How to write a subject line that will get your email read

How to write a subject line that will get your email read
April 15, 2016 Madeleine Helme

When you send an email, only a percentage of the people on your mailing list will open the email, not everyone who opens it will actually read it, and fewer still will click on your calls to action. You need to think about how you can maximize these figures so that you get more people opening, reading and clicking on your emails. This all starts with the subject line.

When you’re flicking through a magazine or browsing a news website online, it is usually the headlines that grab your attention and make you decide whether that particular article is worth reading or not. Your email subject lines serve the same purpose as these headlines, so it is important to put some thought into them.

Here are a few tips on how to write subject lines that will get your emails read.

You first need to give your readers a reason to open the email, and this should be clear in the subject line. Don’t be vague; let them know specifically what they’ll get if they open and read your email. This, of course, means that you actually need to give them something of value within your email; this can be a discount or offer, or even a useful tip or a blog that provides them with helpful advice. Try to use language in the subject line that will pique their curiosity and make them want to find out more. Make sure that the content of the email actually delivers on what you promise in the subject line, or else people will become irritated, and your unsubscribe rates are likely to increase.

When writing sales and marketing emails, people tend to turn into a different person in the way that they write; they start to write like a corporate robot as opposed to a human being. Try to use natural language in your subject lines, as if you are just one person talking to another. Avoid using gimmicks and slogans, as this will appear less natural to the readers and they’re more likely to delete your email and even unsubscribe.

Including aspects of personalization in subject lines can often increase open rates, as the recipient knows that it is relevant to them. If you have information on all of the people on your mailing list, such as their first name or the city they live in, make sure this is recorded in your mailing list on your email service provider. You can then use merge tags such as *|FNAME|* to add this information into the subject line for each individual.

What’s the ideal subject line length?

There has been much debate about the optimum length of an email subject line and if it even matters at all. Some research has shown that a subject line of 6-10 words is ideal for increasing open rates, whereas the team at MailChimp have claimed that it doesn’t mean a thing.

While length might not be the main thing you should worry about when crafting your subject line, it does bear some significance. Email inboxes typically only show around 60 characters of the subject line in the preview of an email, and inboxes on mobile devices display even less. So, keeping your subject line concise will make it more likely that the recipient can actually read it before opening the email. Try to place the most important part of the message at the beginning of the subject line so that it is not cut off.


You’re most likely not going to get it perfect the first time and every time you send an email. This is where testing different variations of your subject lines and monitoring the campaign results comes in. Most email service providers offer A/B testing. This allows you to send two or more variations of the same email to different segments of your mailing list. You can then compare which performs better and send out the most effective one.

When testing, it’s a good idea to focus on just one element. Here are a few examples of different ways you can test your subject lines:

  • Subject line personalized with the recipient’s first name vs. without personalization
  • Short subject line vs. a longer subject line
  • Capitalizing each word vs. only capitalizing the first word of the subject line
  • Question vs. statement subject lines
  • Spelling out numbers vs. writing them numerically

The people in everyone’s mailing lists aren’t the same, so it’s important to find out what works best for the people you are sending emails to. Follow the tips we have given you here and then test and monitor your email campaigns to see what kind of subject lines get you the best open and click rates.

After working in marketing for two years I decided to become a freelance writer. In my spare time I enjoy watching films and television and keeping fit through going to the gym and practising taekwondo.