How To Write Powerful Subject Lines For Emails (That Will Get Your Emails Read)

How much time do you spend writing subject lines for emails? If you are like most people, chances are that you write your subject lines as an afterthought, after you have finished writing your email. In this interview, Jon Morrow stated that it is not unusual for him to take up to two hours to just work on the headline alone, when he is writing an article.

Jon Morrow is the CEO of Smart Blogger; a company that teaches people how to attract a loyal following online. His articles attract millions of views every month.

A recent research showed that 47% of people open their emails based on the subject line alone. Emails with no subject lines get opened only 8% of the time.

Based on these statistics, you should spend just as much time writing your subject lines for emails as you spend writing the email itself. Even if you have great content but your headline sucks, most people will not read your newsletter because they will not get past your subject line.

Writing great subject lines is the magic bullet that will get your subscribers to open your emails. If there’s one place that you need to be perfect when it comes to writing your emails, it is in writing the subject line.

John Wesley from Pick the Brain wrote a blog post titled Two Types of Cognition and only got 100 views. However, he was convinced that his content was great and he wanted to find a way to get a lot of people to read his post. He then decided to rewrite his headline to Learn to Understand Your Own Intelligence. 5,000 people viewed the article after he changed the title.

What Is The Purpose Of Email Subject Lines?

The number one purpose of your email subject line is to get your recipients to click-through the email and open it. So keep this in mind when you are crafting subject lines for emails.

How To Write Powerful Subject Lines For Emails

1. Use proven subject line templates

There are headline templates which you can use to come up with great subject lines for your emails. These templates are based on headlines that have been tested by copywriters for years and they have been proven to work.

Some examples of these templates include

The secret of (_____)

For example

The secret of writing great headlines for your newsletter

Here is a method that is helping (___) to (___)

For example

Here is a method that is helping NGOs to get more donors

Get rid of (___) once and for all

For example

Get rid of your migraines once and for all

Here’s a quick way to (solve a problem)

For example,

Here’s a quick way to beat procrastination

If you would like to get more of these templates, get them here for free.

I must admit that since I started using these headline templates here on the blog, I have seen a great spike in the number of people who have clicked through to read new blog posts.

2. Highlight the benefit the reader will get from the email

People will click open the email if they know that they are going to benefit in some way. Spell out the benefit they will get from reading the email in the subject line.

An example of a benefit headline is

Steal these email templates…

3. Split test subject lines

Carry out split testing to see which email subject lines work best.

Most email marketing software allow you to A/B test your subject lines. A/B testing simply means that you are testing option A against option B.

Before you start split testing, you must know what your baseline is. That is, how you are currently performing. That is the only way you will know whether you are improving or not improving when you split test.

Split testing is not a one-time thing. You should carry it out over a period of time, so as to have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work.

4. Do your research

If you have a better understanding of your audience, you will know what they are interested in. That way, you will know what buzz words to use and which areas of interest to cover. You can use this to your advantage when writing subject lines for emails.

Get into the mind of your audience and know what they are thinking. That is the only way you will address them in a way that will attract them. You cannot write great copy or even great headlines for that matter for an audience that you do not understand.

5. Rewrite your headlines

You might have to rewrite your headlines a couple of times before you get the perfect one. Give yourself time to come up with some great ideas.

6. Use power verbs at the beginning of the headline

Power verbs help people to take action. People like to read actionable content that will help them make changes and get the results that they want.

Examples of power words that you can use

Take note that the power words should be used at the beginning of the title and not in the middle or the end.

7. Use adjectives

Adjectives add color to a headline. According to research, the top five performing adjectives that you can use include

8. Raise curiosity

Copyblogger Editor Admits to Sleeping with Readers and Recommends You Do the Same

I must admit that when I first read that title, I could not resist clicking on it. My bet is that you will also give in to that temptation.

People are naturally curious. Once you arouse their curiosity, they cannot help but click thorough to find out more about what you are talking about. When CopyHackers ran a test to see how their curiosity based subject lines fared, they saw a 927% increase in click-throughs.

One of the ways to raise curiosity is by asking questions or promising to disclose industry secrets.

