Email best practices

56+ email subject lines that beg to be opened

Top tips from experts on how to write email subject lines that work. Learn more now.

Hermes and a Goddess look at a screen



Email subject lines are like the headline for your emails. How important are headlines in any advertising copy? Headlines are the gateway to the rest of your message. The ability to consistently write effective subject lines will result in higher open rates and more engagement.

As iconic copywriter David Ogilvy said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

For emails, this may be even more true, because when you scroll through your inbox, all you see is the subject line, the sender, and the pre-header. That’s all your subscribers have to motivate them to open the email.

Learning how to write effective email subject lines should be a top priority for anyone in charge of an email marketing campaign. Here, we’ll cherry-pick the words, combinations, and formatting of different subject lines to help you write the best ones that will generate more opens, engagement, and revenue.

The inbox is a noisy and crowded place, and the fight for your subscribers’ attention is fierce. You have around 60 characters to capture their attention in the subject line.

Quite simply, a good email subject line is one that gets a subscriber to open an email because they actually want to. That means it’s not deceiving them with a false promise that doesn’t pay off in the email, but is instead producing a sincere interest in your message.

Subject lines are not meant, in most cases, to convey the entire point of the email. The goal is usually very specific – get it opened. Once that’s done, the rest of the email can engage the reader and motivate some form of response or engagement.

How to create email subject lines that don’t suck

Sounds like a good starting point, right? Remember – your subject must give the reader a reason to open the email. That reason could be logical or emotional. In most cases, an emotional reason is better, because it activates their brain on a psychological level

But especially in certain automation situations – such as a welcome email– or when sending something the reader asked for, be explicit about it in the subject line – “The ebook you asked for.”

As for emotion, what sorts of tools can you use to tap into the reader’s emotions and make them want to open your emails? Here are a few of the most tried and true:

  • Curiosity: Give them an itch they can only scratch by opening the email.

  • FOMO (fear of missing out): Make your reader feel like they simply can’t miss whatever is in your email.

  • Pain points: Touch on feelings, topics, and issues relevant and important to your audience.

  • Emojis: Draw attention to your email in a crowded inbox and visually align with your brand’s tone.

  • Wordplay: Use a catchy pun to get a reaction.

Here’s an example of an email subject using curiosity:

The From name and subject line of a marketing email from Pitchfork.

Our thoughts are officially provoked.

It creates questions that beg to be answered. Who made this album? Why did she never make one like it again? It sounds unique, and makes us want to know more.

This email subject from Vidyard uses wordplay that aligns with their service, but also touches on curiosity and a pain point relevant to their audience.

The From name and subject line of a marketing email from Vidyard.

We see what you did there, Vidyard.

Their audience uses video as part of their marketing – otherwise why would they subscribe to Vidyard? But how well is that strategy working? This subject line promises to deliver ways to improve it.

Understand your audience

While it can be helpful to look at examples of email subject lines, what’s meaningful and relevant to your audience may differ from what other companies and brands are doing.

More than anything else, your email subjects must connect with your audience. Whether you do that with brand personality, humor, pain points, curiosity, or other methods, it must resonate with why your readers subscribed to your email list.

This is why email testing is so important. But you should also be paying attention to past email subject line metrics. Which kinds of email subjects seem to get the most opens and clicks? Which ones lead to more sales, signups, and other sorts of conversions?

Your marketing is not about you. It’s about them.

For example, in some industries, coupons and discounts get people really excited. But in others, frequent sales are actually a turn-off. Not every company is trying to appeal to bargain hunters. What does your audience respond to? Why do they want to be on your email list? What are they hoping to get out of it?

Get up-to-date stats with real-time campaign performance

Your previous email “wins” indicate what your audience wants most, so give it to them. Track your email marketing performance in real-time and optimize future campaigns.

Top tips for killer email subject lines

When it comes to constructing your subject line, there are a few things to keep in mind to increase your chances of success:

1. Pay close attention to length

A shorter subject line may be more likely to catch the reader’s attention, but it still has to be reflective of the content inside.

