8 Tips for Writing Email Subject Lines

Give recipients a reason to read your messages

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Just as moviegoers determine whether they'll see a film based on the preview, email recipients prioritize messages based on the subject line, which appears before the message is opened. Messages that contain subject lines that are relevant or interesting are more likely to be read. To get your correspondents to pay attention, give your email subject lines the attention they deserve.

How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines

Here are a few tips on how to write email subject lines that convince recipients to open an email from you and read your message.

  1. Keep it brief. For practical reasons, keep the subject line brief. Most email clients only display the first 50 characters, so anything you write beyond that limit doesn't really matter.

  2. Avoid salesy language. All caps, too many exclamation marks, and other symbols meant to draw attention are turn-offs for recipients. Also, overly promotional language, such as Buy Now, Limited Time Offer, or Free may be ignored. Emails that have subject lines with these phrases don't get read and are often automatically delivered to spam folders.

  3. Use plain language. Strive for accuracy rather than entertainment. Don't try to jazz up what's in your email message; tell the reader what to expect when they open the message.

  4. Ask a question. Questions pique curiosity and inspire readers to open an email in search of an answer.

  5. Mention a deadline, if applicable. Sometimes a deadline makes an email a priority. Tell the recipient when your offer expires or when you need an answer, such as This special offer is only available for one more week.

  6. Use a direct call to action. If you want your email to provoke action, use an imperative sentence that includes a benefit, such as RSVP now to get the best seats.

  7. Put your name in the subject line. Most people look at the sender and the subject line when deciding whether to open an email. This is especially helpful when the recipient doesn't know you well.

  8. Use good marketing sense. If you're writing on behalf of your business or your employer, think about what your customers want and create a subject line that delivers it. For example, Exclusive sale for enews subscribers only — starts tomorrow.