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How to write subject lines that scream ‘Read me!’

So, you’ve just spent a whole lot of time writing a top-notch customer newsletter or marketing email full of great info, tips and giveaways to send out to a supposedly interested audience – they’ve signed up, so they should want to read your words of wisdom, right? But how come your open rate stats are looking so glum?

Quick pause here – take a sec to think about your own inbox behaviours; do you delete the excess junk while you’re on your commute to work? Do you leave subscription emails unopened and categorised under ‘read later’. What exactly is it that separates the ‘eh’ emails from the ‘oooh?’ emails in your inbox?  I’m pretty sure ‘July Company Newsletter’ doesn’t quite convince you to stop dead what you’re doing at work, make a cup of tea and settle in for a good read.

These senders have around 50 characters to capture your attention in some pretty crowded inbox real estate, so what words, formats or styles grab YOU? Make some notes - it’s likely that your readers are just as busy as you are and have some similar email elimination techniques.

So, back to your subscribers, let’s say they’re the average working professional who is receiving up to 100 email messages a day. How can you make sure that your customer newsletter is appearing with a flashing neon light screaming READ ME in their inbox rather than becoming an unread trash statistic? The only way to start breaking email open-rate records is to start punching out some killer headlines.

Oh yes, the power of the subject line! How can so few characters cause so much pressure?!

To save you the stress, I’ve put together some of my secrets to seductive subject lines:


This takes the number one spot because it’s super, super important and you should be considering this before you even consider producing a newsletter or email marketing campaign. If you don’t have relevant, valuable information with a clear offering for readers inside, then you’re never going to be able to write a killer headline to capture them. Your subject lines need to resonate with exactly what your target audience is looking for.


It’s winter, it’s cold, we’re sick of the rain. So, if you’re a travel agent, perhaps now is a good time to promote your island escapes rather than a campervan trip around Canterbury? Also, keep up to date with industry changes and news so you appear on the button to your readers as a source of topical knowledge. If your competitor has beaten you to it, your email will be relegated to ‘old news’. Be sensational.


Frame your subject line as a question and target the question at the types of problems that your readers are likely facing. The best ones for me are ones that make me think ‘Actually, I do need to know that…’. If you know your customer well, then you’ll likely have a clear idea of the issues or challenges they have that need resolving.


Cryptic headlines work for me because they appeal to my sense of nosiness. We’re humans, and curious by nature. I am drawn in by questions or sentences that make me think ‘What the… are they talking about?’

“Monica, have you fallen into this trap? Make sure you’re avoiding these pitfalls of online marketing”. A trap? What trap? Have I indeed fallen? I don’t want to be in no trap! If I’m in fact in this trap then I need to get out! I better open this email…!


Try subject lines that suggest that you’re going to give readers information easily and quickly, such as, ‘How to …. in 5 easy steps’ or ‘Make these changes today to ….’


No one likes FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), so create a sense of urgency with your subject lines “Last day to register…”, “Our exclusive members offer expires this week – have you got yours?”


Don’t make your subject line an advertisement. As the folks at Mailchimp say, “The best subject lines tell what’s inside, and the worst subject lines sell what’s inside”.


Keep your subject line to under 50 characters, around 35 is best. Remember that so many people now check their emails on smartphones or other devices and therefore what they see in the subject line is limited.


Make sure your ‘from’ details clearly shows who you are, something like ‘Head Office’ is a little obscure.


Try adding in some more alluring phrases, so rather than ‘Top tips for more sales’ try ’5 essential/cutting-edge/high-octane secrets for attracting your dream client’.


There are also a few words that you should avoid, as they tend to trigger spam filters and also set off human spam radars too, so if you can, best to avoid the word ‘Viagra’ in your subject line… Mailchimp also suggests that, aside from the word ‘free’ you should also avoid ‘help’, ‘percent off’ and ‘reminder’, but you can always Google ‘words blocked by spam filters’ for a more comprehensive list.

Get this – statistics say that 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of those will read the rest of your copy. Make sure your quality content is not going straight to the trash!

Get a little creative with your subject lines and see your open-rate, and hopefully your sales, soar.