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Structuring Emails...


Step One:

Email Subject Line


Step Two:
Email Greeting & Introduction


Step Three:
Email Body & Call to Action


Step Four:

Email Sign Off & Signature


Home >> Email Writing >> How to structure an email >> How to write an email subject line


Step One: How to Write an Email Subject Line


Getting across the gist of your email in a single line


Back in ye olde days when people still sent letters by post you could guarantee that almost every item of post would be opened. Even stuff that went straight into the trash would at least get opened first.


This isn’t the case with email though. Thanks to subject lines people make snap judgements on whether an email is worth reading before they even open it, so you have to get the reader’s attention straight away.


Even if your email is the most vital, essential thing they’ll ever read, it’ll just rot in the recipient’s inbox if you don’t get the subject line right (or maybe even get deleted straight away).


So how do you write the perfect email subject line?


There are three steps to this process:



Let the reader know what the message is for

Note that this isn’t the same thing as letting them know what the message is about. Letting the reader know what the message is for means telling them what they’re supposed to do with this email.


This is actually the easiest thing of all to do because there are only three possible types of email:


1.) Informative – emails that are purely meant to share information. The reader doesn’t necessarily have to do anything. You’re just keeping them in the loop. Emails in this category should have ‘FYI’ or ‘Information’ at the beginning of the subject line.


2.) Request – emails that are asking someone to do something. Emails in this category should have ‘Request’ at the beginning of the subject line, or ‘Question’ if your request is for information.


3.) Response – emails that are in reply to a previous message. Emails in this category should have ‘Response’ in the subject line.



Let the reader know how urgent the message is

How quickly does the recipient need to read this email? If the answer is ‘very’ you need to let them know right off the bat.


If the message is highly important place a word like ‘vital’, ‘urgent’, or ‘important’ at the very beginning of your subject line, before the category type. Be careful not to use block capitals as it looks aggressive and can trigger spam filters.


Less important messages can still include a sense of urgency in the subject line. It just needs to be less intense. Use no more than three words to gently prompt the recipient on when they need to act on your message (e.g. ‘reply by tomorrow’ or ‘expires Friday’). This should come at the very end of the subject line.



Let the reader know what you’re writing about

This is the main part of the subject line. It should be a maximum of 10 words that gives a sense of what your message is all about. You don’t have to give too much detail – just enough so the other person has a sense of what to expect when they read your email.


Being too vague here will make your email look spammy. Being too detailed will make the email subject line way too long to the point where it might not even display correctly in the recipient’s inbox. Get the balance right and you’ll get the reaction you want.



Examples of good email subject lines

• Important information: Slides for next week’s presentation

• Request: Please send me Jack’s contact details by Tuesday

• Question: Who is attending next week’s meeting?

• Urgent request: Can you cover for me tomorrow?

• Response: I can cover for you tomorrow

• FYI: Discount codes for [product] – expires Sunday


Step Two:

The next step after writing your subject line is email greeting and introduction.




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