How to write shorter subject lines

“What’s the best length for a subject line?” We regularly hear this from marketers, so we wrote a blog post a few months back with our answer. Here’s the short (!) version:

“Keep it As short as possible while still saying the things
you need to say to attract the right attention and interest”

This advice leads to another important question: if I know what I need to say, HOW can I make the subject line “shorter”?

Using fewer or smaller words while keeping the same impact on the reader can be a challenge. As Pascal apparently once said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Practice certainly helps, but there are some little tricks you can apply to make it easier. We mentioned one or two in that earlier post, but I’d like to go into more detail here.

Don’t leave the subject line to the last minute!

Many people focus their writing efforts on the body of the email and then rush out a quick subject line just before hitting the send button. It’s only a few words, after all. But the subject plays a crucial role in determining whether people will ever actually open and see the body of your mail, so it deserves plenty of attention.

Refining and shortening subject lines can take time, especially if you want to draft some ideas and then look at them with fresh eyes another day. Don’t forget to do subject line tests as well to get definite answers on which of those ideas is best..

There is usually more than one way to say anything

Think in terms of synonyms. These two subject lines say the same thing, but one is shorter because it says “buy” instead of “purchase”.

Subject line example 1

Careful, though. There may be shorter ways of expressing the same concept, but the impact may be different. These subject lines all indicate you can get a $1000 PC for $500, but do they really say the same thing?

Subject line example 2

Consider symbols, numerals and abbreviations

Symbols, numerals and abbreviations can replace words and save space. Obviously you don’t write fifty percent when you can say 50%.

Subject line example 3

Be selective, though. Too many symbols, numerals etc. can render the subject line unreadable, so make sure you don’t confuse your readers. For example, customers might not understand the kind of abbreviations you use internally.

Take out the fluff

Any word not contributing positively to the subject line’s impact obviously shouldn’t be in there. Take a closer look at the phrasing you use. Can you rearrange the text and lose “filler” words without changing the meaning?

Subject line example 4

Have you seen any great examples of short subject lines – let us know in the comments!

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