Why Oh Why Do We Take Subject Lines For Granted?

Overlooked, underutilized… and yet so powerful!

Graphic created by LMH

Graphic created by LMH


Cutting corners does not come easy to me. Yet there are times where we could economize our efforts and still take care of business. This is especially true for those of us who tend to see the details… a lot. I notice the little things the way that young boy in The Sixth Sense sees dead people. All over the place.

Do a little less. That is an ever-present initiative of mine. Frankly, knowing when and how to do less without compromising the overall outcome of something, is a rare talent.

One place (of several, I admit) where I am unwilling for myself or our team to compromise is that of email subject lines, unsung heroes that they are.

The email subject line is as important as the rest of the message. Sometimes more.  In a tweet-filled, headline-happy world like the one we are in today, our subject line is the trumpet call that gets our attention.

So why skip it?

Because we are so, so busy? C’mon. If you know what your message is about, then creating a subject line is no big deal. Plus, it is the first opportunity we have to introduce the other person to what we are saying.

I tell my coaching clients that taking an extra few seconds to compose a relevant and catchy subject line will increase their recipients’ attention to their message, enhance the chance you’ll get the response you need, AND also build their own skill at encapsulating ideas, identifying the core message, being engaging and the holy grail of communication: brevity.

It’s a big return on a small investment.

Sometimes, we create a subject line, but without quite enough thought behind it. Take this chuckle-inducing one for instance, recently received from a lovely resort in Wyoming:


Fall in Jackson Hole? It’s almost funny enough to be brilliant. They could have used “Fall” intentionally as a pun and made something really clever about its use. But once I read the email, I realized that wasn't the case. Instead, the subject line was a lost opportunity and a bit of a laugh at how the writers missed catching the way their choice of words would come across when read. It’s not a corner worth cutting.

Let’s give our subject lines the exalted place they deserve. Be they clever, or descriptive, provocative or literal, may they always be there. Relevant and ready to do what they do best: open doors.