If you’re like me, you leave email subject lines for last. In short: They’re difficult to write. You need to keep them short and sweet but still make sure that they scream “read me!” How do you do that in so few words? Well, it depends on the type of email that you’re sending. Here are some tips and examples.
21 tips for writing a strong subject line
Whether writing a subject line for a marketing campaign or for your everyday communication, there are some key tips to keep in mind. Regardless of the contents of the email, your subject line should have one goal in mind: get the recipient to open it and, ideally, respond. Your subject line is like your first impression. It needs to wow the recipient enough for them to care about what else you have to say. Here’s how you can do just that.
1. Keep it short
Your subject line should just be a quick few words that are easy to digest when the recipient is scrolling through their email. Too long, and it could easily overwhelm them enough to skip over the email entirely.
2. Keep it relevant
Make sure that your subject line is either clear about what your email entails or a witty insinuation of what’s inside. Whether you go with a direct “Followup on Today’s Meeting” or some clever, metaphorical line, your subject line needs to make sense.
3. Be descriptive
Don’t just write a subject line for the sake of writing a subject line. If you’re pushing a campaign or sale, for example, include some enticing specifics about it.
4. Personalize it
Whether you’re a brand reaching out for a birthday special or you’re a job candidate introducing yourself via a referral, personalize the subject line. Now is the time to drop names.
5. Keep punctuation to a minimum
Mailchimp research shows that too much punctuation in subject lines make emails look spammy.
6. Don’t use more than one emoji
Mailchimp research also says to limit your emojis to one max. And test the one you do choose because it may appear differently on different operating systems.
7. A/B test your subject lines
Test out different subject lines to see what works best for you. Which kinds of emails are your recipients opening more? Go with those kinds of subject lines.
8. Avoid buzzwords
Buzzwords can raise red flags about your subject line that scream spam.
9. Steer clear of jargon
Don’t use industry-specific jargon that your recipient(s) may not understand. Instead, stick to easy-to-digest language that won’t fall on deaf ears.
10. Ask questions
Ever hear of the saying, curiosity killed the cat? Questions can pique curiosity and prompt your recipients to open the email—if only to find out the answer. Either way, now you have their attention.
11. Make bold statements
Make statements that incite curiosity and emotion. Just make sure that you’re not spreading fake news.
12. Use an ellipsis…
Ending your subject line with a dot, dot, dot is like leaving those scanning their inboxes with a cliffhanger.
13. Include a deadline
Adding a deadline to your email adds a sense of urgency, which may entice the one on the receiving end to open it sooner rather than later.
14. Try teasers
If you’re trying to sell a product or service, consider teasing it in the subject line so that the recipient is curious enough to find out what it really has to offer them.
15. Speak with conviction
Psychology would have it that when you speak with conviction, assuming the sell (whether you’re actually pitching a product or selling yourself), is convincing.
16. Offer something valuable
Understand the current state of affairs — whether it’s related to what’s going on in the world or at the company — and leverage that. Offer a valuable idea or solution, and then expound on it in the body of your email.
17. Make them laugh
People like to laugh so tell a joke or make a clever play on words. If it’s funny enough, whatever you have to say, the recipient may be inclined to read more.
18. Say something unexpected
Shock always catches eyes. Get their attention by using a subject line no one would anticipate popping up in their inbox.
19. Be frank
If you’re writing an email to raise a point, don’t beat around the bush. After all, you don’t want to clutter any part of your email with fluff words that could distract from your point.
20. Make an announcement
If you have something important to share, chances are that it’ll matter to the people who matter. You shouldn’t reveal the news in the subject line, but you can certainly excite people to click open and find out.
21. Be casual
If you’re emailing your coworkers about everyday doings, you don’t need to come up with a fancy subject line that’ll feel forced. Keep it casual. People like working with people, not robots.
120 Subject Line Examples
- Curiosity Subject Lines: Curiosity subject lines invoke curiosity in readers. They ask a question, tease, or make bold statements that prompt recipients to open them.
- “Last Day to Find out What the Hype Is All About”
- “Unwrap this surprise gift for you!”
- “What type of investor are you?”
- “Did you know OMG can be traced back to 1917?”
- “There’s no way you could do this…”
- “Have you heard about our latest 50% off sale?”
- “One More Day to Sign up For Our Surprise Giveaway!”
- “We found the best Christmas gifts for moms…”
- “You’re guaranteed to earn more points with this card!”
- “You don’t have to just settle for mediocre meal deliveries anymore.”
- “We couldn’t wait to tell you…”
- “Scratch off Your Percent-off Code!”
- Announcement Subject Lines
Announcement subject lines set readers up for some big news. Whether you’re announcing a winner or a big sale, you don’t want to give away too much so that they don’t have to open the email.
- “And the Winner Is…”
- “Shop 20% off Our New Spring Collection!”
- “We’re Hiring!”
- “The Massive Closing Sale You Don’t Want to Miss”
- “The numbers are in…”
- “We’re preparing your order.”
- “Democrats Flip the Senate”
- “Introducing the Ultimate SEO Tool”
- “The Future of Robo-Investing Is Here.”
- “Finally, You Can Shop our Summer Sale!”
- “New Year. New Gear.”
- You Asked, We Listened.”
- Personalized Subject Lines
Personalized emails target the recipient specifically. They call out their name in order to seem like the email isn’t just another mass-messaged one but, rather, it’s something just for them that they really should open.
