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How to Craft the Perfect Email Subject Line

by Dmitri Leonov  |  
March 27, 2014

According to some estimates, more than 144 billion emails are sent every day—and, sometimes, it seems like every one of them lands in your inbox.

Even those of us who are tasked with creating email marketing campaigns aren't immune to information overload: We all know what it's like to be bombarded with email messages—all competing for a share of our attention during a busy day.

If it's your job to come up with a subject line that is compelling enough to cut through all that clutter, it's a good idea to apply your experience as an email recipient to help you craft the perfect subject line. What gets your attention? How do you decide which emails to trash unopened and which to read?

Scores of scientific studies can tell you which words appear with the most frequency in successful email campaigns. And that is useful information. But in creating a compelling subject line, sometimes a simple strategy works best.

Here are some tips that can help you improve open rates.

Keep it brief. When prospects are scanning their inboxes, a short, snappy subject is more likely to catch their eye than a lengthier line. If possible, it's best to keep the subject line short enough to appear as one line on a smaller device screen, such as a smartphone or tablet. Keep it short and sweet to improve your open and rates.

Don't waste valuable real estate. A subject line doesn't provide much space, so make every word count. Don't waste space with words (such as "hello") that don't add much value to your message. When crafting your subject line, evaluate each word and make sure it adds value—from the standpoint of providing information or encouraging readers to open the email.

Be specific. When readers are scanning new messages in their inbox, they're generally in a hurry to respond to urgent messages or tackle the next task in their busy day. In such a state of mind, they won't have much patience for mystery. Cut to the chase by using the subject line to tell them what the message is about.

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Dmitri Leonov is VP of growth at email management provider SaneBox, where he leads business-development, sales, and marketing efforts.

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  • by Davers6 Thu Mar 27, 2014 via web

    Sorry to be negative, but there is NOTHING NEW here.
    Everbody at MarketingProfs already knows MKTG 101; we're here seeking higher level information and insights..

  • by Jose Argudo Fri Mar 28, 2014 via web

    Maybe using some examples would make the article more interesting :)

  • by ebakersmith Fri Mar 28, 2014 via web

    Yes some examples would be better!

  • by Cyndi Starr Sun Mar 30, 2014 via web

    Adding some industry-specific examples would be helpful. Thanks!

  • by cwnash Tue Apr 1, 2014 via web

    Try adding a #hashtag to your subject line. Gets great open rates.

  • by Jen Wed Apr 9, 2014 via web

    I agree about the examples. It would make the article more powerful.

  • by Jweaver Tue Apr 15, 2014 via web

    I disagee @Davers6....I am new to email marketing and trying to learn everything I can. This was very helpful to someone starting out. Specifically, I am sending this statement out to my team:
    "you respond better to messages that are brief and to the point. You want to know why you should open that message—what's in it for you. You want to know who it's from and how it can help you."

  • by strataccts2004 Thu Apr 17, 2014 via web

    Showing and not telling is way more effective....see all the comments below looking for examples? Follow up
    article would be nice...

  • by Business Planner Sun Apr 20, 2014 via mobile

    Davers6, there is nothing new. Everything has been said before, but not everyone has heard it all. There always is someone coming up behind who hasn't. So good stuff has to be repeated, and Dimitri's suggestions are good and for some it will be new.

  • by Alchemy Worx Wed Jun 18, 2014 via web

    Great list of ideas – thanks for sharing this summary of subject line best practices! Although it can be very useful as a set of guidelines, best practices still need to be tested.The only problem is, learning what works through A/B testing takes time and often by the time a statistically significant result is achieved, the offer has expired, the product is out of stock or business need has changed. That’s why we developed Touchstone, a tool that compares your proposed subject line with a database of 110,000 (and growing) database of other subject lines and results. It can predict open and click rates for a given subject line before you send anything so we’d recommend anyone with an interest in this area gives it a try – it is currently in open beta and free to beta users, try Touchstone at

  • by Jennifer Fri Aug 8, 2014 via web

    a short, snappy subject is more likely to catch their eye than a lengthier line. If possible, it's best to keep the subject line short

    Question on this --- i just finished attending a virtual conference and the person presenting said that often longer subject lines outperform shorter subject lines. The key is to try and front load the most critical content at the beginning so that customers get a sense of what the email is about. That will get them to open and read the entire subject line and then hopefully pull them through the rest of the email - so length isn't critical, but rather what you put in it and up front.

    Has anyone ever tested both theories....

    And seen any increase or decrease in results?


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