Business, Content, Marketing

Get That Email Opened: The Dos and Don’ts of Email Subject Lines

If you’re a regular sender of emails, you know that your subject line is crucial. The right subject line will get more of your emails opened and read.


More emails opened and read will lead to more conversions for you. An uninteresting subject line will leave your email unopened — or worse, get it sent straight to the trash — which does nothing for you.


The best subject lines make your reader WANT to open the email and see what it says. Don’t try too hard to stand out in the inbox; instead, work on simplicity. That’s what gets emails opened.


Need some more help writing the perfect subject line for your emails? Here are the Dos and Don’ts for creating the best email subject line.



  1. Be short and straightforward

The length of your subject lines is a very important factor. Not only are shorter subject lines easier to read, they’re also less at risk of being cut off midway by the email provider.


A regular inbox usually shows only about 60 characters of the subject but if you’re on a mobile, it’s even shorter with only 25-30 characters visible.



Best practice? Keep your subject lines limited to 45 — 50 characters in length.




This subject line is way too long and gets cut off in my inbox. Not a good look.


Also make your subject lines as straightforward as they can get. When your reader receives an email, they should immediately know what to expect from it. To-the-point subject lines get more opens.

living social


The above email from LivingSocial is a great example of a straightforward subject line. I know exactly what to expect when I open this email.


  1. Keep It Timely & Relevant

If your subject line addresses something that has been in the news or references a recent event, you are likely to generate more interest. A subject line that is more relevant or timely will make your audience open the email to see what you have to say. Here’s an example of a timely subject line: “Snow day killing business? Take your store online”


Making a topical and timely reference to snow days and how they affect businesses will pique interest. You then use it to sell your eCommerce business product. Business owners are worried and will want to open your email to see whether you really have a solution for them.


  1. Include a call to action

Action-oriented subject lines almost always work well. Your subject line should be written in the active voice in order to get your reader’s attention. By including action words in your subject line, you’re telling the reader what you want them to do when they read the email.



  • Watch Beyoncé in concert
  • Download affiliate marketing whitepaper
  • Shop the ’90s trend

rebecca tracey



This email from Rebecca Tracey has a great call to action, inviting her subscribers to get a product for a discounted price.


A call-to-action can sometimes take the shape of a question. Think about what your audience needs or is interested in. A timely, relevant question will often get more opens. If your email content is answering an important question your audience has, consider using the question as your subject line.

freelancer email


This subject line gets my interest by asking a question about a topic I’m likely to be interested in.

amazon email


This subject line is also a great example of asking a question to get a job done. If I want to share my experience of the book with others, I will open the email and give out those stars. Job done for Amazon.


  1. Identify the Sender

Don’t forget about the From line. This is just as important as your subject line. Again, keep it simple and use it to identify who you are to the reader.


Whatever name you use, make sure it’s one the reader can recognize immediately. Keep this consistent.

unknown sender


The “unknown sender” title does not inspire confidence in the recipient. Why would I open an email that says this, especially one that is asking me for a donation?


  1. Use preview text

The preview text is the line of text that appears in your inbox, alongside your subject line.



It’s worth spending some time composing preview text that complements your subject line, as it’s basically an extension of your subject line. A well-thought-out, strategically crafted “sneak peek” can have a huge effect on your open rates.



For example, this email from Dropbox uses the subject line to tell me that Dropbox has new features and the preview text reinforces the message by telling me how I can unlock these new features.



  1. Use these words and spammy tactics

There are some words that will get your email sent straight to the spam folder before your recipient even has a chance to read your subject line.


Some words that email providers hate:

  • Free
  • Offer
  • Cash
  • Credit
  • Limited time


Additionally, a MailChimp study of over 200 million emails also found that seemingly innocuous words such as Help, Reminder and Percent Off also negatively affected open rates. HubSpot has an excellent list of email spam trigger words.


The following are some emails from my spam folder that use the trigger words in their subject lines.

spam email subject lines


In addition to certain words, there are some other techniques that will earn your emails a one-way ticket to the spam box. To save your emails from dying a spammy death, some things you should probably avoid doing are:

  • Overdoing the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Using @#!**^$!@ expletives
  • g3tt1n9 2 Cr8ive with numbers and characters


  1. Be generic

Most of us have a lot of data about our audience and this should be used to personalize your email subject line. One way to do this is with location. For example, “New Store Opening in Cleveland” is great because it’s relevant when you send the offer to your readers in and near Cleveland.


On the other hand, “New Store Opening” is much too generic and doesn’t really pique any interest.


  1. Make False Promises

Never, ever, ever try to trick your subscribers.


Don’t make a promise in your subject line that has nothing to do with the content of your email. This is not only spammy, but you will lose your subscribers’ trust.


Don’t attempt to get your readers to open an email that doesn’t deliver on the promise. Keep it up and you’ll almost assuredly end up in the dreaded spam folder.


  1. Use Filler Words

Don’t bother with using words like “hello” or “thank you” in your subject line. These simply take up space in prime real estate.


Use your subject line to to convey your message as shortly and succinctly as possible. Save the greetings and other filler words for the body of your email.


Whatever you do, keep testing


The best way to determine if your subject line is a good one? Testing. Test a few different variations to see which one performs better. Constant testing will improve your open rates and make you a better email marketer.


For example, you could send the same email with two different subject lines to two groups of subscribers and see which one gets better results.


So you’ve followed all the best practices and have the perfect subject line. Does this guarantee 100% of your emails will be opened? Absolutely not. However, it does guarantee that MORE of your emails will get opened.


Email marketing is subjective and at the end of the day, it depends on the actual person receiving your email. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. But by following these dos and don’ts, you can please most of them, most of the time. If 85% of your email list is opening and reading your emails, you’re pretty successful.

Simon Slade

Simon Slade

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with over 100 free video lessons; SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of over 8,000 prescreened suppliers; and their parent company Doubledot Media Limited, which provides seven different training and software applications to over 500,000 customers worldwide. Through these companies, Slade provides the education and resources for e-commerce professionals to start their own businesses and achieve occupational independence.

Simon can be followed on most major social platforms including Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn and regularly comments for Forbes, SMH, NZ Business and CEO Blog Nation.

In his spare time Simon enjoys playing squash, snowboarding and spending time with his wife and daughter.
Simon Slade

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