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Email + Automation


12 Ways to Write Better Email Subject Lines

Email + Automation / 3.19.19 / By Mike Reed

If you’re anything like me, you probably instantly delete emails with subject lines that don’t sound appealing.

But if you’re in the email marketing business, you’re probably wondering, “How do I get people to not instantly delete an email that I send?”

Have no fear! There are a few things you can do to increase your open rates—and it all starts with the right subject line. According to marketing software giant Hubspot, 35% of readers open an email based on how the subject line sounds.

The subject line is the first thing your readers are going to see, so you need to hook them right away to make them want to keep reading. Here’s a few ways to get your recipients clicking.

Make It Personal

Research shows that emails subject lines that included a person’s first name had higher click-through rates than emails that did not include personalization. When you include your customer’s name in your subject line, you’re showing that you're crafting a tailored message just for them—not spamming your whole base with the same message. You might also personalize emails based on location or wish your customer a happy birthday if you have that information.

And remember, personalization goes both ways. Avoid using sender names like “noreply@company” in your email marketing campaigns, or you might be mistaken for spam.

Make People Feel Special

While we’re on the subject of personalization, go the extra mile to make your customers feel special in your subject line. For example, “Private event invite just for you” makes the recipient feel like a member of a very exclusive club.

Be Concise

People have lots of emails in their inbox and are typically navigating through them very quickly. Be clear and concise about what benefit your email is bringing to your customer. Keep in mind that subject lines of more than 50 characters can get a little dicey on smaller screens. Many people read their emails on their mobile devices, so subject lines that are too long will probably be cut off.

Show Personality

Don’t be afraid to use a little humor! It shows your brand has a fun side. Keep the occasion in mind and make sure you understand your audience. Humor is not always appropriate if you're emailing a CEO trying to land new business, for instance. And keep it PG and PC—everyone might not have the same sense of humor as you.

Don't Mislead

If your email isn’t about pizza, don’t write a subject line referencing pizza. Simple as that. True, the suggestion of pizza might get customers to open the email, but if you’re not delivering, you’ll burn bridges with your customers.

Use Verbs

Verbs convey action, excitement and urgency. They engage rather than simply inform your customers. “Eat Pizza with Nicole Tonight” sounds more enticing than “Nicole is eating pizza at a restaurant tonight.”

Don’t Scream

There are enough people yelling on the internet. Avoid all-caps subject lines and excessive punctuation. If your readers feel like you’re yelling at them, they're most likely going to instantly delete.

Use Emojis, Sometimes

Emojis are fun, but use them sparingly. Here are the top emojis used in subject lines, according to Mailchimp.

Emojis can make your subject line seem more interesting, but only if used at the right time.

Yes, the 💩might be too much.

Avoid Spam Triggers

Things like “100% Free,” “Amazing stuff,” “Don’t delete,” "Winner," “Great Offer!” and similar words and phrases are likely to be marked as spam in most email inboxes.

Ask Interesting Questions

Make your recipients curious by posing a question relevant to their situation. For example, subject lines like “Are you overpaying for WiFi?” or “Do you know what your home is worth?” hook the customer by promising useful, immediately beneficial information.


Adding a sense of urgency when you have something for readers to act on might make them interested in what's inside the email. Only use this if you have something for them to act on, otherwise it will just come across as misleading.

Always A/B Test

Send two identical emails with different subject lines and see which performs best. It’s the best way to see what's working for your company and what isn’t. Every company has a different audience, so it’s hard to predict what readers will like and what increases your open rates—unless you test.


Mike Reed