Excessive punctuation in email subject lines can damage your email campaigns
4th March 2011
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Why using excessive punctuation in email subject lines can damage your email campaigns.... a thought provoking and timely article from Juliet Fay, a professional copywriter and words smith

We've all had those pushy sales calls where the sales rep just won't take no for an answer. Whether or not you buy, the call leaves you feeling bad and somehow tainted. No one likes that kind of approach and it certainly doesn't lead to long term business relationships.

Why not?

Those pushy sales calls use coercion and what you might call unsavoury tactics to get you to act, rather than providing genuine solutions with genuine products or services. They may get the sale but they give selling a bad name.

Using excessive punctuation like !!!!! or **** in email subject lines is like using pushy sales tactics.
The purpose is ostensibly to try and get the email to stand out in people's in-box and create a sense of urgency, so that they open it, but in reality it comes across as over- excited and just plain annoying.

Most internet email account providers have spam filters set to detect spam emails. Spam or junk emails are defined as 'unsolicited bulk emails'. Bulk here just means one email sent out to large numbers of email addresses. If you look in your own junk folders you will see hundreds or thousands of emails promoting every kind of miracle cure. Many use excessive punctuation and so the filters tend to associate this with junk emails.

It's a big problem

According to the Message Anti-Abuse Working Group, the amount of spam email was between 88-92% of email messages sent in the first half of 2010.
Another trick spammers use to try and foil the filters, is to disguise words like "free" by replacing some of the letters with numbers, punctuation marks or symbols e.g. "fr££".

Obviously we don't want our genuine emails to be mistaken for such communications, so what can we do?

You don't need to bother with pushy tactics or tricks with punctuation

As with all communication, if you are genuinely providing something of value for your readers, then you don't need to bother with such tricks.

However there are ways to improve your subject lines to increase the chances of getting your email opened. Here are a few quick tips:
• Use a headline that entices and arouses curiosity, leaving the reader wanting to know more e.g. "How to eat ice cream guilt free". 'How' and 'why' are good words to use.
• Keep the subject line relevant to the content of your email e.g. "Tickets now on sale for the Entisubi Music. Festival" - followed by details of the festival and ticket sales.
• Limit your subject line to about 50 characters.
How to talk about offers without risking your email being binned

If you are giving away something free or you have a special offer that your customers would value, you certainly want to advertise the fact. Follow these simple guidelines to avoid your genuine communication getting junked.
 Be aware that words like "free" or "special offer" are used by spammers and so put the in the middle or towards the end of the subject line, rather than at the beginning.
• Don't use e.g. "free" in every subject line.
• If you are offering something "free" and you put this in the subject line, make sure the details of the offer are in the first paragraph (keeping your subject line relevant).
• Ensure sensitive words are used sparingly in the main email. The filters react to how many times such words are used as well as which words are used.
• If you use email marketing software like Market Mailer, Mail Chimp or Aweber then use the spam checker functions. These give your email a score according to how spam-like it is. The score for this email is 3.7. Anything below 5 is not usually classified as spam.

Remember your job is to provide something of value for your customers in print, by email and in person. As long as you keep that in mind, you won't need to bother with subject lines full of !!!!!!! or ££££££££s or *******.

Until next time.......... Juliet Fay

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Need a professional copywriter then give Juliet a call on 01267 679 075

About the Author

Diana V

Member since: 10th July 2012

I am Diana Vickers, the site owner of thebestof Cardigan & Teifi Valley, which supports the very best of the area’s businesses with their promotions and marketing. The site is soon coming up to its fifth...

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