How To Write The Perfect Email Subject Line

Email subject lines make or break your campaign open rate. Learn how to write email subject lines, and how to write them efficiently.

How many emails are sent to your inbox every day? 100+ maybe 500+? If you’re like me (and many more people), you probably have hundreds lying in your inbox unread. About 105 billion emails are sent daily, and in this time of countless information and mailing lists, one thing stands out: the subject line.  

The subject line is what lies between an email being opened and being ignored. It is what helps you click on a particular email and perhaps overlook the rest. So much so that 47% of marketers assess email subject line to improve the email’s performance. 

So, whether you’re a sales team trying to capture a potential client’s attention, a regular blogger trying to get more clicks, or want your email to have that extra kick, here are ten tips to help guide you on how to write the perfect subject line. 

1. Write the Subject Email First

Although most people compose their subject email right before hitting send, the subject line is the first thing a reader comes across in their inbox. So contrary to most practices, start with your subject line. Beginning with the subject line puts you in your reader’s point of view and also helps with the layout of the rest of the email. 

2. Start With Action-Oriented Verbs

Subject lines are similar to calls to action in that the wording used should entice readers to click. Subject lines that begin with action verbs are much more appealing, and adding a lively verb to the beginning of your emails will make them much more clickable.

People would be more likely to click on your email if the subject line conveys urgency and enthusiasm. For example, ‘Bend it like Beckham this Saturday’ instead of ‘Play football with us this weekend.’ The first subject line places the reader in that position where their skills might even be at a professional level instead of a more common and less actionable email. 

3. Create an Overview of What’s Inside

A subject line can also be just like the blurb of a book. It gives a summary of what to expect but also entices the reader to keep reading. Therefore, creating a brief overview of what the reader will expect when reading the subject line is important because the chances are higher if they have been on the lookout for something in particular. 

A great way to do this is when delivering promises via email. If your visitor has downloaded an offer and you’re sending it to them by email, it’s a good idea to use a subject line that says something like, ‘Your new e-book inside!’  or ‘Your guide is waiting for you!’ This is preferable to a plain “thank you” in the subject line because it indicates that something is waiting inside the email.

4. Personalize it and Keep it Special

Everyone likes to feel special, and this applies to emails as well. You must know who you’re emailing, and so they will realize that it’s about them or a topic that piques their interest. One way to do this is by using their name or company name. For example, ‘Increase your online traffic Company X.’  

The correct phrasing also gives that extra personalized feel as they will feel like you wrote the email with them in mind. A few generalized phrases that are not specific but will make your reader feel special are:

  • “Only for our esteemed clients.”
  • “A special deal for you”
  • “This is my gift to you.”
  • “You are cordially invited!”

5. Be Clear and Specific

The subject line should clearly state the purpose of the email so that the recipient can prioritize its importance without having to open it. Please don’t keep the reader guessing what the email could be about because chances are, they won’t assume and will probably leave your email unread. Avoid subject lines like, ‘Give us a second of your time to let you know…’. Instead, specify what the email entails. For example, if your email pertains to applying for a new job, include your name and the position you are applying to be considered.

6. Keep it Short and Sweet

Approximately 77% of emails are opened via mobile email apps, so chances are the subject line is cut off often. It is recommended to keep your subject line to fewer than 50 characters to avoid this. 

Avoid phrases that the reader might also not find helpful. These include numbers and letters that may not make sense, like ‘Order 5467463 is ready for collection.’ The reader may not understand the numbers and may find it hard to distinguish one order from another. Instead, a subject line like ‘Your package is ready for collection from Address X.’ 

7. Create Importance

When phrased creatively and strategically, communicating urgency and scarcity in an email subject line will help motivate readers to click (or act). However, it is essential to use this kind of subject line sparingly as you don’t want to be known as the brand or person that raises people’s anxiety levels all the time by using phrases like ‘Act Now!’

8. Use Keywords

You may feel that using fewer than 50 characters and keeping it clear and specific might narrow down what you may want to express in your email. A tactic that you may want to implement is keywords. Keywords efficiently convey what points you need to put across without being too wordy and still capturing the reader’s attention at the same time.

9. Avoid capitalization of words and exclamation points

Email subject lines that overuse caps and exclamation points are frequently seen as spam mail and are often overlooked or even blatantly ignored. An example of such is ‘OPEN NOW AND GET A FREE GIFT!!!!!!’. Although there is a promise of a gift by opening the email, chances are the reader will not take it seriously and might think that the email belongs in the junk mail folder. Use lower-case in your subject lines. Chances are, your email will be taken seriously. 

10. Use this inbox preview tool

Use this free tool that I created. I personally scripted an email subject line visualization tool to give both myself, and my clients a better idea of how the email subject line will look on mobile phones.

In mobile view, less characters are visible on the screen, hence, consider using that virtual real estate wisely!

Click the banner below to use the tool.

Finally, if your emails aren’t being opened, they aren’t being used. You’ve got great material to share; now it’s up to you to prove it in the subject line! 

13 Responses

  • I often find myself using SEO-driven keyword strategies in my email newsletters. Many times, when I’m searching for an offer I received earlier in the day, it is much easier to locate the email by keywords and key phrases. I try to keep this in mind when creating my newsletter campaigns. For example, if I am searching for a bath bomb bogo deal, I can enter the key phrase into the email search bar and quickly access the deal.

