Email Subject Line – Get Your Emails Opened

When it comes to email marketing, there is really very little as important as your Email Subject Line.

And it is the Email Subject Line that is going to determine if people do, or do not open your email!

Therefore it is a critically important part of the process, but surprisingly, it’s one of the things that so often gets overlooked.

The Email Subject line is your door to your reader’s attention.

Whether you’re writing an email to your own list or, an email that your affiliate will send to his or her list (we call those “swipes”, like “JV swipes”), it is the Email Subject Lines that are going to make or break your email open rates.

The Email Subject Line is the key, because, get this….

You don’t even have to open an email to read the Subject line!

That is to say that, before anyone reads the first sentence in the body of the email, (on most browsers) they scan through and check the subject line, deleting some emails and opening others,…

at this point, you have just one objective …. That is to…

grab and captivate your reader with the Email Subject Line of your email.

It’s a mess!

Nowadays, most people’s inboxes, well….. are just a mess.

We all receive so many emails.

We’ve got important emails mixed in with junk emails. We have multiple threads on the same subject, we have personal emails mixed in with business emails mixed in with sales emails mixed in with notices!

 And to make matters harder for us most of the email clients have their own filters deciding what is and isn’t junk and often putting legitimate wanted emails in with the spam and the phishing emails. 

As a result, we need to be able to rise to the challenge of standing out from the crowd and grabbing the reader’s attention.

It’s a dirty job…. But someone has to do it!

In all that mess, it becomes our job to create bold, clean attention-grabbing Email Subject Lines that stand out in the crowd. If we achieve that, the result is more opens.

We cant:

Make sales if no one is clicking the links in our emails

Get prospects to click the link if they don’t open the email

Expect people to open our emails if we don’t capture their interest

Therefore it all starts with that all important EMAIL Subject Line.

Anything you can do to improve the effectiveness of your Email Subject lines is going to have a positive impact on your bottom line.

That’s what I said diddle I?

I am about to show you several techniques, tricks, tips and methods to improve your Email Subject Lines, but before I do, a word of caution.

I have an old joke that my grandfather and my father constantly told and that I constantly tell to my children and grandchildren… it goes like this.

A man walked into a butcher’s shop and said, “Can I have half a pound of Kiddley”. The butcher said, “Don’t you mean Kidney?” and the man replied, “that’s what I said diddle I?”

Even as I write it here I cringe a bit (I also realise I am getting old, as butcher’s shops disappear, and youngsters have forgotten about Kidney in their rush for pizzas and burgers). The point is, if that joke was ever funny, it certainly isn’t anymore. The family switch off, they have heard it so many times.

So, don’t do all these things all the time, otherwise, they lose their impact and you desensitize your audience.  

Further more, when it comes to Email Subject Lines, if you’re using the same exact tactic over and over and over again but just changing the words, people are just going to think

Okay, I get it. I get it. I know exactly what’s going to happen. I’m not going to bother with this one”

Therefore the key to writing Email Subject Lines is to have four or five methods that you know work and then to alternate them throughout your campaigns.

1: Suspense Email Subject Lines

Suspense subject lines are subject lines that give some, but not all information, they hint at something, they imply something, and they in fact attack a basic human instinct, the need for closure.

The way most people’s minds work is that there must be a period at the end of the sentence. It must be closed, like,

Get your ‘SUBJECT LINES THAT WORK’ report.” 

and they must be able to make a decision, “Okay. Do I want to grab that report or not?”.

But when you make that decision difficult, with a Subject line like

“Chuffing heck, these are clever… ”

You put their mind in a state of flux because they don’t have all the information that they need to make that decision, they are asking themselves

What are they?

Are they really clever?

Can I take the risk of not knowing what that was about?

This mechanism is used all the time on TV soap operas, the open storyline, the cliff hanger, the “I’ve got to see the next episode” effect.

The Open Loop Email Subject Line!

Suspense Email Subject Lines open a loop in the mind, and we are programmed to close that loop. You can open a loop by starting a sentence that you don’t finish.

Something I have seen a few marketers use is a subject line like:

“Something terrible just happened, you won’t believe this…”

They even signal that the sentence is not finished and that there’s more to come by putting a series of periods “” at the end.

With the subject line above, people want to know what happened. As the email subject line and the sender are visible in the list of emails, this is a particularly powerful subject line if they have gotten to know, like and trust you. They are going to be thinking:

“Oh my god!” (unless they are young, and then they will be thinking “OMG!!!!!!!!!”)   “What has happened to [insert your name here]? “ The loop is now open, and they will want to close it.

Open and Shut

(a quick tip on this particular type of Subject line, if you are creating drama, you need to deliver on it in the body of the email, if not, this will backfire, and you will lose credibility)

Here’s an example. This, by the way, is the best performing Email Subject Line.