You should be aware of each email client’s subject line preview length. For example, Gmail only shows the first 70 characters, where Hotmail / Live and Yahoo Mail show 60 and 46 characters respectively. Do some research on different mobile clients to find out the current limits.

2. Don’t forget the preheader

While distinct from the subject line, the pre-header goes hand-in-hand in forming a perfect inbox preview to maximize opens. It complements the subject line and gives you more room to deliver your message in their inbox.

This is another place you can use emojis, too. Learn more: using the email preheader to increase open rates.

3. Lean into segmentation and automation

For email automation that the subscriber is expecting to see, be as direct as possible. If they asked for a special report, signed up for your list and are looking for the email confirmation, or bought a product – put information in your subject line that directly connects their previous action to the email they just got. This is where curiosity and cleverness aren’t appropriate.

If someone signed up for a webinar, “Your upcoming webinar details” is all you need for the subject line for the follow-up automated email.

With segmentation, it’s a little different, because it depends on the nature of the segment you’re emailing. If it’s an interest-based segment, include something in the subject that calls out that interest.

Other segmentation could be demographic. If you’re emailing a segment comprised of young parents, put something in the subject that they will recognize as being for them, such as:

  • “Kids unraveling again?” Try this…

  • Get your child ready to excel this fall

  • Birthday party favors that won’t embarrass your kid

Segmentation can also be based on past behaviors, such as downloads, engagement, shares, surveys, purchases, or event attendance. Addressing these in subject lines can be difficult, and isn’t always necessary. But when you can do it, you will likely get higher open rates.

4. Focus on tone and voice

Positive or negative, questions or exclamations, vague sentences or more direct ones, FOMO, urgency... There are many ways we can communicate one idea. Playing around with different options will keep your emails fresh and enticing. Whichever strategy you use, don’t use it with every email or your approach will get stale. You can’t have a “greatest sale of the century” every week.

Also, your subject line (and your content) should be aligned with your brand voice and tone. Having a recognizable style will go a long way.

Here are some examples of email subject lines infused with the personality of their brand.

A cute subject line with, “holy biscuits” from Kim Walsh Phillips.

Forget the bonuses; just give us biscuits.

A forceful subject line from Dan Kennedy.

You have our attention, Dan.

5. Consider using symbols and emojis

Do emojis work? Which one's the best? We did a ton of research on the impact of emojis in email subject lines to find out.

Marketers have been using emojis for a while now, but you have to be careful because they’re not compatible with all email clients. Also, they should always be used in context, otherwise it can have a bad effect on your brand.

6. Always test your email subject lines

Lastly, always run an A/B test. No one knows for certain which subject line will work best, so set up an ‘A/B test’ to try out up to ten different subject lines. For example, you might want to send your campaigns on Tuesday at noon with an A/B test in place and let it run for 20 hours, and then have the winning subject line and email be sent early on Wednesday morning so it’ll be one of the first in your email recipients’ inbox when they get to work.

After A/B testing and sending a couple of campaigns, see which ones worked best for your data set and look to improve future ones! By comparing your results with your industry benchmarks, you can always have specific goals to focus on and improve your email campaigns over time.

Pro Tip: The larger your email list, the more variables you can accurately measure. Technically, an A/B test only tests one variable. A multivariate test explores more than one, such as multiple subject lines, preview text, opening sentences, images, call to action language, and email designs.

56 email subject line examples to inspire you

Here are some of the best email subject lines, broken down into some of the categories we’ve been discussing.


From­ Name­

Subj­ect Line­

From­ Name­


What­’s new,­ what­’s hot and what­’s abou­t to sell­ out

Subj­ect Line­


Don’­t forg­et to add your­ Salo­mon Pass­!


Not part­ of Kieh­l’s Rewa­rds yet?­


Fina­l Hour­s: Free­ Ship­ping + Sale­s


Last­ chan­ce to save­ 20%


Your­ disc­ount is abou­t to expi­re

Matt­ from­ Gear­ Patr­ol

Myst­ery Sale­ – TODA­Y only­!


Get $6.1­6 Dinn­ers When­ You Come­ Back­, Fam!­


You’­ve miss­ed over­ 30 diff­erent snac­ks!

