A good first impression is important. Whether you’re interviewing for a job, going on a first date, or meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, the initial impression you make on someone can impact how they view you, choose to interact with you, and ultimately if they like you or not.

The same is true when it comes to subject lines in emails.

33% of email recipients open emails solely based on the subject line. 

Source: Convince&Convert

Subject lines are much like a first impression. They are the initial opportunity to entice the reader to open your email, read your content, and ultimately perform a desired action on your website. If the reader doesn’t like your subject line, they’ll more than likely ignore the email or delete it.

To avoid this from happening to you, we’ve put together some tips on how to write email subject lines that get opened.

Types of Effective Email Subject Lines

There are several different approaches you can take when writing email subject lines. The goal of a subject line is to grab the reader’s attention, convincing them to read more. When creating a subject line, it’s important to think about the content within the email and what action you eventually want the user to take once reading the email.


Using urgency and scarcity in your subject lines can be very effective if done properly. Urgent and scarce messaging makes the recipient feel compelled to take action now before it’s too late. Doing this too often, however, can come across as disingenuous or even annoying, so only do it when you actually have a time sensitive message, like a limited sale, to send out.

Urgent/Scarce Subject Line Example: The Countdown’s Begun!! 24 Hours Of Discounted Shoes Starts Now
Email Types: Sales, signups, PDF downloads, and event promotion


People have a tendency to want to find answers for the unknown. If your subject line is mysterious, readers will likely be intrigued enough to open your message . Piquing curiosity often means being somewhat vague and puzzling in hopes to entice the recipient into reading more.

Curiosity Subject Line Example: Never Tie Your Shoes Again
Email Types: Product announcements, blog posts, and news


From a consumer standpoint, it always feels good when you’re being talked to, and not talked at. By using someone’s first name, birthday, location, or even a recent order in an email, you’re personalizing the message and making the recipient feel like you’re specifically talking to them, rather than just a generic mass email to a list. To do this, you can add merge tags to your email.

Personalization Subject Line Example: Happy Birthday, Dale! Enjoy 25% Off Storewide On Us
Email Types: Exclusive sales/discounts, event promotion, signups, and PDF downloads


People love a joke. Humor is an incredibly effective way to get people to engage with your brand. Having a funny subject line can make you appear more relatable and human. Be sure to keep it clean and not use offensive humor, otherwise you risk unsubscriptions and potential PR issues.

Humor Subject Line Example: Treat Yo Feet
Email Types: Sales, product announcements, blog posts, and news

Frustration Identification

The more you understand about your audience, the better. While it’s important to understand your audience’s likes and needs, it’s equally important to understand their dislikes and frustrations. Starting with a commonly heard frustration is one of the best ways to find new consumer needs that your emails can address. Pointing out a widespread frustration to your audience in a subject line may influence them to open the email to learn what the solution is.

Frustration Identification Subject Line Example: Say Goodbye To Blisters Forever
Email Types: Sales, blog posts and PDF downloads


Stories are a great way to grab someone’s attention. You obviously can’t tell a full story in an email subject line, but you can tell enough of one to interest the reader, and encourage them to participate in the story’s ending: their engagement with your brand. Give your subject line a strong opening that introduces the story in a way that makes reading further irresistible.

Storytelling Subject Line Example: We Gave Away 100,000 Pairs Of Shoes In A Day
Email Types: Sales, product announcements, blog posts, news


Sometimes, the most effective way to get your message across is to be short, sweet, and to the point. Many people appreciate honesty and like the fact of knowing what they’re getting into before opening an email. While some might view this technique as boring, it can be an effective tactic, especially when it’s promoting something you think your consumers will be especially interested in.

Straightforward Subject Line Example: Our Back To School Shoe Collection Has Arrived
Email Types: News, sales, product promotion, blog posts, and PDF downloads

Email Subject Line Tips

Of course, writing an effective email subject line can be a challenge. How do you know what exactly to say, how long your message should be, and what approach to take to get opens? We’ve put together a few tips to help answer some of these questions.

Use Simple Language

Audiences resonate with what makes sense to them, and what’s familiar to them. If you’re using big, complex words in your email subject lines, you risk not grabbing your reader’s attention. It can also give your brand a negative image by appearing that you’re using big words just to sound smart.

Every time you write an email subject line, put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What part of this news, post, deal or promotion would most appeal to me as a consumer? Whatever the answer is should give an immediate idea as to what sort of subject line I should use. If it’s an insanely good deal, I would want that information as soon as possible, and straightforward might be the best approach. However, if I as a consumer would find the linked blog post witty and informative, a sassy humorous line may be the best bet. Consumer empathy gives lots of insight as to the direction the line should take.

Connect to Your Preheader Copy

An example of an email subject line that correlates to the email header.

Just like subject lines are crucial to email opens, so too is preheader copy. Preheader copy is the first sentence in the body copy of your email, and is often part of the email preview located under the subject line. By linking your subject line to your preheader copy, you give yourself more characters to work with when trying to get your message across.

A/B Testing

There’s no better way to determine the effectiveness of your email subject lines than by conducting A/B testing. The idea of A/B testing is certainly not new, but it’s definitely underused by a lot of companies in their email marketing efforts.

A/B testing consists of creating two identical versions of something, changing a single variable in one of the versions, and testing the two versions against each other by serving version A to half of your audience, and version B to the other half of your audience.

The email subject line would be the only differing variable, while the body copy of the email would be exactly the same. When writing the different subject lines, think about length, word selection, tone, and other different approaches to try out.

Ultimately, the goal would be to see which email subject line performed better in terms of open rate percentage. Once you have some data behind the results, you can adjust the way you’re writing subject lines, and keep continually testing to ensure your subject lines are effective.

Think About Mobile

As you probably know, the popularity of mobile has been increasing every year. Whether you’re talking about e-commerce, surfing the web, or using social media, mobile devices provide a convenient, on-the-go option that desktop simply doesn’t offer. Not surprisingly, mobile devices are also being used more than ever to read emails.

Mobile email will account for 22%-77% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product, and email type.

Source: The Ultimate Mobile Email Stats 2018

With such popularity, it’s more important now than ever before to optimize your emails for mobile, which includes subject lines. Many mobile email tools allow approximately 25-30 characters in the subject line, so it’s important to choose your characters wisely when crafting your message.

Seek Help From Experts

Email marketing is a crucial element of the digital marketing mix. For many companies, it’s a massive revenue driver and the channel with the highest return on investment. To truly get the most out of the emails you’re sending, consider working with a team of professionals that has proven experience in email marketing with a variety of different clients from various industries.

If you’re interested in learning more about ways to improve your email marketing efforts, contact the DBS Interactive team.