I’ve subscribed to probably a dozen newsletters from various organizations and publications. As a modern professional, I need to keep up on trends, right? However, because I often have a large to-do list in front of me each morning, many of these emails go straight to my trash bin, never to be read.

That is, unless I see a subject line that really catches my eye.

What kind of language tells me, in fewer than seven words, that the content in the email is worth keeping in my overloaded inbox? Trying to create a subject-line pitch that engages readers in the split-second they see it — possibly before they’ve had their morning coffee and while they are “clearing the junk” before work — is tough. To do so on a regular basis is an achievement every email marketer strives for, yet few achieve.

Get away from ambiguity

According to a case study conducted by David Huffman from the Content Marketing Institute, the strongest “open” results from email marketing came from subject lines that were the most direct.

Sure, that’s an ambiguous statement in itself, and being direct in an email subject line is easier said than done. The following are a couple of tips:

  • Combine action with a strong subject: A powerful action word resonates more effectively with your reader, and connecting it with a strong subject helps further draw them in. Who is performing the action? Who is affected by the announcement? Why should the reader care? These are all good questions to contemplate when developing your subject line.
  • Tell a (very short) story: Your email message should tell a story, and your subject line needs to summarize it. For inspiration, check out the 24-news channels. The scrolling text at the bottom of the screen boils stories down to just a few words. It might not be good journalism, but it can help you understand how to be ultra-concise!

Remember, you’re starting a conversation

As with all forms of content marketing, you should aim to engage your audience in a conversation. Instead of constantly broadcasting information through your email messages, consider asking questions and soliciting feedback. Doing so over email can be more personal than through social media.

Email marketing is all about ensuring you provide useful information without over-communicating or “spamming” your recipients’ inboxes with messages they care little about. As always, keep your target audiences in mind and communicate based on their needs and desires.

Allison Lewis is an associate editor with ProPRcopy, a firm that provides a wide range of copywriting services, including email marketing content.