Email subject line tips and best practices

 8/25/2023 12:00:00 AM
Views: 632
12 Minutes, 18 Second
 Written By John Marx
Tags:Subject Lines, Newsletters

Email subject line tips and best practices

We're noticing a recurring issue with subject lines that lack impact, resulting in open rates of less than 10%. This situation often leads to the misconception that email marketing isn't effective. The key change needed is in crafting subject lines that resonate with your recipients, making your bulk emails more successful.

Your subject line is a crucial gateway to capturing attention, driving action, and preserving your brand reputation. It should never be an afterthought. Your subject line serves as a messenger conveying the value and purpose of your email to the recipient. It's this subject line that entices them to read further and engage with your brand by responding to your call to action (CTA). An ineffective subject line is not only poorly written—it can contribute to your emails being marked as spam. This damages your email sending reputation and can lead to your future emails being relegated to junk folders, even after you've addressed the issues with your subject lines.

Remember, your subject lines hold as much significance as the email marketing campaign itself. Rather than treating them as hurried additions, invest ample thought into crafting lines that genuinely intrigue and prompt curiosity.

Subject lines wield the power to determine whether your email is opened or left ignored amidst the chaos of overflowing inboxes. It's imperative for brands to effectively engage and communicate with their audience.

Marketers favor email marketing due to its impressive ROI. It's a low-cost yet highly effective approach.

Just like any relationship, the opening line sets the stage for what follows—emails are no exception. Your subject line conveys the value of your email to the recipient, encouraging them to delve deeper and engage more profoundly with your brand through the provided CTA.

A subpar subject line does more than simply disappoint—it can contribute to your email's classification as spam, causing harm to your digital reputation with customers, mail servers, and search engines. A staggering 69% of email recipients label emails as spam solely based on the subject line. And even when recipients don't report emails as spam, 47% of consumers decide whether to read an email purely based on the subject line. Your subject line shoulders the weighty responsibility of the "to read or not to read" decision.

A clever and attention-grabbing subject line can boost engagement and ensure your emails reside in the Inbox instead of the junk folder. This is precisely why it's crucial to regard subject lines as a pivotal aspect of your email marketing campaigns. They shouldn't be hurriedly penned just before hitting the send button; instead, allocate substantial time and consideration to crafting subject lines that captivate and inspire action.

How to write the best email subject lines

Before we look at some specific examples of great email subject lines, let's review what goes into making a subject line that resonates with the recipient.

Personalized Touch

Incorporate a personalized touch, [name]. Customizing email subject lines has the potential to boost open rates by 50%, resulting in a noteworthy 58% increase in click-to-open rates.

This customization can be as effortless as inserting the recipient's first name or recollecting a prior interaction or behavior. Research indicates that personalizing email subject lines solely with the recipient's first name enhances engagement, CTR (click-through rate), and overall interaction with the brand. This phenomenon occurs even if the content within the emails lacks personalization or significant information. The initial sense of intimacy fostered by the subject line triggers heightened engagement with the advertising message, regardless of its content. So, go ahead and build a rapport by addressing your customers by their first names.

Get the length right

To ascertain the ideal length for your customer base, experimentation is essential. However, we suggest aiming for a maximum of nine words and approximately 60 characters. Slightly exceeding or falling short of this guideline won't significantly impact your outcomes. Nevertheless, it's vital to avoid excessive wordiness (beyond 20 words) or a complete absence of words, as these extremes can pose challenges.

Exclude the word "newsletter"

Absolutely avoid using the term "newsletter" in your email's subject line. Data indicates that the inclusion of this word causes email open rates to plummet by nearly 19%. This decline can be attributed to the perception of traditional newsletters as uninspiring, unlike the valuable content your email contains. Even if your intention is to deliver a newsletter, it's best to omit this mention. Instead, highlight the valuable content within. Craft your newsletter as if it's a personalized email to an individual, mitigating the generic and uninteresting connotation.

Avoid spammy words, special characters, and YELLING

Maintaining an impeccable sender reputation requires steering clear of the spam folder. Symbols like (#%*@) and utilizing ALL CAPS send strong "spam" signals to both email recipients and internet service providers. At best, these practices might lead to an unsubscribe; more often, they relegate your messages to the spam folder.

Steer clear of widely recognized spam terms to ensure your subject lines remain pristine and your emails avoid the spam folder. Additionally, exercise restraint with exclamation points. Presented below are commonly employed spam keywords:

  • Apply now
  • As Seen On TV
  • Auto 
  • Billion
  • BOGO (Buy One, Get One)
  • Cash bonus
  • Cheap
  • Clever/catchy
  • Compare rates
  • Controversial
  • Credit
  • Double your income
  • Earn $
  • Earn extra cash
  • Eliminate debt
  • Explode your business
  • Extra income
  • Free
  • Fast cash
  • Hello ____,
  • How-to
  • Keywords
  • Negative tones
  • One-time Offer
  • Questions
  • Scarcity
  • Short and sweet
  • Sneak peek
  • Spammy Subjects
  • Special
  • Statistics
  • Trending topic
  • Urgent

Emojis for the win

Gone are the days when emojis sparked controversy upon their introduction. Incorporating emojis into email subject lines was initially met with skepticism, but that's now a thing of the past. Consistently, studies reveal that using emojis in subject lines tends to boost open rates, and astute email marketers are leveraging this phenomenon.

However, exercising caution in their usage is prudent. An excess of emojis could raise spam suspicions, and their appropriateness varies with the email's tone (such as transactional emails). Our suggestion is to limit yourself to one emoji per subject line.

