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Your email subject line serves as a first—and sometimes last—impression.

So even though we often write subject lines as afterthoughts, in many ways they’re actually more important than the body copy of your email. After all, the greatest email in the world is worthless if it never gets opened, right?

As you write your marketing emails, don’t leave the subject lines to chance. The best subject lines are short, descriptive, and give the reader a reason to explore your message further.

Ready to become a subject line superhero? Your training starts here. Check out these 17 subject line styles that get your emails opened.

Chapter 0

Subject line styles


Busy, organized people thrive on efficiency. These readers need you to be clear and concise in your subject lines, as time is always an asset. Help them out by placing pertinent information up front in your subject lines.



Personal touches—we all love them. Taking a personalized approach to your subject lines can help engage an audience from the beginning. Try including the recipient’s first name, or other personal information like recent purchases, in the subject line.


Why do infomercials work? Because creating a sense of urgency has been proven to get people to take action. People often respond to the possibility of losing out on something, rather than to the promise of gaining something. You can create a similar effect in your subject lines.

Clever and catchy

A catchy subject line can stand out among the scores of dull ones around it. Humor is tough, though, and you have to take care not to confuse or alienate. But if you know your audience well, a clever joke can get your email opened and shared.

Short and sweet

Given that most smartphones only display five or six words of a subject line—and because more than 41% of today’s email campaigns are opened on mobile devices—brevity is critical.


There’s a reason lists have grown so common: they work. Lists provide content in a snappy, snackable way and build curiosity. Plus, incorporating numbers into your subject line creates focus, as our brains are naturally drawn to digits.


Asking readers a question in your subject line can immediately engage them and create an instant dialogue. Try to keep your questions open-ended so your reader can’t answer them with a quick “no.”


The how-to subject line offers insight into the specific benefit readers will find when they open your email. And as long as your “how-to” is valuable to the audience, open rates can soar.

Scarcity or FOMO

We don’t want to freak you out, but humans have a deep fear of missing out—on anything. So email subject lines threatening scarcity (hurry, before it’s too late!) tend to perform well.


Location-specific language and offers show readers that you’ve done your homework. You know their vicinity and have a message that applies specifically to them. Many readers open these emails whether or not they’re initially interested, just to see what’s happening locally.


Style sells. Whether you’re selling fashion, food, technology, or services, most people want to be “in the know” about the latest trends. The latest fascinations are compelling, motivating readers to look inside for more details.


The best subject lines grab attention, and controversy can help you do that. But tread lightly—this strategy requires great care to pull off. You need to know your audience well and create a balance between controversy and information. It’s a gamble, but the payoff can be extraordinary.


Conventional search engine optimization wisdom tells us keywords are a vital part of a blog post title. So try applying that same logic to your subject lines. Think critically: What exact phrases might people type into Google? The added benefit: Better searchability for your messages.


Who couldn’t use a little more clarity these days? Using a command in your email subject line tells the readers exactly what you want them to do. So try starting your subject line with an action verb to encourage a response.


In our age of analytics and data, statistics have become a great way to provide proven, objective information. Using a simple statistic in your subject line offers straightforward insight while also piquing curiosity.

Sneak peak

Everyone wants to be a trendsetter or early adopter, so why not feed that desire? Assuming you’ve got a valuable opportunity, including exclusives and sneak peeks right in your subject line is a sure-fire way to increase your open rates.


Great incentives inspire great responses. So why not include that incentive right up front in the subject line? Put your offer there for all to see. If your list is well targeted and your offer legit, you should see your open rates rise.

Chapter 17

Wrap up

Now that you’re an email subject line superhero, it’s time to starting sending those emails. Consider your audience and what technique might work best for them.

Test different techniques over the next few campaigns, or even try two different methods with the same email. What superhero subject lines will you write?

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