How to Write Email Subject Lines That Will Actually Be Opened

Get to the point and get personal.

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By Nina Zipkin

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Whether your email, be it a pitch to investors or marketing to customers, gets read, deleted or lost in an inbox black hole can all depend on how you craft your subject line.

Yes Lifestyle Marketing conducted an analysis of which subject lines have the most reach. Read on for the do's and don’ts of making your email stand out in the right way.
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Be succinct.

The study found that subject lines with 10 characters or less had the best open rates, at a 26 percent average. But this isn’t the norm -- 74 percent of subject lines are between 21 and 60 characters. Those have the lowest open rate of 13.8 percent. Additionally, subject lines that were under 21 characters yielded a 31 percent higher-than-average open rate but are only 5 percent of all email subject lines.
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Get personal.

Subject lines that included the recipient’s name or recently purchased or browsed items had 50 percent higher open rates, 58 percent higher click-to-open rate and had nearly 2.5 times the unique click rates than emails that were not as personalized. But only 2 percent of emails sent in the second quarter of 2017 had personalized subject lines, according to the research.

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Include details.

While you'd think that subject lines that are longer than 60 characters would have the worst open rates, that's actually incorrect. The open rate for the category -- making up 21 percent of all emails -- is 14.8 percent, which is higher than emails with subject lines between 10 to 60 characters. At that length, you can generate interest by including a number of specific keywords relevant to the recipient.

Don’t think one-size-fits-all.

The same rules will not apply within every industry. For the hospitality/travel industry, the most successful open rates came from subject lines under 20 characters. But for publishing and financial services, that was the case when the subject lines were 21 to 60 characters. Subject lines under 20 characters did overwhelming better for retail (18.3  percent) and tech (17.5 percent) than the other two categories

Don’t give everything away.

During the second quarter of 2017, 23 percent of the brands polled sent users emails about carts with unpurchased items. Sixty-two percent of those messages had subject lines between 31 and 50 characters, and got a below-average open rate of 11.9 percent. They often aimed to entice customers to come back to abandoned carts with promises of discounts. However, these were more readily disregarded than the shorter subject lines between 21 and 30 that had the highest open rate at 36.8 percent, with subject lines that read, “you forgot something.”

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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