Email subject lines are arguably the most important component of your emails. After all, the subject line is what subscribers see in their inbox, and is what determines if they even open your email or not

So without good email subject lines, your email marketing efforts could go to waste! But don’t worry — you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’ll help you understand what a subject line is and why it’s important. Then, we’ll dive into how to create the best email subject lines (that get people to actually open your emails!) and some great email subject line examples.

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What is the subject in an email?

The subject line of an email is the single line of text people see when they receive your email. This one line of text can often determine whether an email is opened or sent straight to trash, so make sure it’s optimized toward your audience.

email subject line example
In the email subject line example above, the subject line is the bold text that says “John, it’s your time to start roller skating!”

What is an email preheader?

An email preheader is another element of your email that a subscriber will see in their email inbox. It’s the text that follows the email subject and previews the content of your email.

Using the same example above, the preheader is the text that says “Get a discount on skating lessons when you enroll before May 1st.”

Now you can see how an email preheader is different from a subject line, but related. The two work together to convince a recipient of your email to actually open. While in this article, we’ll focus on tips for creating the best email subject lines, it’s good to keep email preheaders in mind too. You want your email preheader to compliment your subject line nicely, and not simply repeat the same information.

Why the subject line of an email is so important

At first, your email subject line and preheader are the only thing email recipients can see when they receive your email in their inbox. Since email inboxes are inundated with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of emails per day, catchy and clear email subject lines are more important than ever. This one line of text can often determine whether an email is opened or sent straight to trash (or worse, to spam).

Good email subject lines can make a powerful impact on your readers. The words you choose for your email subject lines can have a big impact on whether or not the hard work you’ve put into your email will pay off. No matter how sophisticated or well-crafted your email campaigns are, they are worthless if your target audience doesn’t open the email.

Spending a little extra time on your email subject lines will help you get more customers to open your emails, avoid emails going to the spam folder, and get your message in front of the right people.

Note on open rates: Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature, which was released on September 20th, 2021, has made email open rates less reliable. While historical open rate data can still provide valuable insights, we recommend marketers focus on other email marketing metrics, like clicks and conversions, when measuring their success going forward.

12 tips to create good email subject lines

Think of the 12 tips below as tweaks you can make when creating your subject lines. Each of these subject line tips is designed to get people to notice and open your email.

how to write good email subject lines
Read below for details on each tip for tweaking your email subject line to increase your email’s opens and clicks.

1. Shorten your subject lines

What good is your subject line if people can’t read it? Oftentimes, people check emails from mobile devices, swiping right through emails that don’t prompt a sense of urgency. Make sure your subject line doesn’t get cut short by keeping it under 40 characters or about five to seven words.

Your readers want to scan through their inbox quickly. Sometimes subject lines that use only a word or two can stand out and get the most engagement.

Example of a short email subject line

In the example below, Bisque Imports kept their subject line short and sweet, as simply “TGIF!

example email subject line from Bisque Imports: "TGIF"

2. Avoid spam words in your email subject lines

Subject lines that are aggressively salesy are often the most likely to be marked as spam. That means you should avoid loud punctuation like all caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as overtly promotional language like “Buy now” or “Free.” These are sure-fire ways to have your marketing emails sent straight to the spam folder.

Instead of focusing on promotion, try offering your expertise and sharing information your audience will find useful.

Example subject line focusing on the email’s value, not spam

Mother Earth Pillows let their subject line focus on what the subscriber can get out of reading their email with “Essential Oils…Learn what they do!”

good email subject line example: Essential Oils…Learn what they do!

3. Ask open-ended questions in the subject line

Why should you use questions in your subject lines? Questions are a great way to focus your readers’ attention and pique their curiosity.

Questions also feel incomplete on their own. Using a question will inspire readers to open the email in search of an answer.

Example email subject line using an open-ended question

Strong Women, Strong Girls nailed it with their simple subject line, “Who was Wonder Woman’s Role Model?”

email subject from Strong Women Strong Girls, using a question.

4. Include a deadline in the subject line

Considering there’s no shortage of distractions standing between you and your readers. The deadline tactic creates a sense of urgency that can encourage readers to prioritize your email.

A successful promotional strategy, for an event or a special offer, will likely include a series of emails. You can send out an initial announcement, letting people know about an upcoming date. As the deadline approaches, remind users of the promotion in a “last chance” follow-up email.

Don’t be afraid to make the turnaround time as short as 24 hours. “Now or never” phrases are often the most successful.

Example subject line using a deadline

Manchester Animal Shelter used a deadline to motivate subscribers to open with their subject line, “Cruisin’ 4 Critters is August 2nd Register Today!”

