time to refresh your subject-​line skills.

In an article for Inc., Amanda Pressner Kreuser discusses the importance of these mini “sales pitches,” writing, “Considering the super-​brief amount of text, there's an incredible amount of things that can go wrong before even getting to the body of the email. Every day, I receive emails with subject lines that are vague, aggressive, too-​familiar, or just downright annoying.”

She shares types of subject lines that you should NOT use. By cutting these specific messages, you boost the chances of your emails being opened–and responded to. Here are just a few examples of what not to write:

  • Please call me.” This subject line, for some, may cause anxiety. “It's the ‘We need to talk’ of the business world, and leaves your recipient wondering what news could be so bad that it can't even be mentioned in an email,” she explains. “If you must use an email to request a phone call, at least follow it with ‘about X.’.”
  • ?????” Not only is this vague, but it also comes across as a bit aggressive.
  • Hey, can you call me when you have a chance? I wanted to discuss the quarterly marketing report before our meeting on Friday.” You can probably guess why this subject line is a no-​no. Use long messages  in the body of emails–not the subject line.
  • URGENT.” While you think this will be an attention-​grabber, don't use it. As Pressner Kreuser explains, “If a matter is truly urgent, your best chance of getting a hold of someone quickly is on the phone, with a text, or with an instant message. If it's not–well–you're just crying wolf for the next time there's an actual fire to put out.”

These, along with the others mentioned in her article, are examples of how not to use the subject line. She also notes that you shouldn’t ignore the subject line either by writing nothing. It’s a great opportunity to instantly interest and engage recipients–AND make them want to read and respond!