Just that, all capitals. Your first sentence then needs to be something like,

“This is something I hoped that I would never have to say in an email.”

As some email clients also display the first sentence in the preview you need to boost the subject line with an equally suspenseful first sentence.

People are scrolling through their emails, whether on their phone or in their inbox on the desktop, and they’re thinking,

“What email am I going to open? I’ve only got five minutes. I’m late for …  Oh, my goodness, major announcement. Something he’d never thought he’d have to say. What’s going on? Let me click that.”

And at that point…. Boom! You got them.

Build on the Suspense Email Subject Line

If you use the suspense Email Subject Line, use more of the same tactic within the email itself. You open that loop, and you close that loop by telling them the announcement and saying,

For example

This weekend I discovered what a complete mess I have made on my business, I discovered that 65% of my adverts were actually getting no results at all. I admit it, I failed big time and did not even know it! I will tell you how I discovered that is just a moment but first let me tell you what I am going to do about that to turn over a new leaf in my business and in my life!

so the suspense is building, they want to know how you discovered this

Ist. I am stopping all ad spend for at least 60 days.

2nd. I am going to start to build organic traffic

3rd I will use a ROI calculator to start to measure results so that I can control my ad spend going forward.

This is completely new to me but I have to do it.

You see last week I purchased “wonderwidget”. Its a product that shows you exactly what return you are getting on both your organic and your paid traffic generation efforts, and shows you a highly effective method for using the right mix of organic and paid traffic to maximise your ROI Check it out here www.affiliate link.”

Then you just put a link!

You closed the loop about the major announcement. The major announcement was that you messed up, and needed to start doing something totally new in your business. But you still haven’t told them what that is.

You just opened another loop!

Then you tell them some of your story

And at the end You have give them the link to find out how to close this new loop now.

Now you are getting them over to your page.

You are in effect walking people through a funnel.

 The funnel started with that subject line when you open that first loop with a suspenseful subject line.


Do not have subject lines that have nothing to do with the email, there is no point in having an ‘IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT’ subject line that simply leads to a general chitchat email.

And don’t use this type of announcement Email Subject Line

One tactic I see and that turns me off straight away, and makes me instantly distrust the sender is the headline that states

“$1,000 has been paid into your affiliate account”

And then the email says,

Wouldn’t it be great if you got emails like this every day”

To me, it screams; ‘Dishonest Marketer” and gets me to click the unsubscribe link.

Stay away from things that create a feeling of disappointment or deflation. If you’re creating a subject line that makes them click, but then immediately after they click, they feel like they’ve let down they are going to leave your list PDQ, or worse still, remain on it but ignore your emails,

2: Graphics

Another method to increase your open rates is to add a visual element to the Email Subject Line.

Love ‘em’  or hate ‘em’,  emojis and emoticons work!

These are little smiley faces, happy faces, sad faces and little rockets, ticks, hearts, suns, moons a whole host of little images that are recognized by most devices.

Emojis are like fonts. There are certain default fonts that your devices come with (Times Roman is a default font, Arial another)

You can’t do any kind of styling to the subject line in an email (like bold or italic), but you can add an emoji, like a happy face, an arrow or a warning sign. You can even add animated emojis. I’ve seen ones with a little fire burning and little blinking arrows and things like that.

You will need to research what emojis you can use with the email authoring tool you use, but there are plenty of websites that tell you what to use with what and where you can download these from. Most of the time I can simply copy and paste the image right from the website and put it right into my subject line, because like I said, it’s a font.

When I’m doing some sort of an alert, like maybe even the major announcement one, I might try combining it with an alert image.

Here are some examples of how others have used this method of standing out from the crowd

Do a search for “emoticon,” “email emoticons,” “email emojis,” and “email glyphs,” and you’ll find a plethora of sources for these little emojis that you can use. If you’re using wacky emojis that you’re copying and pasting, that is weird, that is not the default emojis that are built into most devices, what I’m going to recommend is that you always, always, always test your emails (but you do that as a matter of course anyway right?)

3: Wordsmithing

Wordsmithing is when you embellish phrases and sentences to make them more enticing, to make them more attractive, and to make them more engaging.

Tweaking subject lines, changing a word here or there can have a huge impact on your open rate, so don’t be afraid to test slight tweaks.

There are several tools available to help in this process, I tend to use:

         ‘Words That Sell’,          and        ‘More Words That Sell’      by Richard Bayan

I also use an online thesaurus

The process is simple, and difficult at the same time. You take a word and you replace it with a better word that might mean the same thing. For example, I tend to avoid the word Free in email Subject lines as this is often picked up by spam filters as a ‘bad’ word, and my email gets put into the junk folder. So, if I want to say free, I would pop over to a thesaurus and find an alternative. In this case, I would choose, Complimentary

I could go further and search on ‘complimentary’, so I could also use, Gratis

Here is an example of wordsmithing that Todd Brown used at an event.

