Best Email Subject Lines

Get people to read your emails

What are the Best Email Subject Lines?

There are key elements that make email subject lines interesting and intriguing. Creating a good email subject line is important because you can’t hope to successfully communicate your message if people never even open your email.

Best Email Subject Lines


  • Studies show that far more than half of emails are never opened by the recipient. It presents a real challenge if you need to communicate to your audience via email.
  • Specific types of email subject lines seem to work best at getting people to read your email.
  • The most effective kinds of email subject lines include the ones that are personalized or tailored to the recipient, offer free stuff or large discounts, portrait a sense of urgency, or use humor to engage the recipient.

The Solution to a Problem

The statistics on emails are daunting for any business or individual who is trying to communicate their message to other people – whether that message is about products you’re trying to sell or just about a time change for the family dinner Thursday night. Some studies show that, on average, only about one in five – 20% – of emails are ever opened by recipients. And that’s looking at emails from a sender that the recipient knows!

So, that’s the problem. What’s the solution? Obviously, the key to getting your emails opened is to utilize the best email subject lines that entice the recipient to open your email to see what it says.

Digital marketers spend a small fortune – make that just a fortune, period – researching which email subject lines work and which ones don’t. What they’ve found are inherent traits common to successful email subject lines.

Following is a breakdown of some of the different types of successful email subject lines, along with specific examples for each type.

Types of the Best Email Subject Lines

1. Personalized

One very strong finding of all the research into email subject lines is that making the subject line personal significantly increases the chances of getting your email opened. It’s easy enough to get an email program to drop your recipient’s first name into the subject line, but personalization needs to go well beyond just that. You can further personally tailor your email by using things such as location-specific offers or including a known interest of your recipient.

You’ve probably seen examples of a similar email technique in your own inbox. For example, have you noticed that after you’ve searched online for a product, you’ll suddenly get a lot of emails referring to the item you were searching for? Emails with subject lines like, “Dave – Here’s the deal you’ve been looking for on a printer!”

Here are some examples of good, personalized email subject lines:

  • Here’s your second chance to win the free Bahamas cruise, Annie
  • Lee – Something special to thank you for taking our survey
  • I have a question about your recent article on (article subject or website it appeared on)

2. Make an irresistible offer

People like free stuff (or extremely discounted stuff). And that’s why emails offering freebies or advertising big sales generate a better-than-average open rate. Even if someone isn’t really in the market for a new TV or new computer, they’re still likely to take a peek if they see numbers like 40%-50% off.

Here are some good free stuff or sale items subject lines:

  • Premium Designer Bedding – 50% Off!
  • Your Free Copy of Allison’s Exclusive Report on Mining Stocks is Here
  • You can get FREE what Everyone Else is Paying $195 For

3. Communicate a sense of urgency

One of the problems that leave emails unopened is the tendency of recipients to say to themselves, “I’ll read that later.” Only “later” never seems to come, and eventually, the email sinks so far down into someone’s pile of unopened emails that it’s completely forgotten about. One way to combat that tendency is to put a note of urgency into your subject line.

The following are some examples of urgent emails:

  • After 9 p.m. tonight, it will be too late to profit from this inside information
  • Your 30% Discount Expires at Midnight!
  • We’re Starting in One Hour

4. Offer information

There is some notable disagreement as to whether or not “How to” subject lines work well, but there’s no disagreement about the fact that offering information is a winning email strategy. The key, however, is knowing what information your recipient is interested in. You may have been able to obtain such information from their visit to a website or answers to a survey. In any event, if you do have that kind of information about your recipient, you can certainly put it to good use in terms of getting them to open your email.

Here are some “information offer” email subject lines:

  • How to DOUBLE Your Investment Returns with One Click
  • How Melanie Got 10,000 Subscribers in One Day
  • How to Outline Your Novel so that It Practically Writes Itself

5. Try using a funny email subject line

If you’ve got a good sense of humor, you may be able to use it to encourage people to open your emails. Humorous email subject lines work because they’re something different from the typically dry, serious, “just the facts” style of most email subject lines.

There are some risks to trying the humor path. First, your recipient may not share your particular sense of humor. Second, they may be one of those people who just don’t have much of a sense of humor themselves. In that case, going the funny route may pretty well guarantee that your email won’t get opened.

Still, because of its uniqueness – its ability to stand out from the crowd of “normal” email subject lines – it may be worth trying a humorous subject line now and again to see how well it works for you, especially if you know your audience well. An extra benefit of going with a funny approach is that it can help in establishing a more personal relationship with your recipient. And who knows? You may also start to garner something of a reputation as a humorist online.

Here are some examples from the humor vault of best email subject lines:

  • Do Gamers Count HTML5 Sheep to Fall Asleep?
  • If You Don’t Read This Email, We’ll Kill This Small Puppy
  • Why You Can Only Find Unicorns in China

Additional Resources

CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and developing your knowledge base, please explore the additional relevant resources below:

FMVA certification program

Advance your career in investment banking, private equity, FP&A, treasury, corporate development and other areas of corporate finance.

Get certified as a financial analyst with CFI’s FMVA® Program.

0 search results for ‘