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5 tips for writing email subject lines that actually get opened

Posted by Grace Townsley

August 27, 2021

The average person spends about 28% of their workday reading and answering emails. So, it’s no wonder that after work and on the weekends, people are very picky about what emails they actually open and read. 

You should put as much thought into the subject line as you do the email itself

Without an intriguing headline, call to action or emotional pull, hundreds of emails are deleted with a quick swipe, their content left totally unread. In fact, a report by Optinmonster revealed that nearly 70% of email recipients will report an email as spam based on its subject line alone! You put a lot of work in crafting your emails, right? Don’t let that work go to waste with a lackluster subject line. If you put these five tips into practice when building your next email campaign, you’re sure to see a boost in your open rate, and hopefully, your sales.
  1. Be straightforward, not confusing

Subject lines that are misleading or confusing are a big turnoff for readers. If you don’t send emails very often or if your email is a simple company update or newsletter– just say that! Using clever email lines is a technique better used for emails that are frequently ignored. Think sales emails, business offers, and coupons. If you already have a strong readership, especially if it’s a paid subscription, straightforward subject lines are a great way to keep your open rate strong.
  1. Emojis can be eye-catching

Most emails are opened on a mobile phone where the subject line text is fairly small and sometimes gets cut off. An eye-catching emoji early in your subject line might be just the boost you need to get your emails noticed. You should always use emojis sparingly. But used carefully, they can be a powerful email subject line tool that is still under-used by many businesses. According to a report by Experian, an emoji in your subject line can boost your open rate by 45%. The most effective emojis to use? Smiling face, heart, sun and airplane.
  1. Add a personal touch

Many email platforms like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign and HubSpot allow you to automatically customize your emails with your subscriber’s name, company, or other info they’ve previously provided. Including your customer’s name can make your email feel more personal and familiar. Besides adding their name, you can also personalize your email subject by saying something casual and conversational that makes your reader feel like you’re truly talking to them. Starting your email with a question like, “Are you coming?” or “What do you think about this?” grabs their attention and piques curiosity. 
  1. Solve their problem

If you’ve spent any time on your marketing, you probably know the big problem your key customers are facing. You also know how your product or service can solve it. If you can succinctly remind your customer of their problem, the easy solution you have, or why life would be better with your product or service in it, you have a strong email subject line. For example, a business that offers bookkeeping services could bring up their client’s pain point with a subject line like, “Accounting is hard, let us do it for you” or “You could have so much more free time.” 
  1. Be funny!

This tip might take a bit of collaboration to make sure your joke lands well. But if you can write a subject line that garners a snicker, your open rate is sure to increase. Try to avoid inside jokes or jokes about your own product however, because this humor might not make sense to newer customers who are less aware of your brand. Think puns, common movie quotes or clever pop culture references that your customer base would be familiar with.

Use these tips for good, not for spam!

Remember, the better your emails are, the more likely your readers are to open an email from you in the future. If you write the best email subject lines in the world but don’t offer strong content, your subscribers will quickly become unsubscribers. But if you use these tips smartly, you just might see your open and click-through rates improve. 


Grace Townsley
Grace Townsley

As a professional copywriter in the finance and B2B space, Grace Townsley offers small business leaders big insights—one precisely chosen word at a time. Let's connect!

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