Last updated January 6, 2021
Consider these tips when you want to create emails that are engaging, usable, and accessible.
Offer value or benefit
An effective email will communicate some sort of value to the recipient in the subject line and in each call to action you are providing. There should be a good reason for all of the content in your email. Just because you need to communicate something doesn’t mean that it is valuable to the reader. You need to let your readers know how your information benefits them.
One of the worst things you can do is deceive your email recipients. Don’t promise something in your subject line that you can’t deliver in the email. It’s important that your subject line is relevant to the content of your email.
Nothing will harm your credibility more than spelling and grammar mistakes in your email subject lines and content. Mistakes like this will make your email appear spam like and could even be flagged as spam.
Short, clear, and concise
Subject lines should tell people what they need to know in as few words as possible. There is no secret code to this because the subject line should be unique to your email. Overloading users with excessive text increases the chances that information will be misinterpreted.
Suggested subject line approaches
These can be effective methods in crafting subject lines. Use your best judgement in making sure they don’t become spammy, or unintentionally turn into a hard sell.
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Ask a question
Do you have the latest UW–Madison update?
What are the best ways to ______?
How do you keep your study skills up to date?
"How to" or curiosity
- How to install the latest Mac update
- How to _____ at UW–Madison
- How to protect your computer from (the latest cybersecurity threat)
- How to optimize for ____
- Just one day left to signup
- Read this before you graduate
- The best deals of the year happen this Thursday
Make an announcement
- Introducing the latest ____ update
- Announcing the new UW–Madison video chat platform
Lead with a number
- 5 great features in the latest Canvas update
- 101 reasons to ______
- 2 brand new features in Office 365, you can use today
More engagement best practices
Use preview text
Preview text is part of the inbox display and gives you the opportunity to include a few more details beyond the subject line. Use it to promote another aspect of the email that is of benefit to the user. Examples of preview text.
“From name” sometimes called “From line”
Customize it. Change it from time to time to add interest to your email.
Say thank you
Use your manners because it’s polite to say thanks if your user just read your content.
A/B test subject lines
Whenever possible. It will help you craft better subject lines in the long run. For future reference, it’s better to have a system in place before A/B testing.
Check out these resources to support writing for and about people with disabilities.
- Guidelines for writing about people with disabilities
- Communicating with and about people with disabilities
- Choosing words for talking about disabilities
- Etiquette: Interacting with people with disabilities
Learn about disabilities