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How to Write Better Subject Lines

So… since work I work in CRM as a copywriter, the one thing that I’ve become absolutely obsessed with are subject lines.

I know, I know, subject lines– who cares, am I right? Well I do, that’s why I’ve got a backlog of some 60k+ emails in my inbox, because I’ve subscribed to I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY retailers, service providers, etc. because I’m truly interested in seeing how other businesses write this copy.

And it feels like it’s a last thought for some. Just take a look at this… come here and take a look at this:

It’s the new millenium, some 91% of customers EXPECT free shipping, according to a survey by Material Handling & Logistics. In fact, according to the same survey, they prefer free shipping over fast shipping.

So – this doesn’t really blow anyone’s skirt up.

I don’t even know what this means. Last day to what? Be on fire?

OK so it’s been roughly 3 months since I searched for Hammocks on Wayfair, and on at least a weekly cadence, I get this retargeting email AND a pushy push notification reminding me that they do indeed have HAMMOCKS in every style + size.

As an email marketing copywriter, these are all things that I’m hyper-aware of 1) because that’s my job and 2) because, again, I got like 60K retail emails in my inbox right now. I’m a little obsessed.

But how can you, oh small business-owner, or copywriter who wants to write better subject lines, actually write better subject lines? I’m glad you asked.

Here are some tips:

If You Use Emojis – Do So Sensibly

I’ve gotten some pretty interesting emails with obnoxious use of emojis. The worst offender was just a subject line with 32 red exclamation points. That’s it. Imagine this guy ❗ 32 times in a subject line. Yikes. How they didn’t end up in my SPAM folder is a question for another day. 

Know Your Content

When used wisely, emojis can increase opens and read rates. Use an emoji that actually relates to what your email is about. If you’re running a promo on clothes or shoes – use a dress, pants or shoes emoji. If you’re a gym that’s promoting new crossfit classes – hey flexed bicep 💪. Write your subject line with the content of your email in mind.

Testing! Testing! 1, 2, 3

I’m pretty sure it was Jack Donaghy who said in Glengarry Glen Ross to “Always Be Closing.”


I love 30 Rock, OK?

Well, in email, you should “Always Be Testing” Customers are ever-evolving to how they relate to content and testing is one way to gauge their behaviors. With subject lines, you can test Emojis & Emoji Placement, Savings vs. Value Message, Playful vs. Straightforward, Multiple Emojis vs. No Emojis, Long Vs. Short Subject Lines… pretty much the list goes on. Always be taking what you learn from those tests to inform future subject line copy and you’ll be on your way to writing great subject lines.

Need some testing ideas? Check out Campaign Monitor’s Ultimate Email Subject Line Testing Checklist.  Hubspot’s also got a great post on Subject Line Testing Tools – I think my favorite is probably CoSchedule since it really breaks down a subject line by emotion, length, word use, etc. Check it out!


In summary, I love subject lines and I’m always trying to write better subject lines or at least write subject lines that get more opens than I did last year. These are real tips that I really use on the job, and subject line copy is just soooo undervalued and over-emojied sometimes. But I hope you found this helpful and will take these words to your subject line bank and get more opens and clicks.

Oh and I just checked… I actually have closer to 69K emails in my inbox.

That’s my bad, guys.


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