How to Write Effective Subject Lines.

By Sharmila Gautama

When you pick up the newspaper in the morning, what do you read first?

News articles?



Headlines get your attention first because they are compelling and give you a gist of the news – prompting you to read on or move on to other more interesting headlines.

Let’s see what is in a headline that makes us read them first.

1. Headlines don’t really bother about long sentences and grammar. They omit unnecessary details and focus on the outcome. A subject line should act in the same manner. Write your subject line keeping in mind what you want from the reader. It’s almost a shortened form of the action point.

Look at these subject lines.

  • Client Meeting Advanced to 3 PM
  • Updated Project Report for Review
  • Feedback on Sales Report

All these subject lines give us an idea of what the email is about. You have decided to read the email based on the subject line. Read now or later? Remember your reader is reacting in the same way – read now or later?

2. Notice how the verbs are used in headlines? They are usually in the simple tense.

  • Man Arrested for Drunken Driving
  • New Reforms Announced
  • China Bags Gold in Badminton

The same goes with subject lines. Look at these subject lines.

  • Team Party Cancelled
  • New Login Activated
  • Six Sigma Team Arrives Tomorrow

3. Capitalise the first letters of each word in the subject line to make it easier to read. All capitals means shouting and all small letters are difficult to read.

Tip – You could use the subject line to convey the entire message of the email. Use an <EOM> – End of Message – at the end to indicate that the subject line is the content of the email too.

  • Team Meeting Venue Shifted to Apollo Conference Room<EOM>
  • Reminder: Client Presentation at 4 PM<EOM>

Keep writing until next time!