Conquering Email Subject Lines: We Read So You Don’t Have To

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Usually in this space we focus on Big Picture issues. This week, we’re looking at something much more practical: email subject lines. We all know intuitively that there are things we can do with those subject lines to make it more likely that people will open our emails. But we do that more from the gut than from evidence. What if someone looked at 115 million emails and figured out what worked?

That’s what email automation firm Yesware did. Email Subject Lines That Actually Work, its recent ebook, shares what works (shorter subject lines) and what doesn’t (subject lines framed as questions). Some of the more surprising findings: emails that look like forwards (with “FWD:” or “RE:” in the title) get opened more, although less so on mobile devices, and putting numbers in your subject line gives you a slight advantage.

Some of the lessons are what you’d expect. Lay off the exclamation points! Don’t pretend to know someone when you don’t. Never use the term “appropriate person.” And no, people don’t want to join your webinar. Yes, Yesware published this because it wants to sell you software, and you have to give up your email address for the PDF. But the tips here will be useful to you even if you don’t ever want to try the company’s product.

How a Nation of Copycats Transformed Into a Hub for Innovation (We Read So You Don’t Have To)

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Especially among people who haven’t traveled there, there’s still conventional wisdom that China is the land of the cheap knockoff, not just of hardware but of Internet services: Baidu apes Google, Tencent is just Yahoo, and so on. That’s not true anymore and How a Nation of Copycats Transformed Into a Hub for Innovation, by Clive Thompson in Wired, destroys that characterization conclusively.

The tales Thompson tells are very Silicon Valley: educated young adults with an entrepreneurial urge break away from steady but uninspiring positions at established firms to create something new or convince their leaders to try something new. There’s an obsession with speed. Accelerator proliferate. Thompson spies a DO EPIC SHIT sticker on a refrigerator. He explores how phone maker Xiaomi delivers highly anticipated weekly updates to its operating system that are built around user feedback.

As in Silicon Valley, the entrepreneurs Thompson interviews tend to be solving problems like movie ticketing and dating game shows that aren’t exactly world-changing. And China’s repressive political system doesn’t allow for the sort of government-challenging social enterprise that can thrive in other nations. But Thompson reveals a widespread attitude to innovation that’s way beyond the copycat caricature. After years of being accused of stealing product ideas from Silicon Valley, China’s latest success may come from grabbing select Silicon Valley values and grafting them onto its unique culture.