Marissa Taffer
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With so much email from work, family, friends and brands it is so hard to open and read everything in your inbox. So, how do you make sure your emails are being opened and read? These 21 tips for crafting the perfect subject line will help you to make sure your emails aren't overlooked.

Best practices for writing email subject lines.

Much like “clickbaity” headlines for articles online, an email subject line should draw in the reader and inspire them to act or want to learn more. Be careful of fearmongering headlines because you don’t want to panic your reader unnecessarily. Just as journalists give the most important information in the first sentence, called the lede, you want to make sure that you are putting the most important information upfront as well. 

Some marketing companies specialize in email marketing, and you can learn a lot from them about what works — they’re constantly testing lines and optimizing for the most opens. Look at the blogs and resources from companies like MailChimp, Mailshake, HubSpot, WordStream and ConstantContact. 

The other thing to remember is that practice makes perfect. You’ll be able to test out subject lines and learn what works best for you. Whether you’re sending an email to a colleague or looking to sell your product or service, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice writing a great subject line every day!

21 Tips for writing a catchy email subject line 

These 21 tips will make you an email subject line writing pro.

1. Create a sense of urgency.

Use phrases like “Act Fast”, “Today Only”, or mention a limited quantity — for example “For the First 100 People”. 

2. Share a discount, deal or special.

Use your subject line to let the recipient know they’ll find a discount, deal, special offer or a sale. Most people can’t resist a good sale. 

3. Let the reader know what you need them to do.

This technique is especially helpful in a business context but can be applied to a sales email as well. Use a heading like “For Review” or “Action Required by DATE” to tell the reader you need them to do something. Extra credit for putting the deadline in the subject line. 

4. Tell the reader what you’re going to do.

Use this technique if you are launching a new brand, service or course. Use the subject line to tell the recipient what and when. 

5. Keep it short.

The best subject lines are no longer than one sentence. Too much subject line will get cut off. Test your subject line in a few emails/web browsers to make sure it isn’t too long for the reader to understand. 

6. Ensure it is easy to read on a mobile device.

Just like making sure a subject line isn’t too long, it is important to make it easy to read on a mobile device. Most people read their emails on their phones (at least at first). 

7. Pique their curiosity with a question.

Ask a question in the subject line to pique the reader’s curiosity and get them to open your email. 

8. Use an emoji.

This tip is not just for teenagers! Using an emoji is a fun way to engage the recipient and encourage her to read on.

9. Paint a picture.

Use imagery to draw in the reader. Who doesn’t want a blissful spa day or to imagine sand between their toes? 

10. Tell them what’s in the email.

Be direct and clear about what is in the email. This works especially well in a corporate setting but can also work for marketing or promotions. It could be important documents inside, confidential information, your personal account info… etc. 

11. Make it feel personal.

This is especially important for marketing emails. With the high volume of emails we all get, no one wants to open a generic mass email or, even worse, spam! Use the person’s name in the subject line if that feels appropriate to you. 

12. Make the recipient laugh.

Use humor or a great pun to connect with your reader and make them want to open your email. 

13. Read other people’s subject lines.

Draw inspiration from the emails you open most.

14. Be human.

Avoid corporate jargon or too much technical information

15. Use a quote.

Try something interesting and easy to remember. 

16. Test a few subject lines to see which ones get the most opens.

You can use A/B testing to try two different subject lines for the same email. 

17. Don’t use the same subject line every time you send an email.

Readers will start to ignore your messages or only open them when they need to. 

18. Keep up with email marketing blogs to learn about subject line writing from the experts.

There are many professionals whose full-time job it is to keep learning about and improving the art of subject line writing. See what you can learn from them!  

19. Make sure the subject line matches the body of the email.

This will help you get your message through spam filters. 

20. Be conscious of your use of hyperbole.

You can use hyperbole to generate excitement or a “buzz,” but don’t use it to make your reader scared to open the message (except for emails about Halloween).

21. Have fun!  

Even in a corporate setting try to have fun with your email. If you can communicate in a manner that is compelling and fun, you can make even the dullest messages interesting again. Note, don’t use this tip for serious performance or HR-related emails at work. Even with humor and fun, cracking an inappropriate joke about diversity training or performance reviews is never a good idea. 

Example subject lines.

  • For a limited time only, get your rates lowered on your car insurance 

  • For review: Sales Department monthly reporting 

  • Join us for an evening of wine and laughter 

  • The sandy beaches of Jamaica await

  • You won’t believe what we did! 

  • Sandy, your special offer is inside 

  • For our favorite Lady Boss

  • Happy Birthday, Stephanie! 

  • What are you waiting for? Join us for a special event. 

  • You’re the best — we have a surprise for you

  • Schedule now: Book your appointment for your new headshot 

  • Back to school? Shop now for the best deals 

  • We’re creating new courses just for you

  • Feedback requested: Tell us what you think about your last service 

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