How to Write a Good Email Subject

Keep subject lines short and sweet with a reason to open the email

Hands of man writing e-mail
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It is likely that the people you email receive at least 100 emails a day. With an environment like that, it is difficult for your email to stand out. That is why the subject line is so critically important. Your email's subject line is, next to your name, the first thing the recipient sees. It may make the difference between your email being opened promptly or sinking into the bottomless pit of unopened emails.

How to Write a Good Email Subject Line

The most effective subject lines are brief and contain a reason for the user to open the message.

Keep the recipient in mind and know what you want from that person. If the email requires the recipient's action, say so — preferably with the first word. For example:

  • Help! I need support assistance for my computer
  • RSVP requested for company retreat
  • Review and reply to attached monthly report

If the action associated with your message includes a date or deadline, include it in the email subject. Now, your subject line might read:

  • Help! I need support assistance for my computer ASAP
  • RSVP requested for company retreat October 15-17
  • Review and reply to attached monthly report by Friday

Be precise, but include enough detail for the recipient to know what the email is about. Leave out unnecessary words. Skip unnecessary articles, adjectives, and adverbs to keep the subject brief. One study recommends aiming for 50 characters or less in the subject line; another recommends 30 to 40 characters. When shortened, the example subject lines become:

  • Help! Computer support needed ASAP
  • RSVP October 15 company retreat
  • Reply to attached report by Friday

Using a question as the email subject can draw in a reader.

  • Are you attending the company retreat?

Sometimes a direction works:

  • Join us at the Miami retreat

Imply scarcity:

  • Only 5 tickets left for Miami!

Or tempt the recipient with a list:

  • 3 ways to live it up in Miami

Don't tackle too many topics in one email (and one subject line). If your email comprises multiple topics, break it into multiple messages.

Whichever approach you take, keep the subject lines short and on topic, and the recipients will open your emails.