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Lay it on the Line

If you want your e-mail to get opened, craft a compelling subject line.
- Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the April 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

For e-mail marketers, the biggest challenge today is getting your pitch past a prospect's hair-trigger delete impulse--not to mention his or her spam filter. It's akin to the challenge direct marketers had when mailings only came in envelopes: Will it arouse enough curiosity to get opened, or will it be trashed? Even today, the outer-envelope teaser causes as much hand-wringing as the guts of the mailing itself. So, too, does the subject line of a marketing e-mail.

What can you say in a subject line that is compelling enough to motivate that all-important click? In Web Copy That Sells, author Maria Veloso suggests you use the word this in subject lines: "This is so powerful because it arouses the recipient's curiosity, and they must open the e-mail to find out what this is." Examples include "Who said this?" and "This finally came . . . ." She also suggests the word here, as in "Here's what I promised . . . ." Veloso wisely recommends using incomplete thoughts and adding ellipsis points because they create a "brain itch" to know the completed thought inside.

Are these the advertising curiosity-arousers of a new century? Not at all. The logic behind them is as old as the hills, and the suggested teasers are just as valid and applicable in ink on papyrus.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.