Manchester Animal Shelter subject line using a deadline

5. Try a teaser subject line to get people to open your email

Think about why people love movie trailers, but hate commercials. There’s power in drawing people in with a preview, rather than giving away the punchline right at the start. Great subject lines do just that.

Try to think of something that will hook your readers and spark their interest.

Example email subject line using a teaser

The Tropical Travelers teased the content of their email with the subject line, “Destination Weddings…Want Rock Star Treatment?”

tropical travelers

6. Give a clear command in your subject

On the other hand, some people respond best to direct instructions. If your email has a direct call to action, like encouraging people to buy tickets for an event, don’t be afraid to let your subject line reflect that.

Example of using a command in an email subject line

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley used a clear call to action as their subject line: “Join us at the MLH Scholars Luncheon!”

United Way of Massachusetts subject line example using a call to action

7. Share something valuable in your subject line

You might already know that sharing something of value for your audience is a central part of a good content marketing strategy.

Thing about what your subscribers right need right now, and tease a solution to that right in your subject line.

Example email subject line focusing on sharing something valuable

We used a value-based subject line in our own email with, “Create Your Holiday Plan”

Email subject line example

8. Make an announcement right in the subject

If you have something new and exciting to share about your business or organization, channel that enthusiasm into your subject line.

Although it’s hard to craft personalized emails to a long marketing email list, sharing announcements with email subscribers is a great way to boost that sense of personalization, as readers will feel like they’re amongst the first to know about this offer.

Example subject line leveraging an exciting announcement

Fluent City used an announcement teaser in their subject line, “The winners of the postcard contest are…”

Fluent City email subject line

9. Be unique in the email inbox

To craft great subject lines you need to understand two things:

  1. Who your audience is
  2. What your business can offer them that they can’t get anywhere else.

Think about what your business is specifically known for and highlight that in your subject line.

Don’t be afraid to put your business’s name right in the subject line, especially if your company is well known. Many people will open emails simply based on the sender alone, so don’t miss the chance to reinforce your specific brand.

Unique subject line example

Here’s how Taza Chocolate does it: “Taza Hot Fudge And A Cherry On Top!”

Taza chocolate

10. Tell a joke with your email subject

Most people aren’t bursting into laughter while going through their email inbox. That means if you can write a funny subject line, you’re going to get a lot of attention.

Ok, so maybe you won’t have your audience busting up in laughter, but you might just be able to convince them to open the email by at least making them smile with a joke that isn’t completely cringe-worthy.

Depending on the tone your business is going for, you can test out some puns or wordplay to get some laughs and engagement out of your contacts.

Joke subject line example

Boloco made subscribers chuckle with their subject line, “real baseball fans eat burritos”

Boloco email subject using a joke

11. Say something unexpected or intriguing

If funny isn’t really your thing, why not give surprising a try? This could be anything from a little-known fact about your industry, an eyebrow-raising statistic, or just something people aren’t used to hearing from a sales email.

Sharing something unexpected means your readers will want to read The novelty will also increase the likelihood that people will remember your email later on.

Example of an intriguing email subject line

How The Basketry does it: “Join us for a Bling-ing good time”

The Basketry email subject line example

12. Highlight video and other multimedia in your email subject

Did you know that even just including the word “video” in your email subject line has been shown to increase opens by as much as double?

Adding a video, linking to a presentation or podcast, or including a helpful guide are all great ways to make your email content varied and more engaging.

So, if you’re putting in the effort and going beyond plain text emails, make sure you’re telling your contacts right from the subject line so they don’t miss out!

Example subject line highlighting video

How Reel Works does it: “Reel Works Kickstarter – New Video!”

Reel Works email subject example

15 email subject line examples

Take inspiration from these great examples of email subject lines.

Question subject line examples

Using a question in your subject line is a great way to make a more personal connection with the people viewing your emails. Here’s how to use the question effectively:

There are questions designed to intrigue readers:

1. Do you really have the perfect gift for your [wife/husband]?

Or questions that point out a common problem:

2. Struggling to find the perfect gift for [mom/dad]?

Or even questions that inspire people to take action right away:

3. Have you seen our perfect holiday [offer/collection/gift ideas]?

Bottom Line: Rather than telling people what you have or how you’re able to help them, ask a question that gets their attention and entices them to learn more.

The command

Questions aren’t the only way to catch your readers’ attention. Sometimes it pays off to be more direct with your audience as a way to get them to act now.

In some cases, you may want people to take advantage of an offer:

4. Don’t wait. Save % [percent off] this week at [your business].

Or register for an event:

5. Reserve your spot for [name of your event].

Or just read your latest news or updates:

6. Find out what we have planned for [month/holiday/shopping day].

Bottom Line: While you don’t want to be pushy or overly promotional in your subject line, you shouldn’t be afraid to be direct either. Your customers will appreciate it, especially during this busy time of year!