Furthermore, it's essential to test emojis across diverse email clients and mobile devices, as rendering can differ. Emojis can be a valuable addition, provided you employ them judiciously and ensure they align with your email's overall tone and brand identity.

Remember to add preview text

When your email's subject line serves as the headline, think of the preview text as the supporting subtitle. This brief snippet appears in your email recipient's inbox, offering a glimpse of what's inside before they open the email.

If you leave the preview text uncustomized, it will simply extract from the beginning of your email. While this approach can suffice, it's more advantageous when you have control over the narrative. Elevate your email's quality by crafting preview text that adds an extra layer of value. With preview text, you have additional room to complement your subject line, provide a sneak peek of the email's content, and seize your subscriber's attention. This space offers a prime opportunity—ensure you maximize its potential.

While good email subject lines can stand alone, exceptional ones synergize with preview text, forming a cohesive duo that enhances engagement.

Walk the political tightrope

There are five significant generations today, and each has distinct, separate expectations for brands and preferences for communication. The Silent Generation is the least likely to engage with email, so we'll focus on the other four:


Although they have lived much of their lives without modern technology, Baby Boomers have embraced technology.

They value good customer service, simple and easy-to-understand content and are motivated by discounts and online offers that drive in-store purchases; however, Boomers tend to perceive personalization based on behavioral data like abandoned carts, cookies, or recent shopping experiences as "creepy."

Subject lines that would engage boomers would highlight offers and savings, clearly stated and in simple terms. They would likely be willing to engage with a request that needed to be redeemed in-store.


Despite being younger than Baby Boomers, Gen X tends to be hesitant about change and innovation, preferring to stick to what they know.

They are predisposed to be skeptical of brands and perceive themselves as still recovering from the great recession. Gen X is driven by incentives and freebies, like "buy one get one," and appreciates when brands try to woo them with personalized email campaigns. They're drawn to nostalgia, familiarity, and safety and are less likely to indulge in "luxuries."

Subject lines that engage Gen X would feel personalized and honest, avoid gimmicky language, and communicate a clear, easy-to-follow message.


Millennials place heavy importance on authentic brand messaging and prioritize brands that behave responsibly.

Having grown up alongside the internet, they are comfortable with technology and the most willing to trust and appreciate brands that use their online data to deliver personalized messaging.

Millennials are most likely to be loyal to a few chosen companies and are willing to pay more to shop with them; however, they're also the most likely to switch brands they're loyal to and become "disloyal." They would instead purchase from brands that consistently have lower prices rather than brands with temporary price drops from offers and deals; however, they are also the most likely to impulse buy something as quickly as possible, regardless of how much it costs. Subject lines that would engage Millennials would be highly personalized – noting their behavior, previous interactions, or preferences – in an effort to cultivate a relationship.


Despite being the youngest generation, Gen Z holds a large amount of spending power– $140B globally.

They are digital natives who have the shortest attention span yet – 8 seconds (compared to 12 seconds for Millennials). They're more likely to buy from brands that have established clear values, are inclusive, and have a robust online community. They prioritize style over value and are, therefore, willing to spend more to get what they want. Gen Z also values authenticity from brands but to a much greater degree than their Millennial counterparts. Another big difference is loyalty behaviors– Gen Z is far less likely to engage in loyalty programs than millennials; they'd rather interact with a brand on their own terms.

Subject lines engaging Gen Z would be direct, eye-catching, and authentic. For a generation that juggles five screens at a time, brands must grab their attention boldly.

Choosing Great Email Subject Lines

Enhancing open rates and amplifying email marketing success hinges on delivering timely information to your subscribers, a strategy these subject lines exemplify.

Conveying location-specific details communicates your attentiveness to your subscribers' needs.

Numbers wield more impact than mere words due to their ability to swiftly convey information. The subject line not only extends a tangible benefit to the recipient but also emanates from a real individual. Opting for a person's name as the sender rather than an impersonal company or batch name enhances the likelihood of your newsletter being opened and read.

Segmented email campaigns yield a staggering 760% more revenue compared to indiscriminate blasts sent to your entire email list. When possible, divide your groups into key categories. Examples include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Hobbies
  • Holidays
  • Industry
  • Interests
  • Job Title
  • Marital Status

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out

Across generations, the fear of missing out is a universal sentiment. Crafting a sense of urgency that avoids coming across as spam can prompt readers to engage and make purchases. The level of urgency embedded in your subject line correlates directly with subscribers' inclination to discover what your brand has prepared for them. Terms like "last chance," "expiring," or "limited time" prove effective at evoking urgency, especially for eCommerce enterprises disseminating offers.

To maximize the effectiveness of your FOMO strategy, ensure you promptly, efficiently, and seamlessly fulfill the promises you've made. This approach guarantees that your sense of urgency is well-founded and authentic.


Email marketing serves as an excellent platform for cultivating trust, establishing brand authority, and nurturing confidence among your subscribers. By furnishing recipients with the information they desire and require, you position your business as the ultimate source of value—be it through content, products, or services. To reach this pivotal point in your subscriber relationship, you must ensure your content not only reaches them but also captures their attention amidst the swift email inbox scan that most individuals perform while grappling with their daily flood of messages.

Formulating a primary subject line might appear relatively straightforward, yet crafting one that not only boosts open rates but also compels repeated engagement demands finesse. We've compiled a series of high-performing, top-tier email subject lines designed to kindle inspiration for your next email marketing campaign. These subject lines can aid your email newsletter in securing a cherished spot as a regular fixture within recipients' inboxes.

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