“Imagine that you were trying to sell a book about growing tomatoes. Let’s say you are a gardener and you’ve got a process for growing tomatoes. You could maybe create a subject line called:

 “Learn to grow big tomatoes.”

Wordsmithing means you would go in there, and you change that sentence to say

“Learn to grow giant tomatoes.”

You understand the difference between big and giant?

Someone that’s looking to learn about growing tomatoes is going to be attracted to a Subject line that says

 “Learn to grow big tomatoes.”

But even somebody that wasn’t really looking, they become curious with the whole giant tomato. “Giant. What is this guy talking about ‘giant?’ How giant is giant? Is this guy full of crap or what?”

This approach can be developed further…

When you promise exactitude in that sort of a curious statement, you’re going to get a much, much higher open rate.

Because when people see that certainty in the statement and think,

“Okay, if I click, I’m definitely going to find out exactly how this happens.”

In the example above, I would just use the word “exactly”.


“Learn to grow giant tomatoes.”


“Learn exactly how to grow giant tomatoes.”

By the way, adding the word “exactly” to most subject lines will increase the open rate.

Let me ask you a question. Which of those too feels more powerful to you?

It is that question, ‘which works best’ that underpins wordsmithing.

You can do wordsmithing and combine it with an emoticon and create some sort of suspenseful subject line. Combining these things might be helpful but remember if you use too much together too often, they start to lose their impact.

4: Pattern interrupts.

Pattern interrupts are just that; they interrupt a usual pattern that somebody is accustomed to.

This isn’t necessarily like wordsmithing, but you are creating an interrupt with the words in the subject line. So technically everything we’re doing here is wordsmithing because we are affecting the words that we’re typing in a subject line. But more specifically with pattern interrupts, we’re changing words and phrases that people have come or been trained over many, many years to just expect.

Plays on words and puns can be a great pattern interrupt.

If you are from the states, you may well be familiar with the phrase “peanut butter and jelly”.  It’s a well know, well used everyday phrase. Peanut butter and jelly go together, like Strawberries and Cream.  There are many three-word phrases that people are accustomed to saying. When you play with those words, you make people smile and make them want to click.

So ‘Peanut butter and jelly’, could become ‘Peanut butter and jealous’, with an email talking about how others’ jealousy can often be manifest in their negative action.

‘Strawberries and Cream’, could become ‘Strawberries and Scream’, with an email talking about how in the summer you got so frustrated with X it caused you to scream, but you found Y was the answer.

How about,

“The splice of life” for a dating service? 


“For goodness cakes” for a catering email shot?

You get the idea, it causes people to do a double-take.

Yes, technically wordsmithing, but here we are not so much tweaking the word, using the message to create a jolt to someone’s pattern of thinking.

You can get inspiration for these sorts by searching for ‘puns’, playing with movie titles or song lyrics, following news trends, and of course, looking at the email subject lines that drop into your own inbox.

Also, something like this banner below can be a pattern interrupt,

You can grab your copy here Email Power Machine

5: Lists, Check Lists & Cheat Sheets.

Lists are great for opening loops, creating suspense and getting people to open.

Subject lines for these would be similar to

“Top three ways of making money online…”

“Email Marketing Check List enclosed…”

“Grab your complimentary killer email cheat sheet…”

Words that keep the loop open or create suspense, like “enclosed” or “inside” or “in here” work well and increase open rates.

Foe some strange reason, people love lists. Subject lines like;

“Three Steps to Increase your Income”

“10 Steps to losing your Baby Fat,”

“5 top tips to improving your smile.”

As mentioned already, these subject lines can be wordsmithed and tested.

 “10 things that could kill your business,”

 could become

“10 things that are killing your business.”

Test the results, and then either tweak again or stick with the clear winner.

The Grand Finale

The main (if not only) purpose of the email subject line is to get the reader to open the email. That’s it.

The purpose of the subject line is not to get the reader to buy; it’s to get them to open the email and read the body text.

The purpose of the body is not to get them to buy; it’s to get them to click through to your sales page.

Keep these clear objectives in mind when crafting tour email subject lines.

Now, a quick plug

If you found this report helpful here is a product I am very happy to recommend and use myself:

Email Power Machine

This is a very useful handbook that I am referring to regularly as I start to create my email marketing campaigns.

It has loads of actionable tips and advice, as well as some very handy links for tools and information to help inspire and create your emails.

On top of that, it comes with Private Label Rights, so not only will this make a handy lead magnet, but I can chop the content into smaller chunks and repurpose for social media posts and short information videos.

This book provides excellent value for money, and if I were you I would grab a copy now.

Get your copy here Email Power Machine

1 thought on “Email Subject Line – Get Your Emails Opened

  1. jo

    Thanks for sharing, there are some good tips in there! It never occured to me that using the word “free” would be picked up as spam, but that makes sense.

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