Invite an audience to open your email


Leads invite you to read a story. A straight lead gives a chronological summary, an anecdotal lead teases us with something relevant, while a zinger baits us with an attention grabbing sentence. Then there are feature leads, summary leads and question leads that leave us curious.

Great leads make us read a story.

Email subject lines are similar. They invite your audience to open your emails.

They fight for our attention but subject lines like: “I am working all weekend for you,” make me nervous.

Bland subject lines disappoint me. “Something amazing is heading your way…” (Qatar Airways). Do I really care?

And, the perennial mediocre subject line: “Time is running out…” (Sling TV) makes me wonder if people ever open those emails. Let’s not forget the end of the year routine: “How will you start the year off right?” (Zoc Doc).

Subject lines that tickle my ego for a response make me anxious. “You are the expert…” (Indeed). If I am an expert, I wonder who the other reviewers are!

15 years ago, I tested subject lines to mobilize volunteers during Hurricane Katrina. Simple, specific subject lines got the most effective results: “250 volunteers needed: 6 pm at Salvation Army.”

People want clarity and a call to action.

Here’s an effective one from my child’s music school reminding me of her guitar lessons on Mondays: “Allegro: Lesson reminder.” Or, the apartment complex that says: “January rent due,” instead of “buy one get the other half off.”

Hotstar, an Asian streaming service recently had an interesting email subject line: “IND V SL. Jan 5. Stay Tuned.” Cricket lovers get this. Hotstar will stream a match between India and Sri Lanka on January 5, so stay tuned. Isn’t it better than: “Don’t miss the epic match of the century…”

I was disappointed when the “Houston Chronicle” carried the following subject line for their December 31 newsletter: “New cash crop is a tasty crustacean.”

A better subject line would have been: First baby of 2020.

Joe Capehart on Opinion Writing


Every morning, Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Joe Capehart  looks forward to separating the wheat from the chaff. As an opinion writer  for the The Washington Post, the job gives him a lot of freedom, and along with it comes immense responsibility.

I listened  to Joe’s take on opinion writing earlier this evening in  Washington, D.C. and here are a few key points:

  1. The real opinion writer gets abundant freedom to look at different sides of a story. Then, comes the hard part. They have to squeeze out valid points and frame an opinion that makes sense to their readers.
  2. In opinion writing, taking sides is a difficult choice. One needs to argue the facts before selecting a path. Sometimes, opinion writers find that both sides have good points and in that case they will need to present both sides of the argument.
  3. Opinion writers work a lot like reporters-they have their news sources, they gather facts and data.
  4. So, what separates a straight news journalist from an opinion writer? Opinion writers get the freedom to go beyond the 5W’s and H (who, what when, where, why and how?).
  5. Will straight news writers like becoming opinion writers? Sometimes, but with much difficulty.
  6. Opinion writing plays a critical role as it often helps shape the politics of the day.