:Marketing / Email marketing

7 best practices (and examples) for writing catchy email subject lines

woman on phone and laptop woman on phone and laptop

Writing catchy email subject lines isn’t as hard as it might look. Once you learn a few basic tips and tricks and understand what make people tick when they see an email, crafting headlines will become smooth sailing. Keep reading for the seven best-kept secrets of effective email subject lines.

Tip 1: Pique interest (without click-baiting)

According to Digital News Report, on average, people in the US receive emails from four different news organizations. This number doesn’t take into account all the other newsletters they receive—meaning the number of emails on any day can get up to 10 or more easily. 

You’re competing against many other emails, so your headline must stand out in an instant. One of the best examples of catchy email subject lines are those that pique people’s interest. 

The biggest self-publishing resource, Reedsy, is exceptionally good at capturing attention with smart email subject lines that entice:

ricardo ricardo

Another great example of this type of email headline comes from marketing expert and business coach Chanti Zak and her clever use of pop culture references: 

chanti chanti

These two emails are sure to stand out amid the stream of news and personal emails as they’re not what’s expected. Just remember, it’s important to actually deliver on the promise made in a subject line. One trick will be enough to seem click bait-y, which will break the trust you’ve been working hard to build with your audience.

Tip 2: Keep it short

A catchy email subject line can be read in less than a few seconds. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. A small detail like that shows your email list that you respect their time. Short emails also indicate the email itself will be concise and to the point. This will make readers more inclined to open—even if they’re short on time. 

SEO expert Brian Dean is known for his super short email subject lines that get straight to the point:

brian dean brian dean

While his email subject line is short, it also manages to pique your interest, which makes for a very effective email headline. 

Another great example of a short yet effective email subject line is from writing coach and author Abbie Emmons:

abbie emmons abbie emmons

This is one of those email subject lines makes you immediately want to click to learn more. 

Tip 3: Capitalize only the first letter

Think about it: When people write personal emails, they only capitalize the first letter of their subject line. More often than not, most of the sales and promotional emails from businesses have a subject line with every letter capitalized aka they’re in title case. 

Because of this, when someone opens their inbox and notices the subject line with all caps, they’re more inclined to simply skim, assuming it’s a promotional email. To avoid your email being skipped over, consider capitalizing the first letter only.

Business coach Vanessa Lau sends out business-related emails to her list. But she always keeps her subject lines simple and personal:

vanessa lau vanessa lau

Having your name paired with a catchy email subject line like the one above is an effective way to encourage people to click and thus increase your open rates. It looks casual, informative, and not overfilled with promotional stuff right off the bat. 

If your newsletters are sent from your business name and not your personal name, you can still utilize this tip and get great results. Freelancing Females is a solid example:

freelancing females freelancing females

Tip 4: Ask questions

Using questions in your email headlines is one of the best ways to draw attention. When done right—meaning you ask the right question that correlates with people receiving the emails, it can make people unable to resist clicking to find out the answer.

There are a few different ways you can ask questions, but the main two are: questions relevant to your audiences’ struggles or questions that make people’s minds tingle with the need to figure out what the question means for them.

The perfect example of the first is a catchy email subject line from marketing expert Jenna Kutcher:

jenna jenna

She knows the struggle of her audience and the things they need to figure out. So she uses that knowledge to entice them to click on and read her emails. 

The next example is by Newsette, where they also ask a question in their email headline, but of a different kind:

newsette newsette

When you see this question in your inbox, you have questions. It captures your interest, and the only thing to do is to open to find out what inflation has to do with you.

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Tip 5: Urgency is your best friend

The fear of missing out is a real deal. It’s one of the most effective strategies when running a sale because people don’t want to miss out on a huge deal when they don’t know when the next one will come around. 

Blogging expert Jon Morrow uses this strategy often when running sales on his courses and products:

jon morrow jon morrow

This email subject line is catchy here because it promises a huge discount. On top of that, Jon tells you that the deal expires, which means that it probably won’t return anytime soon, if ever, which adds another layer of urgency. 

Another example of utilizing the fear of missing out is from Jenna Kutcher:

jenna kutcher jenna kutcher

Her subject line doesn’t offer a flashy number or discount. However, it still urges you to decide soon because the door to her program is closing. It’s a gentler way to push people to act now and works perfectly if you don’t have a discount to offer.

It’s important to note that you should use the urgency trick in your email subject lines sparingly. Reserve this for sales weeks or when you release a new product and a course. Also, only use this tactic if the sale or enrollment is temporary because people will find out if it’s not, and they will most likely be unhappy with being tricked.

Tip 6: Avoid spam triggers

Sometimes you’re excited to send out an email to your list and might want to use all capital letters, emojis, and exclamation points. And while using the above is a great way to catch somebody’s eye, it’s also a great way to land in a “Spam” folder.

Email service providers all have rigid filters in place, which scan every single email that comes into someone’s inbox. There is a list of potential words and symbols that trigger the spam filter, so familiarize yourself with them as much as possible.

Tip 7: Bring in the big names

Using well-known names in your email subject line is an effective way to get attention. People are influenced by big names they recognize, so you can benefit by mentioning them in your email headlines when appropriate. 

If you have an interview with a person whose name is known in the industry, then it’s easy. You simply put the name in the subject line, and people will know what they’re getting:

substack substack

Even if you don’t have an interview with someone important, you can still utilize this tactic by crafting an email that draws inspiration from an important figure everyone knows (return to tip #1). 

Author: Karolina Wilde, Karolina Wilde is a freelance writer. Her work has been published on Better Marketing, The Ascent, and Sexography reaching over 25,000+ readers. In her free time, you can find her podcasting, reading, or creating TikTok videos.

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