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Your email subject line serves as a first—and sometimes last—impression.

So even though we often write subject lines as afterthoughts, in many ways they’re actually more important than the body copy of your email. After all, the greatest email in the world is worthless if it never gets opened, right?

As you write your marketing emails, don’t leave the subject lines to chance. The best subject lines are short, descriptive, and give the reader a reason to explore your message further.

Ready to become a subject line superhero? Your training starts here. Check out these 17 subject line styles that get your emails opened.

Chapter 0

Subject line styles


Busy, organized people thrive on efficiency. These readers need you to be clear and concise in your subject lines, as time is always an asset. Help them out by placing pertinent information up front in your subject lines.

Informational subject lines: 1) Cloud security live webinar: August 8; 2) Big news: New stores opening near you; 3) Our new product is here!



Personal touches—we all love them. Taking a personalized approach to your subject lines can help engage an audience from the beginning. Try including the recipient’s first name, or other personal information like recent purchases, in the subject line.

Personal email subject lines: 1) Thanks for joining us, Joe. 2) Great to meet you at Dreamforce last week. 3) Susan, try these new partner apps.


Why do infomercials work? Because creating a sense of urgency has been proven to get people to take action. People often respond to the possibility of losing out on something, rather than to the promise of gaining something. You can create a similar effect in your subject lines.

Urgent email subject lines: 1) 2 days left to register! 2) Don't miss these great deals! 3) TODAY ONLY: Save 50% on everything!

Clever and catchy

A catchy subject line can stand out among the scores of dull ones around it. Humor is tough, though, and you have to take care not to confuse or alienate. But if you know your audience well, a clever joke can get your email opened and shared.

Clever and catchy email subject lines: 1) Keep those buns warm. 2) Rock star treatment for lullaby singers. 3) Put a ring(tone) on it.

Short and sweet

Given that most smartphones only display five or six words of a subject line—and because more than 41% of today’s email campaigns are opened on mobile devices—brevity is critical.

Short and sweet email subject lines: 1) The perfect app. 2) Checking in. 3) Hello.


There’s a reason lists have grown so common: they work. Lists provide content in a snappy, snackable way and build curiosity. Plus, incorporating numbers into your subject line creates focus, as our brains are naturally drawn to digits.

List email subject lines: 1) 10 pieces to add to your wardrobe now. 2) 5 must-have metrics for HR. 3) 3 ways to make your small company look big.


Asking readers a question in your subject line can immediately engage them and create an instant dialogue. Try to keep your questions open-ended so your reader can’t answer them with a quick “no.”

Question email subject lines: 1) What's next for cloud computing? 2) How safe are your family jewels? 3) What's the best way to handle a tantrum?


The how-to subject line offers insight into the specific benefit readers will find when they open your email. And as long as your “how-to” is valuable to the audience, open rates can soar.

How-to email subject lines: 1) How to grow your email list. 2) How to remove stains. 3) How to save for retirement.

Scarcity or FOMO

We don’t want to freak you out, but humans have a deep fear of missing out—on anything. So email subject lines threatening scarcity (hurry, before it’s too late!) tend to perform well.

Scarcity or FOMO email subject lines: 1) Just 10 tickets left! 2) Limited-time offer from Rip Curl. 3) BBQ Festival: Only a few spots remain.


Location-specific language and offers show readers that you’ve done your homework. You know their vicinity and have a message that applies specifically to them. Many readers open these emails whether or not they’re initially interested, just to see what’s happening locally.

Local email subject lines: 1) Hot in Houston: This week's events 2) Where to eat right now in Seattle 3) Join us at Moscone next week in San Francisco


Style sells. Whether you’re selling fashion, food, technology, or services, most people want to be “in the know” about the latest trends. The latest fascinations are compelling, motivating readers to look inside for more details.

Trendy topic email subject lines: 1) Cool colors for Spring 2) The latest features, the coolest apps 3) Now trending: Yeti coolers


The best subject lines grab attention, and controversy can help you do that. But tread lightly—this strategy requires great care to pull off. You need to know your audience well and create a balance between controversy and information. It’s a gamble, but the payoff can be extraordinary.

Controversial email subject lines: 1) Why your sales team sucks 2) Terrorism in your backyard 3) Your toddler knows more about technology than you do


Conventional search engine optimization wisdom tells us keywords are a vital part of a blog post title. So try applying that same logic to your subject lines. Think critically: What exact phrases might people type into Google? The added benefit: Better searchability for your messages.

Keyword email subject lines: 1) Switching to electronic forms made easy 2) The 10 best subject lines for email marketing 3) Anti-aging skin care treatments: What works


Who couldn’t use a little more clarity these days? Using a command in your email subject line tells the readers exactly what you want them to do. So try starting your subject line with an action verb to encourage a response.

Command email subject lines: 1) Subscribe to our monthly email 2) Join us in Boston 3) Stop wasting your money


In our age of analytics and data, statistics have become a great way to provide proven, objective information. Using a simple statistic in your subject line offers straightforward insight while also piquing curiosity.

tatistics email subject lines: 1) Businesses will be 100% virtual by 2020 2) The latest crime statistics for your neighborhood 3) You could lose 50% of your revenue

Sneak peak

Everyone wants to be a trendsetter or early adopter, so why not feed that desire? Assuming you’ve got a valuable opportunity, including exclusives and sneak peeks right in your subject line is a sure-fire way to increase your open rates.

Sneak peek email subject lines: 1) Exclusive look: the iPhone 7 2) Sneak peak at our new feature 3) Be the first on your team to try Email automation


Great incentives inspire great responses. So why not include that incentive right up front in the subject line? Put your offer there for all to see. If your list is well targeted and your offer legit, you should see your open rates rise.

Offer email subject lines: 1) win a trip to Hawaii 2) 30-day free trial 3) New ebook: the essential guide to social media

Chapter 17

Email subject line wrap up

Now that you’re an email subject line superhero, it’s time to starting sending those emails. Consider your audience and what technique might work best for them.

Remember that the goal of the email subject line is to entice your subscriber to open your email. Here are final tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep the subject line short – 7 words and 41 characters are optimal.
  • Use emojis to help your subject line stand out. Just don’t overdo it.
  • Make the subject line unique to the recipient. Be personable but professional.
  • Take the time to A/B test your subject lines. Compare open rates and analyze the ‘why’ behind it.
  • Find the balance between trendy and personalized.
  • Craft a subject line you would open!

Test different techniques over the next few campaigns, or even try two different methods with the same email. What superhero subject lines will you write?

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