When NOT to personalize your email’s subject line

Personalizing your email subject lines with the recipient’s name—for example, “Susan, can you attend meeting on Feb. 12?”–will always increase your readership. 

Or so you’d think. But that’s not true according to an article about email subject lines by Mark Brownlow on Email Marketing Reports.

If your email recipient doesn’t know you well, they may assume your email is spam. Using first names in the subject line is a classic spammers’ technique.

“If you haven’t got a real ‘relationship’ with your subscriber as such then maybe personalizing isn’t the way to go as they may see it as being artificial or spammy,” said Kath Pay, as quoted in Brownlow’s article.

I think that using your recipient’s name is most useful in the subject lines of emails you send to colleagues and clients. They know you’re no spammer. Instead, your use of their name signals that your content is directed specifically at them. They realize they’re not one of gazillion people who are cc’d on the email. That’s why I recommend this technique in my workshop on “Writing Effective Emails.”

What’s your experience with personalized email subject lines?


Dec. 19, 2017 update: I deleted the link to Brownlow’s article at http://www.email-marketing-reports.com/iland/2008/11/subject-lines-iv-personalization.html because the website no longer exists. I also added a link to my email writing workshop.