Trying to wade your way through an endless stream of incoming emails? Before you hit the delete button, take a few minutes to study the subject lines that catch your attention (if only briefly).

By doing so, you'll learn valuable techniques to cut through the clutter when you're creating subject lines. Why are subject lines so important? Email recipients take just a few seconds to decide whether to open a message or delete it. And the two factors that most influence that decision are the sender and the subject line.

Here are 5 ways to create attention-getting subject lines.

1. Promise a benefit.

The best subject lines pledge to solve a problem or meet a need. The simplest of these is a discount on products or services the recipient is interested in. For example, this one's from Sally Beauty: "Save 30  on all hair products."

Sometimes, the benefit is to help the recipient learn or grow. Marketing Profs offers this: "Free guide: Put the world's data to work for you (no PhD required)."

2. Provide information that's new and unique.

A subject line that carries real news--information you haven't heard anywhere else--quickly gets attention. For instance, PR Week recently shared this: "Breaking News: Ketchum calls it quits on Russian work." (A caveat: Use "breaking news" only if it's true.)

3. Make it personal.

You're more likely to read emails from people you know (Hi, Mom!) than from people you don't. But even companies can create the sense that we're communicating person to person. That human connection goes a long way in creating a strong enough bond to induce a recipient to open an email.

For example, Better Homes and Gardens makes this request: "Tell us what you think." And marketing consultant Michael Katz writes a microblog with a very personal subject line: "Today I ... went to the Registry of Motor Vehicles."

4. Relate to what's happening right now.

Is the sun shining? Has spring finally sprung? The signs are promising in the Northeast (finally), which is why this subject line from wine purveyor Carlo Russo Wine & Spirit World is so timely: "My favorite everyday springtime white! Perfect for today!"

5. Have some fun.

You may have a serious objective for creating an email (like generating sales) but it doesn't mean you can't be playful--especially since humor gets noticed.

Here are three terrific examples:

  • "Quick! Easy! Delicious!" (The Good Cook book club)
  • The next best thing to a chocolate bunny ..." (Ruth's Chris Steak House)
  • "Mousse crossing: Make way for easy chocolate desserts!" (Martha Stewart's Everyday Food)

And remember: While many aspects of email are out of your control, you have the power to create the best subject line for your message.