14 Tips for Writing Catchy, Clickable Subject Lines

4 min readMay 31, 2017


While it may seem like insignificant, the subject line is your email’s first impression; 33% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on its subject line alone. If you want to compel people to view your emails’ contents, you must craft subjects that stand out.

1) Keep it short and sweet.

Most email subject bars will cut off lines longer than the allotted space, especially those on mobile devices. Considering 40% of people open emails on their mobile first, subject lines should be fewer than 50 characters to ensure people can read the entire phrase.

If you’re struggling to keep your subject lines short, think about the worth of the words you’re using and remove frivolous details, or the needlessly obvious.

2) Use a familiar sender name.

Thanks to the inordinate amounts of spam cluttering people’s’ inboxes, you must be conscious of your account name. If you don’t sound personable, it won’t matter what your subject line is, as most people hesitate to open emails from unfamiliar senders.

Never use “noreply@company.com”; nobody’s going to add an automated email to their address book. Instead, use a personal account with a name that can be easily identified.

3) Use personalization tokens.

Using personalization tokens in the subject line, such as the recipients name or location, creates the illusion of a pre-established relationship and increases clickthrough rate.

“Happy Birthday Sarah — Surprise Inside!”, not only addresses the recipient by their first name, but contains a time plug. That said, if you can’t (or don’t want to) use personalization tokens in the subject line, use “you” or “your” so it still sounds like you’re addressing the recipient directly.

4) Segment your lists.

Personalize your recipient’s experience by utilizing data about their online behavior — from the forms they’ve filled out, to their preferred industries and personal tastes. In email marketing, you can personalize your recipients’ experience using list segmentation.

5) Don’t make false promises.

Don’t lure people into opening your emails by making false promises. This will annoy your audience, making them reticent to open future communications, and perhaps even prompting them to unsubscribe.

6) Time it right.

Sending an email at the right time with the right subject line can make a huge difference in open and clickthrough rate. Take into account the time zone and the occasion. For example, send a message about a new place to drink beer just before happy hour.

7) Start with action-oriented verbs.

Subject lines are similar to calls-to-action, in that you want the language to inspire people. Subject lines that begin with action verbs tend to be more enticing. For example, “Dine with Bruins legend Bobby Orr,” sounds better than a more generic line such as, “Local Boston Sports Legend Meal.”

8) Make people feel special.

The psychology of exclusivity is a powerful thing. When people feel like they’re on the inside, it gives them a sense of belonging that fosters loyalty. Examples include:
“For our beloved customers only”
“An exclusive offer for you”
“My gift to you”
“You’re invited!”

9) Create a sense of urgency.

Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity have a 22% higher open rate. Using deadlines like “today only” or “24-hour giveaway” will encourage your reader to act immediately, instead of putting your message off until later, when there’s a chance of them forgetting it.

10) Ask a compelling question.

Asking a question in your subject line can also entice your readers — especially if you’re asking a question you know is relevant to them. For example, you might try the following: “Are you making these ___ mistakes?”

11) Get punny.

Most people love a good pun. It’s a great way to add some laughs, interest and spice up your emails. Just don’t overdo it. When in doubt, ask a coworker.

12) DON’T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!!

A subject line that says, “OPEN NOW AND RECEIVE A FREE TRIAL” or “50% off coupon today only!!!!!!!!” isn’t going to get you results. 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line, you’ll want to stay away from triggers like this whenever possible.

13) Don’t forget to add preview text.

While preview text isn’t technically part of your subject line, it does appear immediately beside it and certainly deserves your attention. When you don’t set the preview text yourself, the recipient’s email host will create one automatically. This can look messy, depending on your email content, and it’s also a wasted opportunity to engage your audience.

14) A/B test your subject lines.

Although these tips are a great place to start, what works best for some companies may not work as well for others. It’s all about learning how to cater to your specific audience. That’s where A/B testing comes in. A/B testing is comparing two versions of a web page to see which one performs better. You compare two web pages by showing the two variants (which are called A and B) to similar visitors at the same time. The one that gives a better conversion rate, wins.

Though there’s no foolproof formula for getting your emails read, taking a few moments to implement these tips will increase your chances.

Good luck!