email subject line

If email marketing is one of the most important tools you have to grow your business (and it is) then your email subject line is pretty much the most important snippet of copy you'll write as a business owner.

Sounds dramatic, but it's true! If you can't get people to actually open your emails then you're losing a whole limb of your marketing body and you can't afford to do that, so let's look at how you can up your subject line game and get those emails opened by as many people as possible...

Psst! Don't miss your FREE lead magnet checklist while you're here. Just scroll to the bottom (or you know... read to the bottom) to grab it. 

1) Emojis

It's amazing how polarising something as simple as an emoji can be. There will be some people on your list who find them so irritating that they may even unsubscribe if you choose to use them - but there are also others who will find you more appealing.

Love 'em or hate 'em, studies have shown that including an emoji or two in your subject line increases open rates. Perhaps those little smiley faces just help your email to stand out in a crowded sea of text? Either way, if you haven't tried 'emojifying' your emails yet, then have a go and see what happens for you!


10 Reasons to eat bananas for breakfast 🍌

This is hilarious! 😂

⚠️Warning: This email will blow your mind

2) Personalisation

We're all wired to spot our own name (or hometown, or age... or in fact any personal details) a mile off so if you include personalisation in your subject line it will jump out at your subscriber and beg to be opened!

WORD OF WARNING - If you DO include personalisation, then make sure you've got the data to back it up. While a subject line of 'Read this, Colette' will immediately grab my attention, 'Read this, FIRST NAME' will have me rolling my eyes and moving for the delete button... Personalisation is one of the huge advantages of email - but poor personalisation is just one of many cringeworthy email errors to avoid.


  • Top tips for people living in <home town>
  • <First Name>, this is for you!
  • All the best people were born on <date of birth>


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3) The 'open loop'

If you can master the art of the open loop then you'll always be able to create content that intrigues and engages your reader - whether it be a subject line, a whole email, a sales page or a Facebook post.

What the heck is an open loop? In simple terms, it's a teaser. 

It's creating curiosity so your readers have to read on to learn more. It's asking the question (figuratively or literally!) but not giving the answer juuuuuuuust yet....


  • This is what helped me to lose 7lbs in 3 days
  • You'll NEVER believe what just happened...
  • You're about to make a HUGE mistake...

4) Email subject line word count

There have been a ton of studies when it comes to the ideal length of a subject line and you probably won't be surprised to hear that there have been a ton of differing results of those studies...

So what's a girl to do? Well here are a few good rules of thumb to keep you on track:

  • Your subject line should be no more than 50 characters long if you want it to fit on the preview of an iPhone screen in portrait
  • Most studies seem to indicate a sweet spot between 5-8 words
  • Chances are, there are more important things to focus on than subject line length

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5) Exclusivity 

Go on, admit it - you love feeling like a VIP, right? 

I remember receiving a 'VIP' invite from a local car showroom and I very nearly went along despite the fact that I was in no way thinking about buying a car.

Why? Because I felt somehow special for being 'picked out'. Silly, I know. And that's what my husband said too - which is the main reason that I didn't go... ?

If your subject line can convey the fact that your subscriber is receiving something exclusive then they are much more likely to open your email. Just make sure that you deliver on that promise or you'll only end up losing their trust when they open the email to discover you tricked them...


  • Your personal invite is inside
  • Exclusive deal just for you
  • I haven't talked about this anywhere else...

6) Scarcity & urgency

Remember how orders in James Bond films always came with a warning; 'this message will self-destruct'?

To be fair, that was more about national security and preventing anyone else from seeing the secrets inside BUT it certainly made Mr Bond read it quickly didn't it? ?

And THAT is the power of scarcity or urgency. If we know that something is limited or ending soon, then we're forced to act NOW rather than doing what we all do best... waiting until later...and then NEVER doing it at all.


  • This price is only available today
  • Only 6 places left...
  • Last chance before the price goes up!

Have you joined yet?

7) Choose your words carefully

Words matter. Especially in email subject lines! 

There are certain words which will help your subject line perform better, such as words which convey or trigger emotion or action.

There are others which will have the opposite effect. In fact some words will actually trigger your subscribers' spam filters, ensuring that they don't even see your subject line in the first place!

Here are some danger words to avoid - or use with care:

  • Offer
  • Bargain
  • Discount
  • Free
  • Guarantee
  • Limited

You can see the full list here.

8) Set expectations

If you know your subscribers are gonna love what's in your email, then the simplest way to get them to open it, is to use your subject line to tell them what they'll get inside.

Easy! No muss, no fuss.

9) TEST!

As always, I've left the best till last. 

The fact is, marketing isn't a science, it's an art. What works for one audience, may not work for yours, so the VERY best way to learn what subject lines will perform best for you is to test.

Not sure about emojis? Try sending the same subject line with emojis to half your subscribers and then without to the second half...

Try out different formats - perhaps your audience responds well to being told the facts with no fuss but really get annoyed when you try to be funny...

Or perhaps they love a good pun but get bored when you just tell it to them straight...

Either way, the only way you'll learn is if you test different tactics and measure what works and what doesn't.

Every Step You Need to Create a Truly Irresistible Lead Magnet

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email subject line
About the Author

Colette Broomhead

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