Believe it or not, there are books written on the topic of e-mail subject and sender lines. Can it really be that complicated? Well, some seem to think so.

Most of the information written is common sense, but still the world of internet marketing is relatively new and fluid. What worked 18 months ago is now less effective given the increased sophistication and decreased patience of e-mail recipients. Forrester Research says that the average person gets 110 unsolicited e-mail offers a week; no wonder the delete key is used so often.

With that said, here is a sampling of the right and wrong things to do when it comes to composing subject and sender lines for e-mail:

1. The sender line determines if the e-mail should be deleted or not, so make sure it does not look like spam.

2. E-mails should come from people and not from companies or from odd looking names. For example, the sender should read and not from

3. If a sender name works, continue to use it. Brand it.

4. A subject line is just like a headline; it hooks the reader into reading more. Make it compelling, interesting, and maybe a little sensational (just like a newspaper headline or a headline on People Magazine).

5. Subject lines should be no more than 45 characters or 6-8 words long; keep them simple.

6. Avoid the use of “spam-like” words or phrases such as “free”, “make $10,000 in day”, “Viagra”, etc. Don’t use exclamation points. Questions marks are fine.

7. Whenever possible personalize the e-mail by including the recipient in it. Use of the word “you” is powerful or titles like “9 out of 10 Lawyers Recommend”.

8. It is better to be specific and not generalize in subject lines. For example, use “file folders” instead of “office supplies”.

9. Important words go first in the subject line. People are impatient and may not finish reading the entire subject line.

10. Beware of subject lines that automatically truncate. For instance, AOL 9.0 auto-truncates at 51 characters. Long messages will get cut off and won’t communicate.

11. Numbers are powerful. “10 Easy Ways to Store Your Photos”.

12. Always test your e-mails first with a small distribution or test the subject line words with Google Adwords.

13. Finally, always tell the truth. Lies, fibs, and exaggerations will just be deleted.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Please visit my website at

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