Words That Get Emails Opened

First, a quick mention of Grammarly, which has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time, Fortune and elsewhere. I tried Grammarly’s online plagiarism checker free of charge because it’s too easy (and dangerous) to inadvertently copy someone else’s words. Don’t do it!

OK, on to emails.

Tech guru Rob Jones of Nary Ordinary Business Services recently wrote: “It is estimated that over 500 billion emails are sent every day worldwide.”

That’s a bunch, folks.

What percentage of those 500 billion are actually opened? Perhaps no one knows. The percentage might be smaller than we think.

Since the first job of any email is to be opened, the email subject line is critically important. If the sender is known and trusted, that’s also a deciding factor. If the sender is unknown, the email subject line better be good.

Marketing Profs wrote about a study (2013 Adestra Subject Line Analysis Report) that identified “The Most (and Least) Effective Keywords in Email Subject Lines.”

Keywords that performed well when the objective was to convey benefits were: free delivery, voucher, sale, new, exclusive, gift, latest, offer, save. Poor performers included: only, free.

Keywords that performed well when the subject was content related were: alert, bulletin, issue, news, video, win. Poor performers included: learn, report, today, webinar.

In other categories, “daily” and “weekly” were strong performers for date-related messages. “Monthly” did not do well at all.  Other poor performers in miscellaneous categories included: Re:, FW:, get, register. (And, yes, I used “get” in my email subject line. Ha!)

Consider this another reminder of how much words matter.



I received an email the other day from a family friend and fellow church member. She closed her message with “Very respectfully yours.” That’s not a closing I often (or ever) see in this new century of casual and instant communication, of texts and tweets. Especially from a 20-year-old college sophomore!

It seemed sort of old-fashioned and outdated. But knowing this person, who is well spoken but not stiff or formal, I took “Very respectfully yours” at face value. I believed in its sincerity.

With all the technological tools at our disposal, communication has never been easier. Nor has it ever been harder. There’s just so much of it. The constant noise and buzz are overwhelming. Breaking into people’s communication devices—and then their lives—is a formidable task.

My friend’s email reminded me of something all human beings crave: respect. That’s a good place to start as you think about messages and communication to audiences, large or small. Show respect. Don’t talk at folks or insult their intelligence. Don’t flatter. Be respectful, be real, because they’re real people, not just email addresses or Twitter avatars.

Communicate “Very respectfully yours” even though you won’t use those exact words like so many correspondents once did in typed and handwritten letters. When you show genuine respect for your audiences, they’re more likely to reward you with their attention.

Good Radio Is Good Writing

If you want a lesson in good writing, just listen to well-produced radio programs such as those on NPR. I listen to NPR as a news source but also for background music that doesn’t clash with my writing efforts as I work in my home office.

In thinking about what makes radio stories such a good illustration of solid writing that can apply to B2B copywriting, PR writing, or journalism, I came up with the following attributes.

Get to the point. Radio stories are usually short in duration—even on NPR—so they must immediately establish the story’s focus.

Clarity. I just read an email from a B2B marketer on the subject of clarity. Clarity reigns. It’s the basis of all successful communication. Good radio excels because it’s clear.

Simple words. This is especially true in radio. Listen closely and you’ll notice simple language. No fancy adjectives or crazy verbs. Radio words are easy to comprehend quickly.

Quotes. A well-selected and well-placed quote adds color to a radio story or other form of communication. Bland quotes, however, add no value and can actually detract from the core message.

Here’s a story NPR did last year on the Bank of Floyd, the hometown bank in my little town. It’s an interview format:

Amid Financial Turmoil, Small Banks Thrive

4 Tips for Creating Email Subject Lines That Get Opened

Direct marketing agency Epsilon has released a new white paper on “creating subject lines that pack punch.”

Rethinking the Relationship Between Subject Line Length and Email Performance: A New Perspective on Subject Line Design offers important subject-line considerations for marketers, including these four tips:

1. Front-load subject lines with most important information.
2. Keep subject lines as short as possible.
3. Test.
4. Personalize the subject line, if possible.

You can also try subject lines that pique curiosity. For example, I’ve been using an email subject line to network with new-to-me professionals that seems to work rather well:

Group Hello and Question

It’s friendly and — I’m guessing — gets people to open it to find out what the question is.