How to Write Better Email Subject Lines

Julie Shenkman
Posted by

The importance of having an effective email subject line cannot be understated. According to Digital Marketing Advisors Convince & Convert, 35 percent of individuals open an email based solely upon its subject line. This is an important consideration for those who have a product to sell or a message to convey. It indicates that crafting an effective heading increases the chances of the recipient reading your message, a crucial step in any communication process.

Despite its rumored decline, email is an essential form of communication. Although McKinsey’s iConsumer Survey found that email usage by customers had fallen 20 percent between 2008 and 2012, email is still an important way to market products to the masses. According to a 2013 article on, “Email Marketing: Think Inside the New Inbox,” 91 percent of consumers use their email accounts daily. It makes sense, then, that those who can get potential customers to open their messages – via intriguing and well written email subject lines – can make a tidy profit.

But it's equally important for administrative professionals who need to communicate a message to company personnel. If the email heading doesn't peak their curiosity, your message could go unread.

How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines

Whatever your role, writing a strong email subject line is key to ensuring effective communication with your peers. Here are a few tried-and-true ways to write better email subject lines:

1. Be Short

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, shorter is better when it comes to subject lines. They claim that anything more than 50 characters will cause recipients to ignore it.

2. Be Clear

Whether the recipient is a potential customer or a co-worker, it is important that you are respectful of their time. This means that the email subject line should clearly state the purpose of the message so that recipients can tell immediately whether it is informational or a request for action.

3. Be Actionable

Unless the recipient is highly interested in the subject of the email, he or she may not immediately open it unless it is important. One way to increase its importance is to put "urgent" in an email subject line, but only if the message really is urgent. According to Nexxt, "needs attention," "immediate response requested," "needed today," or "needed this week" are other great phrases to use when you need the recipient to take action.

4. Be Intriguing

Marketers routinely use intriguing subject lines to get their emails opened. Funny, shocking, and controversial words and phrases lead to higher click through rates, according to Saying "free," "danger," and "for a limited time only" will make an email irresistible to many recipients.

Whether your goal is to sell a product via email marketing or to communicate with company personnel, it is important to craft a short, clear, and actionable email subject line to convince the recipient to open it. Otherwise, all the time you spent writing the body of the email will be wasted.

Photo courtesy of adamr at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch