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January, 2008

Word Wright

Make Subject-Lines And Influence People
Another trick for tightening your style
By  Milli Thornton

Concise subject lines are an excellent way of strengthening your writing skills.
he subject-line is a lost -- or never found -- art.

The "Subject:" of an email is an excellent live forum for sharpening your writing chops to a chiseled glisten.

And think about it. A good subject-line can also be outright instrumental in getting some submissions sold.

You may have heard this before... but have you applied this tool beyond more than a couple of crucial queries to editors? Have you, for instance, applied it to your daily correspondence?

There's no reason why you'd need to impress your friends with a powerful subject-line. On the other hand, why waste dozens of perfect opportunities to hone this simple, but effective skill? Coming up with a crackling subject-line is not only fun, it's a fast and repetitive way to stretch your creative muscles.

The basics of a good subject-line are to be specific, and to command attention. It might not always be appropriate to do both but, at the very least, you should always practice your powers of the specific.

We all get emails from friends with subject-lines like, "Hi," "Greetings," "Following up," "Tomorrow," or even blank “(none).”

To friends, I try to break out of the mold. For instance, when following up with a buddy who taught me a trick for forcing meds into my injured cat: "The old cat-in-the-towel trick."

A specific subject-line also stands out when it's time to search your folders for that one burning email you need for reference. That's only one reason I appreciate being on the receiving end of a good one.

Taking the time to groom your subject-line may give you a whole new discipline through email. It doesn't have to be gloomy and chore-like; it can be another way to tighten up your style. If you're stopping long enough to jazz your subject-line, you'll be more apt to give each email a proof and a dust-up before hitting "Send". This is good training even in an email to a friend.

I've watched the trend move toward casual to the point of falling off the map. Strangers, some who are writers, make email queries through my website without ever addressing me or identifying themselves, replete with typos and nary a wisp of punctuation.

Did I mention the death of capitalization? If I sound like a crusader, here's why. We writers should be better at email than everyone else, not the other end of the scale.

Copywriters know the value of a strong headline. They know they have only a few seconds to coax readers to scan their copy and at least consider their shtick. Thanks to a dull or uninformative headline, the sale can be lost with a mere glance of the eye. By injecting curiosity value, specifics, or even an element of urgency, sales can improve dramatically.

"But," I hear you say. "I'm a writer, not a salesperson."

Pretend for a moment you're an editor for a busy ezine. You're short on quality material for the next issue and your pub date is looming. Checking your email, you find another 25 messages entitled "Article" or "Submission." But, scrolling down, suddenly something intriguing marked "Have Writers Lost The Plot?" catches your eye.

Which email would you open first?

Read Milli Thornton's excerpt from Fear of Writing.

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Milli Thornton ( is the author of Fear Of Writing: For Writers & Closet Writers, runs workshops and writing circles based on the writing prompts in her book, known as the Fertile Material, and her mission is to put the fun back into writing. or

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© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

IN This Issue
Part III: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
Part II: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
Part I: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
The Delusional Is No Longer Marginal
Part II: Researching Nonfiction
Part I: Researching Nonfiction
Rediscover Your Passion
Pet Prose
Successful Influence
There's Money In That Junk Mail!

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Bald Ego
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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