The subject-line is a lost -- or never found -- art.
|Concise subject lines are an excellent way of strengthening your writing skills.|
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.
Milli Thornton (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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. http://www.fearofwriting.com or http://millithornton.blogspot.com.