Writing email subject lines: 3 keys to rock your open rate

writing-email-subject-linesWhat’s the trick to writing email subject lines that compel your audience to click and read?  It’s a subtle art.  The main thing is to put yourself in your reader’s position.

When you take a break from work to check your email, you’re probably hoping to find a message from a friend or loved one, right?

You’re not usually thinking to yourself, “Gee whiz, I sure hope someone is trying to sell me something.”

Reading promotional emails is everyone’s last priority.  If you hope to get yours read, you need to fly under your reader’s “ignore” radar.

The First Key to Writing Email Subject Lines: Make it Casual

Your target reader scans her inbox for casual messages of care and connection that directly concern her. This means that you need to write email subject lines that match that casual, personal style.  Your subject lines should be:

  • phrased like an off-the-cuff thought, with lower-case letters
  • not capitalized like a Very Important Announcement from On High
  • no more than eight words or about fifty characters in length

Which means instead of writing email subject lines like this:

Top Ten Ways to Save on Gifts This Holiday Season

You want to write them like this:

Gifts you need at a price you’ll love…

The Second Key to Writing Email Subject Lines: Talk to the Ego

Human beings are self-interested creatures. Your reader isn’t concerned that you would like her to shop your website.  She cares about her own happiness, relationships, security, and health.

This means you need to be writing email subject lines that make your reader vividly feel that her own well-being will be directly impacted by reading your message.  In other words, you have to let her know quite concretely why she should care.

Which means instead of writing email subject lines like this:

Check out our new offer!

You want to write them like this:

The shoes that make heads turn

The first subject line is vague and about you, the business. It puts the reader in the position of doing you a favor by checking out what you’re sending.

The second subject line paints a picture of something that offers a direct benefit to your customer. Your reader needs to feel like you’re doing her a favor by letting her know about something that’s crucial to some dimension of her welfare.

If you remember to make your email subject lines casual, direct, and to tailor them to speak to the ego of your audience, you’ll be on your way to high open rates.

The Third Key to Writing Email Subject Lines: Go for Clarity

Should you be clever, crafty and creative with your email subject lines, or stick to clarity, clearness and certainty. Well, like all good direct marketing, let’s look at the test results.

According to MarketingSherpa, in a study run across 20 subject lines from their own email blasts, which were sent to a list of more 45,000 subscribers, clarity won out. The straightforward subject lines got a much bigger response rate than their creative cousins, beating them by this much:


Why? A couple of reasons. First, your brand is already in your From: line. They know who you are. Second, the bigger hurry your readers are in, the more you need to telegraph clearly to them what you’re offering.

Want more keys to writing email subject lines that rock your readers’ inbox?

[maxbutton id=”2″]


Leave a Reply