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How to Write Subject Lines that Increase Email Open Rates

Email marketing offers businesses an affordable and proven method to reach their target audience. While email consistently produces a high return on investment (ROI), the results tie to the quality of the content. That starts with a strong subject line.

The Importance of the Email's Subject Line

The subject line is the line directly under the recipient's name that communicates the message's intent. As the first and most critical content, it's too valuable to treat as an afterthought.


A strong subject line grabs attention and encourages the reader to engage with the message. The subject line determines the recipient's next step. Will they open the email or send it immediately to the trash?

An informative and precise subject line builds the foundation for action.

How to Write Subject Lines that Work

Let's start with the basics. Follow our easy do's and don'ts to craft content that works.

Subject Line Do's

  • Do keep it simple - Pack a punch into a few concise but intentional words.

  • Do give the benefit – Highlight why the reader should open the message. Communicate what is in it for them.

  • Do create urgency – Tell the reader why they should act now. Drive urgency with timebound marketing. Use limited qualities, specific sale dates, or “be the first to know” messages.

  • Do stay true – The subject line must reflect the information covered in the email. Otherwise, your audience won’t trust you with future messages.

  • Do use calls to action – Tell the recipient what action the email asks them to take. For example, shop now, learn more, or schedule an appointment.

  • Do evoke emotion – Use language to enhance the reader's emotional response. For example, build excitement, joy, or compassion with words that set the tone of the message.

  • Do stay on brand – Always offer a consistent brand image across all communications and channels.

Subject Line Don'ts

  • Don't use hashtags or special characters – The goal is to grab attention, but hashtags and special characters can land your message in the spam folder.

  • Don't use clickbait – The quickest way to lose trust in your brand is with clickbait. Do not promise something in the subject line that the email won't provide.

  • Don't trick or cheat – Don't use reply or forward (Re. or Fwd.) in the subject line. It only serves to frustrate the recipient. The goal isn't only for them to open the message but also to act.

  • Don't use the wrong tone – Stick to a tone reflective of your brand image. If your brand uses humor, then tell a joke. If your brand casts a more serious image, like an attorney or healthcare provider, don't lead with humor.

  • Don't overshare – Keep the subject line readable with simple words and a clear message. Most people won't take the time to read long or confusing subject lines.

Get the Most Out of Your Email Marketing

Use what works to enhance your email marketing strategy. The best emails use clear and honest communication that provides valuable information to your target market. Start with a strong subject line that sticks to the rules.

Say Yes Business Solutions guides our clients with effective marketing strategies. We work to understand your goals. Then, we develop and manage marketing plans to achieve your desired results. Our services include full-service email marketing. We handle the details, from writing subject lines to tracking performance data.

Contact us to learn more about how our business solutions can grow your business.

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