You’re writing an important email. It’s about to bring tons of clicks to your blog or website. You thought about all aspects: you made the text clean and readable, and you threw in nice graphic that get the recipient’s attention. Even if you’re not sending a message for email marketing, you’re still very concerned to maintain proper form and style. You communicate with potential business partners and customers on a daily basis, so your writing is basically the face of your business. You focused on the message itself so much that you almost forgot about the subject line. Now what? You’re left with a great message and no subject line. Do you just write Friday on it? No. It has to be catchy!


What if your message gets stuck in a busy inbox? People get dozens of messages overnight and they don’t have time to go through them all. They make a selection, and the subject line is the main criteria during that process. The statistics are clear: 35% of email recipients base their decision to open emails on the subject line alone.

Calm down; you’ll have this under control. It’s a single line after all, so it can’t be that hard to write. We’ll give you some tips on how to write email subjects that will get people’s attention.

1. Ditch the Salesy Tone

Buy these flowers for your loved one today! No; that’s not the right way to write an email subject line. If you’re writing promotional emails, that doesn’t mean that the subject line should be a direct call to action. If you want people to read this email, it shouldn’t be aggressive. People appreciate their time a lot. When they see a busy inbox in the morning, they won’t be interested in reading an offer from someone who just wants their money. You don’t want to look like that guy.

Instead of taking this salesy approach, you can turn things to your favor? How? By making it all about them. Make your loved one happy with flowers! See? That sounds better. The recipient won’t be taking this message as an invasion to their credit card. They will take it as an advice that might make their night better. The subject line should show the value of your message. Not the value you’re getting, but the value they are getting. Then, in the actual message, you can make an offer.

Ditch the Salesy Tone

2. Rule Number One: Make It Short!

Here’s the subject line of one of the many emails I’ve gotten from Quora Digest: What was Jennifer Aniston’s reason for not inviting Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc to… That’s a long line. On a mobile device, the line would be even more butchered than this. ContactMonkey is an email marketing service that shows when an email is opened and what device the recipient reads the message on. According to their statistics, 40% of the times a person reads the email for the first time is on a mobile device.

I know Quora, so it’s not a spam and I might read the message anyway. However, using the entire question as a subject line is not a smart idea.

You can write a long subject line; no one prevents you from doing that. In this case, however, brevity is the key to success. Use fewer words and make sure they will fit in the line the recipient sees on their device. They need to know what this email is about. When you get an idea about a subject line, try to narrow it down to 5-7 words. If you can keep the line within three words, it will be perfect.

Here’s a good example; it’s from an email I got from The Republic of Tea: A Sip Above the Rest. Spot on!        

3. Personalize It!

Ken Roberts, email marketing expert from Resumes Planet, has an important advice to give for writing subject lines: “It’s better if it’s personal. When someone sees their name in the subject line, they immediately get the impression that the message is important. ‘Ken, this could all be yours…’ – that sounds much better than ‘Dear recipient, this could all be yours,’ doesn’t it?”

For some reason, people love the sound of their own name. When you address the recipient by their first name, you trigger a feeling of familiarity. If you’re writing an email message to a single recipient, that’s easy to do. Dan, I have an offer for you – that was easy, right? If you’re sending marketing messages to a large audience, things are a bit more complicated. But, not as complicated as you might think, since there’s a tool for that: Mail Merge with Attachments.        

Personalize It

4. You Want to Be Funny? Not Too Much!

Humor is greatly appreciated in marketing. If you can write a witty message that will make people laugh, go ahead and do that! But, what about the subject line? Is there enough space for a joke there?

In addition to the space factor, there’s another problematic thing about humor: everyone perceives it differently. The same joke may crack someone up, but another recipient might be offended by it. If you have the skills of a sitcom writer and you’re not afraid to face some criticism about your jokes, you can infuse one in the subject line.

Here’s one funny headline from ASOS: Wedding game. Strong. Well, at least it was funny for me because I get it, but for other people that line will be lame.

5. Don’t Make a Promise You Can’t Deliver

Is there something more frustrating than clickbaits? Sure, a clickbait might trick people to click the message. Do you know how frustrated they will be when they realize the text of your message has nothing to do with the subject line? Very!

If you make your recipients nervous for trusting you this time, they will never trust you again. They will just avoid your messages, or worse: they will unsubscribe with the speed of light.

6. Make the Point Clear

So you can’t trick the recipients with clickbaits. What do you do? It’s simple: make a point. It’s okay to write the subject line after you write the message. In fact, that’s exactly what we recommend you to do. If you’re delivering an offer via email, tell the recipient what it is. Here’s a discount code for you – that simple line will work if you’re sending a message to new subscribers or regular recipients who already know who you are.

Our Gift to you: 20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers – that’s another catchy line from my inbox that tells me exactly what the message contains. If someone who subscribes to sites that offer writing tips sees this message, they will definitely click on it.

A Sip Above the Rest

7. Don’t Ask         Questions

Do you know who the richest person in the world is? This kind of headline may seem like a cool idea. You assume the recipients will immediately open the message to see who that person is. However, there’s a problem: this isn’t a message you would get from someone you know. The line makes it look like a marketing email, but that’s not the impression you’re aiming for. You want to get close and personal with the recipients.

8. Create the Sense of Urgency

This marketing trick works beautifully. When you make an offer that expires in a short period of time, the recipients will quickly make the decision. When you don’t give them time to make considerations, you won’t lose them to doubts. You need to convey that sense of urgency through the subject line.

Think of it this way: you get a message that invites you to buy the new book of your favorite author. If the subject says that the book is finally here, you might think there’s plenty of time for you to check out that offer. If it says you can get it only today with 30% off, you’ll take action right away. You don’t even have to make a special discount offer. You can use triggers like Get it before it’s gone.


Stop yelling, will you? We’ve all gotten emails with such subject lines. They don’t make us excited to see what’s there. They seem plain rude and spammy. You can accentuate a word or two in that way, but do not write the whole line with capital letters.

10. Avoid Long Words

Clear and concise language is crucial when you’re writing email messages. Who wants to get emails with words they don’t understand? If you see a subject line that needs a dictionary to crack the code, you probably won’t pay attention to it.

When you’re trying to write a clear subject line, use the first words that come to your mind. Use words you use when talking to your friends. Here are two examples:

  • Best Tips for Writing Clear Business Emails
  • Capital Suggestions on Composing Unambiguous Business Messages

What subject line would you click? Most people would react to the first one, since it conveys the point without much fluff.

We All Get Too Many Emails, But We Read Many, Too!

A crowded inbox is not something rare. You’ll have a lot of competition to deal with, especially when you’re sending marketing messages. However, keep in mind that people have subscribed to your messaging list for a reason: they want those messages. You only need to make them interesting and write a catchy subject line, so they will click the message and check out your offer.


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