Email Subject Lines that Win Every Time (includes a valuable resource you’ll want to bookmark)

Email Subject Lines that Win Every Time (includes a valuable resource you’ll want to bookmark)

On a recent Zoom meeting with a client, I accidentally shared my screen with my email inbox tab open.

Most people’s greatest fear is their SO will walk past the camera in their underwear in the middle of a management meeting.

For me, it’s even more embarrassing: an inbox that’s out of control.

Yikes! I know.

My other mailbox is even worse. 

How much worse? Let’s just say my computer shut down when I tried to delete them all at once.

I’m not proud of it, but there’s always something more important hanging over my head than deleting and unsubscribing.

Zero inbox has never been on my radar.

I do, however, attempt to make a small dent in this bottomless task each morning by deleting all emails that don’t look useful or interesting.

Maybe you use this same weeding-out tactic: Scan subject lines and delete anything from people/companies you don’t know, boring topics or spammy sounding – without even opening the email.

And, as someone who’s spent the last couple decades writing and pitching editors with story ideas, I’ve learned how to catch an editor’s eye so she’ll at least open my pitch.

More recently, I’ve written emails for online businesses that rely on people opening my client’s emails.

Let’s face it: No one has time to ponder over every email.

If the subject line doesn’t sound like anything of interest it’s banished forever into cyber darkness.

Everyone’s audience is different, so the key to writing great subject lines lies in knowing your audience.

The following simple tactics are proven to work. 

Take ’em for a spin and see how they boost open rates for you.

1. Skip Title Case

Using title case in your subject lines screams “newsletter!” Think about how you feel when you see a headline with Every First Letter Capitalized.

Unless you know the sender’s information inside is of value, you’ll ditch it.  

An email from a friend wouldn’t look like this. Your sales-letter Spidey sense is activated. Delete.

2. Create a tantalizing, curiosity triggering headline

I’m not talking about clickbait here. Just genuine lead-ins for your topic that makes the reader want — need — to find out what’s up.

For example, one of my most popular subject lines ever, with a 60% conversion:

I overheard someone talking about me… and it wasn’t good

Another slam dunk was: 

… did you hear what she said???

Gossip is pretty hard to resist, especially when it’s (thankfully) not about you. 

However, be sure to continue with an actual story to back up your subject or it IS clickbait. 

And your readers won’t trust you anymore and will start to ignore your emails, no matter how enticing.

For instance, in my second example I used this subject line to lead into an email full of social proof and quotes for a launch.

Sure, it wasn’t really “gossipy” but it was not misleading, either.

3. Avoid full names 

First names in a subject line are okay most of the time, but testing is the only way to know how your audience responds. 

I rarely use personalization in the subject line, mainly because a lot of people don’t sign up with their name.

So it’s painfully awkward when they see a [your name here] in the subject line.

And someone not familiar with automation may find it a little creepy when they see their name popping up all over the email. 

4. Go long (or short)… or go home

Old school tactics tell you to keep your subject lines short. But when everyone’s email contains the same 35 to 45 character length, guess what?

It’s like speaking in a monotone. 

Your email becomes lost in a sea of other emails with the same length headline

Stand out with a really short or long subject line and watch open rates increase.

5. Pssst… want to know my secret weapon?

Okay, as I promised in the subject line, I want to share a site I often use to double check my headlines and subject lines.

Keep in mind it’s only ONE way. The best test for success is to put it in front of your own audience.

Go to the Advanced Marketing Institutes’s free headline analyzer and pop in your subject line.

Here’s an example of a couple other subject lines I tested for this post:

  • emails subject lines that win every time / 42% (the one I used)
  • how to nail subject lines so your emails get opened every time / 33%
  • how to write emails subject lines that can’t be ignored /30%

Again, it’s not a guarantee, but I’ve found this index fairly accurate when I’ve split-tested various subject lines.

Try it and let me know what happens.

Got questions? Hit reply and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Or leave a comment down below.

Write on,


P.S. If you’re not sure your copy is ready for its closeup, I’m offering a brand new product (so new I don’t have a page for it yet) called the Quick Copy Fix. Just send me an email at and I’ll be in touch to see if it may be a fit for you.


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