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8 Tips for Writing Better Email Subject Lines


Content Creation

Subject lines are the first thing people see when they receive your email. Sometimes, it’s the only thing. It determines whether or not that email gets read — or gets trashed immediately. (Or left alone to sit in your inbox for eternity.)

A 2020 study found that 33% of people open emails because of their catchy subject lines. When you consider the fact that the average click-through rate across industries is only 2.69%…well, you can see why email subject lines are so important. 

Note from Latasha: Average open rates for most online businesses are 1-2%, making it a numbers game. The more eyes on your email, the better! 

Try our nine tips below to write better email subject lines that get your open rates, traffic, and conversions up. 

Subject line tip #1: Say their name

This is a super easy strategy that most brands and businesses already use, so make sure you’re doing it. Personalize your subject lines with your recipient’s name using tags or tokens in your chosen email marketing platform.

Note: We’ve seen tags set up improperly so that the recipient sees “firstname” or “FNAME” instead of their actual name. Yikes. Don’t make this mistake! 

Subject line tip #2: Make it personalized

Using the recipient’s first name is just the start of personalizing your emails. Why not use other information you’ve gathered about your email subscribers?

Here are other ways to personalize your email subject lines:

  • Tailor them to location; e.g., “Snow is coming ⛄ Get 20% off warm boots”
  • Follow up on their purchase; e.g., “A secret to making the most of your guide”
  • Celebrate someone’s birthday; e.g., “Enjoy 30% off your order for your birthday!”
  • Remind them of your offer; e.g., “Only a few spots left for this program!”   

Subject line tip #3: Appeal to emotion

Look back at those email subject lines in the previous section for a second. Do you see how they appealed to the recipient’s emotions? 

“Snow is coming” creates a sense of urgency and encourages the reader to take action. The second subject line about “a secret” stirs up curiosity and interest in the reader. The last line about limited spaces for a program? That creates good ol’ FOMO, or fear of missing out.

Subject line tip #4: Make them an offer they can’t refuse

We love free stuff and amazing deals, so why not cut to the chase and make an offer for something great in the subject line? 

Personally, this is what gets me to click on brand emails. When I click on an email that says “50% off summer sale on jeans!” I know what to expect in the email and won’t waste too much time reading it (as long as the subject line is clear and accurate).

Subject line tip #5: Ask a question

You can’t give out free stuff or have sales all the time, so how do you write an eye-catching email subject line without those things? 

One way to do it is to ask a question. Be mysterious. Build some intrigue with your email subject lines. Allude to the beginning of a powerful story that can only be read by opening the email. Just make your story on-brand and relevant for your audience.

Subject line tip #6: Keep it short…

Nearly half of people report opening their email on mobile devices. Nearly half. If you’re not writing mobile-friendly email subject lines, you’re failing to reach a lot of your people.

Keep your subject lines short. The suggested length for mobile varies — between 31 to 43 characters. Anything longer will get cut off. (For emails read on desktop, it’s about 60 characters.) 

Subject line tip #7: …but use all the space you got

Your subject line should be short, yes, but use all available space you have! Preview text, or preheaders, follow the subject line. They share additional information that expands on your subject line, and can be the deciding factor in whether someone clicks through.

There’s more wiggle room when it comes to preview text length, and it depends on what your email is trying to accomplish. Telling someone that your special launch sale is ending? Your preview text can be short and sweet, like “sale ends at midnight MST.” Sharing how your brand was founded? It can be a little longer to draw interest. 

Subject line tip #8: Avoid these email subject line no-nos

Now that we’ve covered what you can do to create better email subject lines, let’s talk about what you should probably avoid.

Using too many emojis 

Emojis are fun! We use them for clients and for our own newsletters. But don’t go overboard. Too many emojis, or emojis that aren’t relevant to your message, can look spammy and turn off readers.

Using caps

Ever seen a subject line WRITTEN ALL IN CAPS? It’s like having someone yell directly in your ear. It’s not good for readability, and it gets someone’s attention in a negative way. You can bet your email will get ignored.

Using spammy words and punctuation

“Want your free gift? Claim it now!!” There’s an unfortunate example of an email sitting in my spam folder as we speak. It’s from a small business, and yes, I marked it not spam. 

Why did it get flagged as spam? It might have been the combination of a question mark and exclamation points in the subject line, or the phrase “claim it now.” Or both, because they’re typically spammy language. Be more specific and on-brand, avoid that punctuation mistake, and you’re golden.

Make an excellent first impression with your email subject lines

Let’s recap. What makes a great email subject line? They need to be:

  • Appealing enough to stand out in a full inbox
  • Personalized and compelling to encourage people to click through
  • Brief and concise, yet informative and interesting

Seems like a lot of pressure for a piece of content about 38 characters long, right? 

But we promise, your attention to detail and willingness to test different subject lines will pay off for your biz. These are tips for subject lines we shared — not rules. Do what works for you and your email list!

Jess Hammons, Uncanny Content Writer and Meme Enthusiast
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