copywriting subject lines to get your emails devoured

How to Write Email Subject Lines that Get Your Emails Opened and Devoured

copywriting subject lines to get your emails devoured

Writing subject lines for email campaigns can be tricky.

Their impact can decide whether your emails are ripped open and every word devoured, or dumped nonchalantly in the junk pile.

At this time of year there’s even more noise than usual in people’s inboxes. And so your subject line has to be able to demand attention if it’s going to be picked out from the hubbub of offers and promotions all clamouring to be read.

So how can you give your email the best chances of being treated to a minute or two of your prospects time?

These tips should help:

Tell them what they’ll gain

It can be tempting to try and be witty or clever when writing email subject lines, thinking readers will be so impressed with your creative brilliance that they’ll be desperate to know what your email has to say.

But this is a common mistake.

Humour is subjective, and your wit might confuse as many readers as it amuses. It also fails to achieve your subject line’s primary aim: to tell your recipient what they’ll  gain from reading your message.

People are only going to be interested in emails that can benefit them in some way, whether it’s saving money, being better at their job or more successful in their personal life.

So instead focus on writing subject lines that indicate a benefit (just like when writing headlines).

Tell them what it’s in it for them if they read your email – whether it’s news, advice or insight. Asking the reader a question can be an effective tactic.

Keep it short

People have little patience when checking their inbox, so it’s a good idea to keep your subject line short and sweet. 50 characters is a good target.

Include your location

A Mailchimp study of 200 million emails found that including people’s name had little effect on open rates. Probably because this tactic is so widely used by spammers. Including your location, however, can reel in readers because it’s more relevant to customers in your local area.

Words to avoid

The Mailchimp study also recommended avoiding the words ‘Free’ at the start of your message (to avoid being sent flagged as spam), ‘Help’ and ‘Percent Off’. These were all shown to reduce open rates.


Throwing in exclamation marks also screams of spam!!!

Vary your subject lines to keep it interesting

Even after stumbling upon a magic formula, which gets your emails ripped open faster than presents on Christmas day, you shouldn’t keep repeating the same subject line over and over again. This just makes your messages appear boring and stale.

Instead vary your subject lines, along with your content, to build excitement in your news, important information and special offers.

What I’ve been reading

Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples – Architect of one of the most famous headlines in copywriting history (‘They laughed when I sat down at the piano. But when I began to play!’) , John Caples shares his exceptional wisdom on writing headlines, the importance of testing and other copywriting lessons as valid today as they’ve ever been. It’s required reading for every copywriter; I’m embarrassed it’s taken me this long to add it to my bookshelf.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King – The 8th and final book in the The Dark Tower series has a predictably ambiguous and controversial ending, which you’ve spent 3200+ pages pondering over. The Dark Tower series is rumoured to be the next big TV project for J.J. Abrams and the rest of the crew behind  Lost. This rumour has fans shuddering and delighted in equal measure.

What I’ve been writing

This month’s highlights have been an integrated print and PURL (personalised URL) campaign for software for selling match tickets online and working on brochure copy for a Swiss banking magazine.

4 thoughts on “How to Write Email Subject Lines that Get Your Emails Opened and Devoured

  1. Copywriter Johannesburg

    Writing subject headers in mails is the most difficult task for writers. I mean how do you compete with so many other mails, most of which the reader cant wait to trash.

    This is a great post. Thanks a lot, Matt.

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