The Three Keys to Writing Short Email Subject Lines

Short email subject lines will get your emails open faster

An email subject line should be a lot easier than writing a blog post title. When writing a blog, you have to think about keywords and getting ranked in search engines. With emails, all you need to worry about is getting someone to open an email that they signed up for. It sounds simple, but with 30% industry average open rate, we’d all tend to disagree.

When you’re looking through your inbox, how likely are you to expand your viewing frame in order to read the subject line of an email that has maxed out its character limit?

Like most people, the answer to this question is “not often”.

The reason behind this is because while we’re naturally curious in nature, we’re also prone to ignoring “information overload”.

So for the first key to writing short subject lines, it’s going to be this.

Learn how to consolidate your ideas, and bring the punchline to the front.

For example:

One Step Ahead: How to Give All Your Advertising And Marketing a HUGE B-O-O-S-T

After Apple Mail truncated this subject line in my inbox, all I saw was:One Step Ahead: How to Give All Your Advertising”.

In the 48 characters that my mail client provided, they weren’t able to get to the punch line, which I assume was the “HUGE B-O-O-S-T“. Therefore, like most users, I’m onto the next email in my inbox.

Other subject lines that could have gotten shortened by the editor, rather than my email client:

“An Introduction to Testing for Higher Conversions
turned to
An Introduction to Testing for Higher C”.

“Testing Value Propositions: How to determine what your customers consider valuable”
turned to
“Testing Value Propositions: How to det”.

While this is just the test of my own inbox, remember that 50-52 characters is the average limit for most email clients.

The next key…

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Use simple words as quickly as possible.

The following subject line doesn’t have any shock or pizazz, but it does tell you exactly what’s in the email, without distracting with flashy words and marketing.

The top 5 blogs to save you money

This subject line is quick and gets to the point. If I want to save money, and don’t want to waste time researching the best blogs that will help me do this, then I should open this email. Another email subject line from this publisher was “30 ways to feel great“. Why wouldn’t someone want to open that?

Finally, the last key…

Make them think.

While it’s beneficial to use simple words and put everything out there… you can take your efforts one step further by giving the reader a reason to click. Here’s a short, simple subject line I got recently:

Noah’s way is better

Noah who? Better at what?

Exactly. I want to know who this Noah is, and why his way is better than mine!

This subject line is 20 characters long and immediately provokes curiosity that will increase open rates on this email newsletter over any of the subject lines I’ve mentioned thus far.

Another email subject line from this same publisher?

Well, I think he’s nuts

Again, the curious headline is bound to increase open rates. Since this leads to a promotional email, it’s not likely to have as big a click-through as an email newsletter, but it’s certainly caught the attention of its readers.

In reality, the first thing you need to know about all of this, is that you need to write short subject lines. A subject line that goes past the breaking point isn’t helping you, it’s simply a crutch. Write your subject line as many times as you have to until it: is less than 50 characters, puts the punchline (or question) first, and is open-worthy.


    Great article, this is exactly what helped when I was sending 100’s of emails out to potential investors for


    Don N.

    Love it…

    If this post where an email, perhaps the best email subject line would be:

    The 50 Character Email Subject Line…

    Then there is my favorite email subject line borrowed from Bill Jayme for Psychology Today:

    Do You Close the Bathroom Door When You’re Home Alone?

    55 characters, but works well without the last 5! 🙂


    Chris S.

    Great suggestions Amanda.

    I also like to use short headlines with a question in it. People love to share their opinions and asking a question might not only get email recipients to open, but also leave a message.



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