Tim Ferr­iss

Your­ free­bie is wait­ing

Dema­rcus Chil­ds

Aita­’s amaz­ing jour­ney – you have­ to see this­ vide­o

Hann­ah Eve

Did you see this­, Dust­in?

Bass­ Pro Shop­s

Fina­l Hour­s to Take­ Up to 50% Off Duri­ng Our Frie­nds & Fami­ly Sale­

Juli­e from­ Fore­ver 21

Cele­brate Wome­n’s Day with­ $20 Off Site­wide


We can’­t keep­ this­ sale­ open­ much­ long­er


2 DAYS­ ONLY­: Get 40% Off Spac­e Ques­t!


From­ Name­

Subj­ect Line­

From­ Name­

Gap Kids­

Up to 50% off:­ Hot offe­rs for cold­ weat­her

Subj­ect Line­

Red Farm­er

Se-M­EOW-Annual Sale­ Star­ts Soon­!


Past­a-bilities in your­ tumm­y

Gina­ Whit­e

PAWS­-ibly the cute­st NEW coll­ection

Warb­y Park­er

The clar­ity you’­ve been­ look­ing for

Pain point:

From­ Name­

Subj­ect Line­

From­ Name­

Hair­ club­

Fall­ in Love­ With­ Your­ Hair­ Agai­n…

Subj­ect Line­


Get trav­el guid­ance with­ the Trip­Advisor app

Thom­as Jett­

The perf­ect pres­ent for any occa­sion

Dr. Pete­r Pipe­r

Knee­ pain­? [rea­d this­]

Home­ Depo­t

What­ plan­t size­ is righ­t for your­ sill­?


Sell­ing in Toug­h Time­s

Bow Wow

5 reas­ons Pet Pare­nts trus­t us…

Cont­ainer Stor­e

Clos­et Clea­nout Sale­


Make­ Chri­stmas shop­ping more­ affo­rdable with­ up to 60% off

Kelc­e Bowy­er

Gift­ guid­es for ever­y budg­et


Are you low on coff­ee?


Want­ dinn­er deli­vered next­ week­?

Tim Ferr­iss

How to laun­ch your­ book­ exac­tly like­ I did

Jenn­y Crai­g

4 reci­pes to crus­h your­ heal­th goal­s


From­ Name­

Subj­ect Line­

From­ Name­

Jasm­ine Tora­

New bran­d ALER­T – Luv AJ

Subj­ect Line­


How does­ FIJI­ Wate­r get its soft­, smoo­th tast­e

Moni­ca from­ Scra­tch

What­ do 15,0­00 dogs­ thin­k of Scra­tch?

Blue­ Moun­tain

Abou­t your­ dog’­s food­…

Kris­py Krem­e

Will­iam, look­ what­’s insi­de!

Mich­ael Gord­on

Are you dumb­ing down­ your­ fund­raising?


The habi­t many­ nonp­rofits seem­ to pick­ up from­ Dona­ld Trum­p

Robe­rt Sout­h

Turn­ing word­s into­ mone­y

Marg­o Town­send

Is this­ the next­ big spor­ts bar chai­n?

Ashl­ey Wall­

How I got Jay Leno­ for free­

The Wall­ Stre­et Jour­nal

They­ lie


You were­ quot­ed

Jenn­y Crai­g

Don’­t buy this­ shak­e…


From­ Name­

Subj­ect Line­

From­ Name­

Unit­ed Airl­ines

✈️ time­ to pack­!

Subj­ect Line­


Made­ you 👀


Shhh­… secr­ets of true­ love­ ❤️


⚡ more­ powe­r! ⚡


You’­ve unlo­cked acce­ss 🎟️

John­ Kram­er

😢 We’r­e so sorr­y! 🙏

Buff­alo Wild­ Wing­s

Can you hand­le the 🔥?

