How to Write Persuasive Subject Lines


Picture by ‘Agne Kveselyte’ via stock.xchng

The subject line is one of THE most powerful weapons in your internet-market arsenal Yet it’s also one of the most overlooked. Tracey Dooley shows you how to get your emails recognised, opened AND acted upon…


About three seconds and 35 characters…40 at the most, — including spaces. That’’s all your subject line gets to work its magic and avoid being the victim of the delete button. If it’’s worked a treat, congratulations: you have succeeded in getting your busy readers to stop and actually read your email.

But don’’t rest too easy. It’s not as easy as it sounds…

With user behavior changing so much in response to overwhelming amounts of spam, your email increasingly has to battle with over-zealous spam filters. No matter how seemingly innocuous it seems, if your email doesn’’t cut the mustard, it WILL send alarm bells ringing and therefore struggle to reach your intended recipient’’s inbox. Essentially, —it gets stopped firmly in its tracks, left to dangle forever in no-man’’s cyberland.

Needless to say, it’’s vital you craft your email so it makes a swift passage to the right destination. And you do this via your email’’s subject line.

The subject line is THE first line of defence when it comes to saving an email’’s life from the spam filters. According to research, 69% of recipients base their decision on whether a message is spam just on the subject line alone. So you can see why it makes sense to spend time getting it right.

It’s a wonderful thing, the subject line. In fact, it is one of the two most important lines of any email message (the other is the ‘from line’). If it fails to convince the recipient that your email is safe to open and worth reading, then your entire email is faced with the proverbial axe. So here are my top 12 tips to help you choose yours carefully:

1. Subject lines should be as succinct as possible —— certainly no more than 50 characters (that includes spaces);  ideally, fewer than 35. For example, “Avoid these Link Popularity Scams”

Also keep in mind that a major trend is for people to read their emails on mobile devices, where things can get pretty tiny and tedious. So do these readers a favour and keep it short.

2. Make sure your subject line is clear and to the point. Any ‘clever’, deceptive or just plain odd ones will not do.

3. Avoid subject lines that resemble the following:

– Here it is!
– 0ffice XP – $79.95
– Go a esteem!!!!!!!!!!!!!
– senwof
– jackpots of over FOUR MILLION
– job: just for you.

Spammers often use nonsensical subject lines, or really short ones such as the “Here it is!” one.

4. Every subject line should be relevant, specific and identifiable. In general, I will pay attention to emails that come from a trusted sender. Whether you write your company or ezine name in the subject line, or have a certain style that only you could mimic, these tactics tell readers who is behind the email and they will usually be on the alert for them.

5. Since your emails will typically compete with tens of dozens of other emails, grab your recipient’s’ attention by making your subject line intriguing — in the same way that a well-written headline on the front page of a magazine or a newspaper will get people to pick it up and read it.

6. Ask a question. We’’re all programmed to get involved and feel obliged to answer questions put to us, no matter what the medium.

7. Whenever possible, personalise your subject line. Many tests report a substantial increase in email opening rates when the name of the recipient, for example, is included in the subject line.

8. Show the benefits of reading your email message: A subject line that says “Improve your golf swing in an hour” is likely to make keen golfers want more information (as long as the email has been properly targeted, of course).

9. Avoid exclamation marks like the plague.

10. Proofread your subject lines —— misspellings and typos will make them appear to be spam emails, even if they’‘re not.

11. Identify the content, if in doubt. If people know what they can expect when opening the email, they will be more likely to read it. “”The best subject lines TELL what’’s inside, and the worst subject lines SELL what’’s inside,”” says The Rocket Science Group, an Atlanta-based company that specialises in web-based tools and applications.

12. Finally, test, track and test again. Find out which subject lines work best for you. The more persuasive yet credible it is while passing through the spam filters, the more you should have record-breaking open rates.

Remember, your email is competing with dozens of other email subject lines in your audience’s’ inboxes, so give them a reason to open yours. And make sure it gets to them in the first place by using the tips above.

By Tracey Dooley, CopyWriter | Editor | Proofreader

bullet_grn_brwn  Not getting results from your email campaigns? Let Tracey teach you how to write email copy that impresses the spam filters AND your readers, with her no-nonsense mentoring programme:


(Why struggle needlessly when you can get expert affordable mentoring and have fun attracting clients easily?) 

(C) 2008-15 T Dooley, All Rights Reserved

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One thought on “How to Write Persuasive Subject Lines

  1. TOM

    As someone who has earned a fair wage in the guise of copywriter and Creative Director, I think this is a really refreshing, easy-to-read breakdown of the basics.

    Whenever someone next asks me how to write subject lines, or is having trouble penning one, I’ll just send ’em over here! Thanks.

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