As a content person, my goal is to write messages that reach out and grab the audience. But because I write them all day long, I am somewhat immune to the charms of my own inbox. That’s why when a subject line and email content make me smile automatically, I know it’s well crafted.

This week, emails that have given me pause all have one thing in common: word play. Check out these examples from my own inbox:

I admit I’ve always been a sucker for puns, rhyming and play on words. However sometimes this technique can be too much. So how do you know to use word play and when it’s inconsistent with your message? Here are a few tips:

  • Word play works best for light-hearted messages. If you’re delivering an email apology about a backed up order, it’s best to stick to straight-forward content.
  • Whether your word play is humorous, or just spirited, be sure the design of your email matches the mood. A dark, edgy design will only confuse your audience if the words are purposely whimsical.
  • Don’t force it. We all have days when we think we’re hilarious, but if your message is too corny, you’re more likely to get an eye roll and delete from your audience than a smile. Run your subject line by a few peers to be sure the word play is instantly recognizable; you don’t want the audience struggling to understand your meaning. Also consider running an A/B split test on a word play subject line versus a more direct version.

Bottom line: Everyone loves a good play on words. Just be sure the message is relevant.