  • I never noticed these aspects of an email subject line, but to be completely honest, these are definitely what differentiate the less essential emails I open from the ones I toss into my trash. It’s so essential for our email subject lines to be engaging, and to keep in mind our audience. In my opinion, it might actually be useful to hire or ask people who are within your demographic what pop culture references are relevant, what’s funny, or what they’re talking about. In my opinion, writing your email (thus your email subject line) and bending them to popular and topical subjects can help humanize you and your projects to your potential clients. Especially in this day in age and with the upcoming generations, relationships, authenticity, and connection are some of the most important aspects of sales and interaction.

  • Hi Taylor,

    Yes! We’re on the same page! People should also write the subject line first to prevent the content of the email from veering off topic. Making the subject line special does definitely help increase open rates on emails, even though I know that is a trick, I still want to know what special offer I am receiving, in case it is actually a special offer. So it will definitely work with those with FOMO!

    Having an extremely long subject line is a no-no, because your audience cannot see the full topic of your email, so they will either not open it or open just to see the rest of the subject line and then close it, which then skews your open rate.

  • If the subject line in an email is not interesting enough for me to open, I won’t open it. I think that creating a catchy subject line that will draw a customer to open it is important. Making it relevant and trendy is also a good idea, just making sure that it isn’t overly cheesy or unnecessarily extra is something to also keep in mind. I agree that when you put the phrase “this is my gift to you,” or “A special deal for you,” I am probably going to open it to see what is “meant for me”. I will keep all of your advice in mind for my next email campaign! Thank you so much for your help!

  • This is something I am actually pretty decent at since I know personally I can weed out spam from my email with the best of them. I try to make my email subjects catchy but not to the point they sound exactly like a marketing scheme. I always ask myself, what would I want to see and what would make me open an email if I saw it. If it sounds cheesy, its always a no go. I dont like that, and neither do customers.

  • There’s definitely an art to writing email subject lines. I disagree with writing your subject line first though. I think of things like this more in the line of making a tittle for an essay, book, article, or the likes. If you write the main content first, you will be better able to understand what would make a good subject line. It you write the subject line first, you may make it more difficult for you write the email as you try to force yourself to write in a way that matches the subject line. You always have to give yourself room to be creative.

  • I actually already usually start with the subject line. Some of the tactics I have used for subject lines is keeping it simple, making the subject a greeting, or even using an exclamation mark. I like the idea of starting with a verb, but I think what has to be kept in mind is that subject lines cannot be too strange. If you start with something too quirky you’ll turn people away. I also like the idea of giving a summary of the email, though I think it’s important, as stated, not to make your subject line too long. Though longer subject lines may also be eye-catching, sometimes the shortest option is the best one. I do think personalized emails catch more attention, though it’s important to keep in mind that it can get old. Continuing to get seemingly “personal” emails can eventually feel redundant. I think the subject line really has to be felt by the writer. For example, a subject line for a political campaign needs to be more action-oriented, meanwhile a personal blog email may need to be more personalized. As I stated I actually disagree and believe one exclamation point when appropriate can be helpful. However, I agree too many can definitely be an issue.

  • The perfect email line should be something that will catch your customer’s eyes. Without a fire first-line, people will just send your email to spam and you will never be able to get them to be your customer. This post was very useful because it helps you to catch your customer’s eyes and make them want to read the whole entire email.

  • Hi Taylor,

    Man, thank you so much for this. If you want to navigate in the corporate or professional world, knowing how to write a subject line is crucial. I had to learn the hard way, but I could’ve used something like this a long time ago. I can’t tell you how many times I received an email with an extremely long subject line, that’s the biggest mistake I see in emails today. Subject lines should be attention grabbers, pretty much like a news headline, so make it short and important. Your email preview tool is also a lifesaver, it helps you visualize what your email would look like before sending it, which can help reshape your thinking.

  • Email subject lines can be very challenging, and I think you tackled the topic very well in this post. I think the number one key is to make sure you don’t look like spam, and you had made an important point in Tip #9, I know I wouldn’t be opening an email that was in all caps or had several exclamation points.
    In addition to these recommendations, I think it’s also important to test some subject lines, particularly those that will be subject lines of important marketing campaigns or initiatives.

  • I found this helpful. I am one of those who struggle with knowing what to say in the email subject line. This is an excellent guide for all types of emails that need to be sent. I like how you provided examples of what would grab the attention of the person receiving the email. I have quite a number of emails I never open myself because of the email subject line seeming too dull or spammy. Your email inbox preview tool is brilliant! It is a huge help!

  • I really need some help with email marketing because I’d only been blogging for a few months and had tried to sell my posts via email a few times, but it didn’t work out. I will contact you next week…

  • I always try to compose my emails like a research paper or essay: concise, organised by topic, and with logical flow from one paragraph to the next. Using this model, my subject line would be my thesis statement. The recipient should know exactly what the body of the email is about up front, instead of trying to figure it out as they read. The tips outlined here are a great way for me to make my subject lines even more to the point. Thank you.

    ~Cory S.

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