Fore­ver 21

Prom­o code­ insi­de 👉


✅ chec­k off your­ groc­ery list­ 🍎

A/B testing ideas for email subject lines

How many different things do you usually test in your email subject lines? Do you focus on your wording, your tone, or the message itself? If you’ve answered one of the three, you’ll only be “partially correct”. The truth is that you definitely need a combination of the three to ensure you find the most effective one for each campaign.


One aspect of subject line length you can test is to deliberately make one subject too long to fit on certain devices. Do your readers feel intrigued by subject lines they can’t fully read? Or do they find this irritating and prefer shorter, more precise subject lines? A good series of A/B tests might reveal a surprising answer. Try a range and analyze the performance, both for each individual campaign, and across different email clients and devices over a period of time.

Also keep in mind that testing for length alone is difficult because if one email is shorter than another, that means you changed the content too. So if one gets more opens, is it because of the length or the message? The only way to know if length is the primary cause is to test and tweak this over many campaigns, and see a consistent pattern.


Does your audience react better when they see their name used in the subject line? We keep on talking about the importance of personalizing content to make it more relevant, but at the end of the day, your contact list is formed by a unique set of people with their own particularities. And, using each subscriber’s name is only one form of creating a personalized email subject line.

You can also mention locations, past purchases, nearby stores, local landmarks or celebrities, recent events, interests they’ve revealed in surveys, and much more.

Email from Barclaycard with the title “Freddy, give fraud a fright this Halloween”.


To emoji or not to emoji? For today’s email marketer, that might actually be the question. The suitability of emojis will depend on seasonal themes like Halloween, your database’s age and location, subscribers’ use of social media, and even the device they use to read their emails.

But it’s not just about whether to use emojis or not, but also which ones. Different cultures might react to the same picture in different ways and, no matter how many times they try to convince us, a peach is not always a peach.

Holidays like Halloween are also a great time to include relevant emojis like ghouls, skulls, and bats.

Negative statements, questions, and exclamations

The tone of – and how you phrase – your subject lines will definitely have an impact on your readers’ willingness to open your emails. You can emphasize the positive or lead with the negative.

Would a salary comparison page get better results with the negative statement, “You’re not being paid what you deserve”, the question “Are you being paid what you deserve?”, or an exclamation such as, “We know how much you should be making!”? The only way to know is by testing.

FOMO / Clickbait

Fear Of Missing Out is a thing. It’s the psychological principle that rules Facebook: people want to know what other people know, and what other people are talking about. Are you leveraging your contacts’ FOMO with subject lines they just can’t resist?

To an extent, the basis of clickbait subject lines is precisely this overwhelming curiosity that pushes us to open a message. We want to find out if, in fact, “there’s no way I can imagine what this person said”. Clickbait has developed a negative perception, and that’s because too often, the “clickbait” turns out to be a sham and doesn’t pay off on what the headline promised.

Pro Tip: As long as your email delivers what the subject line promises, be as clickbaity as you want and no one will mind.

Vague / Straightforward

You’ve probably heard about Obama’s email marketing success during his 2012 presidential campaign. 

Well, a big part of this can be attributed to the interesting range of catchy email subject lines his team picked, which caused impressive open rates and an all-time fundraising record. The team tested a huge number of subject lines, varying from straightforward messages such as “Thankful every day” or “Some scary numbers” to more vague ones, like “Change”, “I will be overspent”, and even a friendly “Hey”.

Discounts & Urgency

If your company sends product emails, use A/B testing to see if using discounts, promotions, and urgent sales deadlines in your subject lines will generate higher open rates. Overusing time-limited campaigns will backfire on you eventually, because your contacts will stop trusting you, and they’ll know another offer will be coming their way soon. Be sure to test this frequently to find the right balance.

Find your winning subject line

There’s no limit to the things you can test in your email subject lines. We’ve covered just a few of the possibilities here, but there are many more you can try.

Want to find out if including the name of your brand in the subject line makes a difference? How about changing the From name? Try it. Think that including a profanity might generate some interest and spice up your contact’s dull inbox? Try that too! At the end of the day, finding an effective subject line requires a bit of both art and science.

Discover what works with A/B testing

Stop guessing and start testing your email subject lines and more. Define your own testing criteria and optimize every email to maximize engagement.

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