The teaser

Believe it or not, people love cliff hangers. And if crafted correctly, the teaser tactic will work really well.

Whether you’re teasing gift ideas:

7. 3 gift ideas for your [brother/sister/uncle/cousin] that you didn’t think of.

Or a new piece of content:

8. Learn how to [do something] this holiday season.

Or just teasing people with a way to have a stress-free holiday:

9. Stress-free holiday shopping is possible at [your business].

Bottom Line: Think about your target audience. Who are they? What are they interested in? What are the challenges they are facing this holiday season? Use this information to craft a subject line that teases their interests and gets them to want to read on.

The list

Lists make it easier for people to consume the information you’re sending out. They also give you the chance to demonstrate your points in a more compelling way.

Lists work for gift ideas:

10. [#] gifts under $[amount of money].

Events:

11. 5 reasons to attend [name of your event].

Or even for educational content:

12. 10 holiday time-saving tips from [your business].

Bottom Line: Remember, lists should simplify not complicate your message. Don’t mistake using a list in the subject line as an indication that you need to pack your emails with too much content. Instead, look for opportunities to link out to your website or other online assets from your email.

The announcement

Subject lines don’t have to be complicated, especially if the goal of your email is to simply announce something new.

You may be announcing new hours:

13. We’re open late! New hours for the holidays.

Or letting people know that you’re participating in Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday:

14. Come celebrate [shopping day] at [your business].

Or just letting people in on what you have planned for the end of 2013:

15. Don’t miss our December [specials/offers/events].

Bottom Line: Save announcements for when you really have something important to tell people about. Not every subject line is going to offer breaking news.

Video: Get More Opens with Great Email Subject Lines

Looking to see these subject line tips in action? Watch the on-demand video webinar above for tips and plenty of examples to get you writing subject lines that work.

You’ll learn:

  • The basics of a good email subject line
  • Trends for writing great subject lines
  • Tips for getting creative with your subject lines

Even more tips for standout email subject lines

Still looking for more inspiration? We got you. Here are nine more ways to create subject lines that stand out in the inbox.

Use the buddy system

Before you publish something, you want a second pair of eyes on your work, right?

Subject lines require the same treatment. Sit down with your favorite beverage of choice (did someone say Subject Line Sangria?) and an employee, co-worker, or even your spouse and throw around ideas.

You’ll toss those ideas back and forth until, eventually, the right one will stand out.

Entertain, warn, inform

A lot of people sign up for marketing emails hoping to obtain valuable information from the sender. That’s you! Use your expertise and entertain them with a funny anecdote or inform them of something they are not likely to be aware of.

You can also warn them about something that your organization can prevent. For example, a veterinary clinic might warn readers of the dangers of ticks and Lyme’s disease in the summer months.

Example: YES! Claim Tax Deductions from Your Summer Vacation

CPA for Freelancers subject lines

Alliteration is alluring

Alliteration is when the same letter or sound appears at the beginning of consecutive or closely connected words.

This technique draws the reader in and can be a fun way to come up with for a creative subject line.

Example: The Shoes Of The Season

Subject lines: No Rest for Bridget

Try allusions

Who doesn’t love a clever reference to something everyone knows? Allusions create common ground between you and the reader and make your readers smile.

Consider this allusion to the 1983 hit by the Eurythmics used by a cheese shop to announce a special sale:

Example: Sweet dreams are made of cheese.

(Good luck getting that chorus out of your head now!)

Harness the ‘FOMO’

If you don’t know, FOMO means ‘fear of missing out.’

This tactic works great for creating urgency around an event, sale, or item. Give it a try!

Example: Hurry! Last Chance to Save 20% OFF

Example subject lines: William Roam

Take time to rhyme

See what I did there? Rhyming subject lines tend to stick out amongst a sea of subject lines because we’re attracted to rhythmic sounds.

Give it a try in your next subject line. You never know, you might be a poet and you didn’t even know it!

Example: Splish Splash oh the prices we’ve slashed!

Ta-Da! It’s onomatopoeia

Never thought you’d see this word after high school English class, did you?

Well, I hope you were paying attention because onomatopoeia is a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the source of the sound that it describes.

There are so many ways you can use sounds to get someone’s attention, so embrace your inner child and use some onomatopoeia in your next subject line for a playful effect.

Example: Saving is a Boo-tiful Thing

Bisque Imports subject lines

Final thoughts on email subject lines

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to write good email subject lines that will get your emails the attention they deserve.

But don’t rely on our advice alone.

Take a look at your own inbox and see which emails you’ve been opening. Putting yourself in your contacts’ shoes is one of the best ways to write a subject line that will get you noticed and boost your business.

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