- “Jessica, check out these hand-picked outfits.”
- “Happy Birthday, Amanda – Surprise Inside!”
- “Vanessa, are you coming?”
- “Hey, Lexi! Quick Favor?”
- “Thanks for helping us, Tori.”
- “Michelle’s Purchase Is on the Way!”
- “Taylor: One for You, One for Your Friend!”
- “Anna: Vanilla or Chocolate?”
- “Your Donation Is Appreciated, Jessie”
- “Alex, do you remember us?”
- “Thanks for shopping with us, Tara!”
- “We look forward to seeing you again, Kristen.”
- Promotional Subject Lines: Promotional emails should have promotional subject lines that excite recipients. You want to give away enough that the reader is enticed to read more, but not enough that they don’t need to open the email.
- “Your Favorite Jeans Are 30% Off!”
- “Today’s the Last Day to Take Advantage of Our Summer Sale!”
- “We didn’t want you to miss out on our new features…”
- “Don’t Wait to Upgrade!”
- “50% off Everything!”
- “The Clock Is Ticking to Shop This Sale”
- “Have You Seen Our Holiday Collection?”
- “Spend Less, Save More”
- “We’re Not Giving up on You”
- “Have You Heard? 20% Off”
- “Buy 1 Get 1 for You and a Friend”
- “This Just In: The Only Jeans You Need.”
- Question Subject Lines: Open-ended questions in subject lines induce a reaction from recipients. If they read it, they may feel naturally inclined to answer it and want to know more.
- “Do you know what your sign says about your shopping habits?”
- “Did you recently log in to your account?”
- “Have you tracked your heart health?”
- “When is the last time you celebrated you?”
- “Where’s your favorite place to travel?”
- “Have we told you about our 50% off sale?”
- “Are you still available for coffee?”
- “Are You Ready for the Future of Video Streaming?”
- “Are we still on for tomorrow?”
- “Have you had a chance to read my last email?”
- “What are your New Year’s resolutions?”
- “Did you hear that we’re opening near you?”
- Direct Subject Lines: Direct subject lines cut right to the chase. They don’t beat around the bush.
- “I’m OOO Next Week”
- “Running late…”
- “Lindsay Smith – Teacher Application”
- “Sarah Jane – Resume”
- “Hey, Melanie connected us!”
- “Can we meet?”
- “Thank You!”
- “We’re filling your order.”
- “Track your recent purchase.”
- “Upcoming NYC-LA Flight Itinerary”
- “Yes, this is another fundraising email.”
- “We need your help!”
- Pain Point Subject Line
Pain point subject lines focus on a point of pain for the reader. They also offer up a solution.
- “Times are tough. Let us help you.”
- “Finally, no more waiting on long lines!”
- “Goodbye Dry Skin!”
- “Holiday Shopping Stress? We’ve Got You Covered.”
- “Take back your mornings with these pre-paired outfits.”
- “Who said luxury had to cost so much?”
- “Stop wasting money on hair care that doesn’t work.”
- “Survive jetlag.”
- “Who has time to cook, anyway?”
- “Looking for a Job? We’re here to help.”
- “You could qualify for loan forgiveness.”
- “Goodbye, pale and pasty legs. Hello, sunless tan.”
- Vanity Subject Lines
Vanity subject lines speak with conviction. They sound so confident that the reader feels confident, too.
- “As Seen on The Bachelor”
- “Don’t wear last year’s colors.”
- “Skincare that actually gets you.”
- “The Only Jeans You’ll Ever Need”
- “The Perfect Gift for Mom”
- “The Comfiest Athleisure You Didn’t Know You Need”
- “Shades So Cool, the Celebs Are Rocking ‘Em”
- “Get Ready. We’re Dropping Something Major.”
- “The No. 1 Everyday Vitamins for Women’s Health”
- “‘These pants are so unflattering,’ – said nobody ever.”
- “You Can Breathe Again: Our Winter Collection Is Here”
- “Say Hello to the Best Noise-Canceling Headphones”
- Urgent Subject Lines
Subject lines that create a sense of urgency usually do well because recipients feel like they have to open the email. If they don’t, they could miss their chance.
- “Oh no, your subscription is expiring…”
- “Last Chance to Shop Our Sale”
- “Only 1 Day Left to Get 50% Off!”
- “Sign up Now to Be Added to Our Earlybird Waitlist”
- “Don’t forget to register before it’s too late!”
- “T-3 Days Until We Close Our Polls”
- “Due EOD”
- “Earn Extra Points Today Only”
- “FLASH Sale: Tonight Only”
- “Don’t miss out…”
- “Deadline: 1/20”
- “Have You Forgotten to Renew Your Subscription?”
- Fear-of-Missing-Out Subject Lines: Fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) subject lines make recipients feel like they’ll be left out if they don’t agree to whatever the offer is. Therefore, they have to open the email to know more and get involved.
- “You Don’t Want to Miss Out!”
- “You’re missing out on rewards…”
- “Prints Everybody Is Wearing This Summer”
- “Today’s Your Last Day to Join!”
- “Please Send by EOD”
- “Responses Needed by EOW”
- “First Come, First Serve.”
- “Get Yours Now Before They’re All Gone!”
- “Be the first to try our new flavors!”
- “Stop Wearing Last Year’s Styles”
- “Join us for virtual happy hour!”
- “Are You on Our Holiday Party Guest List?”
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.