How to write email subject lines

Subject lines are the most important part of any good email copywriting. An email subject line is essentially a headline – and it should serve a good headline’s primary purpose: To spark interest to read the rest of the content.

The best-written newspaper columns would not get a second glance without an eye-catching headline. The following examples are famous headlines written years ago:

“Assassin Kills Kennedy”
“Diana Dead”
“VE Day – It’s All Over”
“The First Footstep”
“King Elvis Dead”

Those who remember these events will recall what they were doing at the time. Newspapers and Magazines needed powerful headlines to attract readers to their publication in the light of fierce competition.

Now consider the humble email. Estimates suggest that almost 300 billion emails are sent every day. Yes, that is 300 billion!

Open rates

The open rate for email, depending on the industry, is between 14.92% and 26.52%, according to email marketing stats published by MailChimp. The average for all industries that MailChimp analyzed is 20.81%. That means nearly 80% of marketing emails are never opened!

In such a crowded space, what subject line is required to encourage people to open your email?

Click-through rates

More startling is the click-through rate, the percentage of recipients who take action after opening the email. The top rate for those who click on a link in your email is just 4.78% and might be as low as 1.06%, based on recently updated stats from MailChimp!

How to write email subject lines

So, with this competition, you need confidence in writing great email subject lines to boost your open rates.

These tips will help you write better subject lines:

Keep your subject line short

This is a difficult skill to master. But consider that most emails are now opened on mobile devices. Check this compelling email headline:

5 Effective Copywriting Techniques You Can Use Immediately To Power Up Your Copy! (14 words 85 characters)

Which may display like this:

5 Effective Copywriting Techniques You Can Use Immediately (9 words 63 characters).

The truncation has left the subject line without its emotional charge.

Consider this shorter alternative:

Today Only! A Copywriter’s Dream! (5 words 30 characters)


How The New Gmail Will Affect Your Email Marketing

The example above shows a sense of urgency. “Today Only!” The offer won’t be available tomorrow. So fear of missing a good deal may prompt recipients to open.

This fear of missing out (FIMO) is a powerful psychological tool. You can introduce FIMO by creating a sense of urgency or scarcity, for example, “only 5 left” or, “you have 1 day left.”


If the subject line leaves an open-ended question in the air or a cliffhanger, the recipient will need to open it to satisfy their curiosity.

A surprise gift inside (unwrap it now!)

Is this the quickest way to make money today?

But don’t push this to the point of absurdity. “Don’t Open This Email” will provoke a cynical reaction from today’s savvy internet users. They are likely to take you at your word–and not open the email!


Many people today seek instant gratification or a quick fix. If you can help someone to get where they are going without hard work or a learning curve, you have a market.

These examples will demonstrate:

Learn Spanish with only 10 minutes a day!

How to build a website in one hour without using code.

Done For You Sales Funnel to make $100 a day

With this approach, you can encourage your subscribers to achieve their goals the easy way by offering a useful tool that saves them time and energy.

Personalize your email headline

Personalised Facebook Ads

The email subject line has an important bearing on the open and click-through rates. It is estimated that a personalized subject line increases the open rate by 17% and the click-through rate by 30%.

You can easily include your subscribers’ names in the subject line or in the content with the features of current auto-responders. Use this sparingly to be effective. If a recipient’s name appears five or six times throughout an email, it could have the opposite effect.

Happy Birthday Alice! There’s a present inside!

Hi, Bob! Here’s a special gift for being my valued subscriber.

If you know your list well, you can adopt a more personal style and be more relaxed and familiar with your headline and content. You can inject your personal humor. But know that humor doesn’t always travel well across language and cultural boundaries. If you have an all-American audience, you will know how far you can go.

Another personalization approach is to mention the recipient’s town or city in the subject heading.

Learn This Little Known Secret from Denver and Boost Your Profits by 50%!

But if you are not a first-name-type-of-person then use plenty of “you” and “yours” in your copy.

Use numbers in email subject lines

Use numbers in your subject line. You will get a better opening rate. Headlines on emails work like the headlines on blogs. A number can be represented by a percentage, or the size of an audience, or a numerical benefit.

10 Ways to Increase Your Profits Using Free Traffic.

Increase your mailing list by 50% with These Powerful Tips.

Join with 1000 Marketers at Our Special Webinar.

Make a statement

Sometimes it’s best to take a straightforward approach to engaging your audience. Take a rest from clever headlines and keep it simple:

Facebook Goes For Growth: 10 Things You Should Know.

Tips That Show How You Can Make Money Online – Guaranteed!

Thousands Make a Fortune in Internet Marketing – So Can You!

Email subject lines

Want to take “luck” out of the equation?

Pick up our free guide to the 100 most opened subject lines.

Discover which email subject lines ‘get the open,’ complete with open rates and click-through percentages, so you compare your own results…

Also provided in the report is a spreadsheet of all of the subject lines, so you can sort them as you want… Just click here to download it!

Some practical tips in email marketing

List segmentation

Segment your list and target your emails better. You can group your subscribers by gender, age, state, country, business, lifestyle and many other categories. That way you won’t be making a great offer on football kit to a baseball fan, nor a special on a big meat pack to a vegetarian.

Now that emails are more interactive, targeting your customers with the right offer is now more important. Interactive emails mean that the recipients can buy from within the email with just one click.

A/B split testing

A word can make a significant impact in an email subject line. So always test every batch of emails you send to analyze open rates, click-through rates, and sales. Introduce one small change at a time to see what difference it makes. Perhaps introducing a personal name will make a big impact, or using a particular word like “powerful” in the subject line provides an emotional charge that increases profits.

Get your timing right

Synchronize your email dispatches to get the best returns. A weekday may work better than a weekend. Mornings may work better than afternoons. It is likely to be different for different audiences.


Even though open and click-through rates are low, email still outperforms other marketing platforms like social media in reaching your clients.

Email is the best way to establish lasting relationships with your subscribers. There may be a steep learning curve in perfecting the art of creating a good email and an even better email subject line, but it’s worth the climb!