Avoid subject line failThe subject line – “Done like Thanksgiving dinner” – probably seemed appropriate, casual and timely to the marketers who sent the email. It rounded up things that would help you prepare and serve a Thanksgiving dinner, like a roasting pan, pots, glasses and dishes.

Unfortunately, the sender was Sears Canada. Yes, that Sears, which a day earlier had announced they are closing 10 department stores, including the one in my town. This is on top of 59 stores already closing and the company seeking court protection while it attempts to restructure.

Sears marketers could have prevented this unfortunate subject line “fail” with a last look at two areas:

1. Do the words you’re using mean what you think they mean?

Sears marketers were obviously familiar with the phrase, “Done like dinner.” To them, it may have simply meant “Dinner’s ready.” It’s a positive thing.

However, the definition of “done like dinner” in both the Oxford Dictionary and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is this: “Utterly defeated or outwitted.” Not at all positive.

As Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) says in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

2. Does the line fit with what’s going on in your world?

Sears was jumping on the Thanksgiving trend, pointing out products consumers might want to buy for the upcoming holiday. That makes sense.

In the context of Sears closing stores, though, “done like dinner” may be exactly what consumers think about the chain. (The next email didn’t help, either; it said, “Hurry! Last day for family denim.”)

Subject lines are important. Their job is to encourage people to open your email. Take one last look to make sure your subject lines make sense.