9. Learn from the experts- Newspapers, magazines, blogs, ads

It can be challenging to come up with awesome headlines if you are not a copywriter or expert content writer. To gain some inspiration, you can get ideas from expert writers. Grab a copy of a magazine or newspaper from a newsstand. Observe how the headlines have been written.

You can also check out how headlines have been used in blog articles and even in advertisements. Borrow some ideas or the writing style.

10. Personalize emails

Personalizing subject lines by including the first name of the recipient can improve click-throughs by up to 2.6%.

Personalization means using the recipient’s name in the subject line. It can also mean using personal pronouns, such as ‘you’ or ‘we’ in subject lines.

A great personalized subject line is

Thank You!

If you got such an email, chances are that you will be quite tempted to open it to see what you are being thanked for.


Happy Birthday Mary…Free Gift Inside

11. Urgency/scarcity

Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity leads to Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). No one wants to be left out. Play on the emotions of your readers. Here is an example of such a subject line.

You’re going to miss this?!?

[Last Call] For the Ultimate Email Marketing Game

12. Be straightforward

State why you are writing straightaway

For example,

Yes, This is a Fundraising Email

13. Tell a story

People love stories. Stories are memorable and easy to read. If your subject line tells a story, people will want to click it open and read the rest of the story.

An example of a subject line that tells a story is

The power of empty pockets

14. Free Giveaways

Give away something for free. Everybody loves free things.

[Free Gift] Our Holiday Travel Checklist…

15. Use numbers

Numbers draw attention. They promise the reader something specific and they also promise orderliness in an article.

For example,

11 sneaky email tricks

16. Unicode symbols –☼, ★,

You can use symbols in the subject lines of your emails. According to research by Experian, using emojis in subject lines improved response rates by 45%. Just make sure not to overdo it. Just use a few symbols and don’t use them all the time when sending out emails. Get free symbols at .

The most popular emojis are as shown below

17. Localize your content

Localized subject lines for emails got more open rates than non-localized ones. Localizing content includes using the name of the City or Country or Town where your recipients live.

Mistakes to Avoid In Your Email Subject Lines

1. Don’t try to be too funny

People have different senses of humor. What you might find funny might not be so funny to your readers. An example of a ‘funny’ subject line

Last chance to be a whale…

Value clarity over trying to be creative. By trying to be creative you may end up being vague instead. This will confuse your readers about what you mean.

An example of a vague subject line

uh oh

This really doesn’t tell the reader anything, so they will not be inclined to open the email.

2. Capitalization

Do not overdo it when it comes to capitalization. Capitalization is equal to shouting, when you use it in messages. So when you include many capitalized words, it is like you are shouting to your reader. Do not do this

[GONE TONIGHT] Native Ads training OVER at MIDNIGHT

Tips And Tricks For Writing Awesome Subject Lines For Emails

  1. Use tools to help you come up with good subject lines. Such tools help to analyze your headlines and rate them, so you will know whether you have written a strong subject line or a weak one. One such tool is Headline Analyzer. You can use it for free. Keep adjusting and rewriting your subject lines until you score as highly as you can.

Use Zurb’s TestSubject to view how your subject line will be viewed on mobile devices by readers.

2. Resend emails MailGen carried out a case study, where they resent emails to their readers who did not open the first emails they sent. When resending the mails, they improved the headline. This got them an additional 7.7% open rate.

Generally, resending your emails with an improved subject line can help to boost email opens by 20% to 29%.

When resending your emails, you can add something to help sweeten the deal or you can overcome objections that are preventing the reader from opening the email. For example, you can use the subject line

We are not gonna give up on you

3. Send text messages – A lot more people read their text messages than their emails. Most text messages are read by the recipients. When you send people emails and they do not read them, follow this up with a text message asking them to read their emails. When MailGen did this for one of their client, this strategy saw an increase in email open rates by 7%.


Email open rates depend on many things and not just subject lines.

You might never get to 100% email open rates. According to Smart Insights, the average open rate is 15-25%.

What does this mean? Just do your best to ensure that you keep your email open rates as high as possible by coming up with the subject lines for emails.

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