Email Subject Lines—Do’s and Don’ts to Amaze Your Email List

Samuel Catbagan at Chronos Agency author profile image
email subject lines
email subject lines

When you send marketing emails to your customers, what’s the first thing they see when they open their inbox?

That’s right, email subject lines—yours and everyone else's. And it’s difficult to stand out in a crowded inbox.

Now ask yourself this question: are you optimizing your marketing emails’ subject lines? Because no matter how well-written or well-designed your marketing emails are, the subject line can mean the difference between your recipients opening or ignoring your emails.

In fact, 47% of email recipients click to open based solely on the email subject lines.

So how can you make sure your emails are being opened rather than ignored? And how do you optimize your marketing emails’ subject lines?

Before we get to that, here are the 5 most common mistakes you can avoid when coming up with subject lines for your emails.

The Don’ts of Writing Your Email Subject Lines

How your subject lines look or how they’re written can determine your recipient’s course of action. And that can either be a favorable or unfavorable action for your eCommerce brand.

It’s important for you to know what NOT to do when writing your next subject lines:

1. Using ALL CAPS or Too. Much. Punctuation.

We get it. You’re excited to promote your eCommerce brand’s products and services. But ALL CAPS subject lines tend to come off as you shouting at your consumers.

Imagine just walking around in a mall. Suddenly, a salesman comes up to you and straight-up yells in your face, droning on and on about this new perfume you should try and give to your significant other.

You don’t know if you should appreciate the enthusiasm this salesman is showing you, if you should feel threatened and yell back, or if you should just walk away.

As for using too many punctuation marks, you should remember that you only have limited space for your subject line. Make good use of that space with a compelling copy, not a long line of exclamation points or question marks.

Another notable tip is that special characters like * % & # ^ and other special symbols can trigger email clients’ spam filters. This can affect your email’s deliverability and kill off your email even before it reaches your recipient’s inbox.

2. Using Spammy Words

Email client spam filters look for certain words and automatically direct emails containing those words straight to the spam folder. And before you ask, yes, that’s a bad thing.

But what words are considered spammy?

Here’s an extensive list of spam words Hubspot put together for your reference. Some examples include—

  • F R E E
  • Money making
  • Extra income
  • Best price
  • Cheap

3. Making Your Subject Lines Too Long

Imagine opening your inbox and seeing a couple of emails with super long subject lines. Not just long, but so long that you don’t even know what they’re about before they get cut off.

Chances are, you’ll just ignore those emails or delete them. Just like everyone else.

Remember, you must capture the interest of your recipients within seconds! Why? People nowadays tend to breeze through their email inboxes for anything important

Here’s another reason why long subject lines aren’t a good idea. They don’t look good on mobile devices. There’s a high chance that a huge chunk of those subject lines won’t fit in the inbox view. This means your customers can miss out on the important points of your subject line.

4. Writing Misleading Content

Yes, it’s important to get your customer hyped about what your eCommerce brand is offering.

But whatever you do, never mislead your customers.

Using clickbait in your subject lines or offering something your business actually can’t give to your customers will cause nothing but problems. Yes, it’s a great way to get them to open your email, but it will only lead to your customers wanting to block you afterward.

And even if they don’t block you, what will you do when they start demanding that special offer you mentioned?

Remember, email marketing is a tool for connecting your brand with your customers, so don’t risk the disconnect. Whatever results you achieve in the short term, over time, misleading content won’t drive sales and won’t build trust with your customers.

5. Including Spelling or Grammar Mistakes

The last things you want in your marketing emails are spelling and grammar errors.

Potential customers who spot these mistakes may question your credibility as a legitimate eCommerce business. Emails containing misspelled words and poor grammar are often seen as spam or scam emails as well, making them prime candidates for the trash bin.

Now that you know what to avoid when coming up with your subject lines, it’s time to discuss the benefits of doing email subject lines right.

The Do’s of Optimal Email Subject Lines

Making a subject line for your emails is easy, but making an effective subject line can be challenging. Let’s break down some of the best practices you should standardize in your subject lines:

1. Personalize your subject lines

Personalization gives value to your customers. It also creates a more personal approach compared to generic emails sent en masse.

Some effective personalization techniques include:

Include your recipient’s name

So make your customers feel special by showing that you know who you are sending your emails to.

One of the ways you can do this is by including your recipient’s name in your subject line.

If you're using an automated email marketing system, take the time to program it to include the name in the subject line, body text, or both.

Email Subject Lines

Include your recipient’s location

Another way of letting your recipients know that your email is relevant to them is by including their location.

This way, your recipients will find your emails more relevant to them because the contents are related to something that’s going on in their local area.

Feature your recipient’s interests

Highlighting your recipient’s interests is a great way to convince your recipients that your email is relevant to them.

There’s no better way to capture someone’s attention than by highlighting what they’re interested in.

This engages your recipients to what your email has to offer and how whatever it is you’re offering can support or improve their experience with their interests.

Personalize your address as the sender

Finally, let your recipients know who the email is from.

Your recipients know who they signed up for emails with. So it would be best to clarify the emails they received are from your brand.

Did you know that the open rates of your emails will increase by as much as 28% when your recipients know the sender?

2. Make your subject lines relevant

More specific email subject lines give your recipients a clearer idea of what your offer is and what it can give them. This aligns with the ‘don’t mislead your customers’ point we mentioned earlier.

Be more descriptive with your subject lines

Let’s say you have an offer you know is going to catch your recipients’ attention, so you mention it in your subject line. When you do, make sure you’re clear with the offer—don’t be vague about it.

email subject lines do

3. Test your subject lines for further optimization

Test, test, TEST! There is no such thing as the one perfect subject line to rule them all.

Always A/B test your subject lines

Always compare your email subject lines based on their performance and determine which subject lines work best for your target market.

Think of subject lines as the greetings line in a letter. Or the title of a book, or maybe even its synopsis. The subject line of your marketing email is the first thing your recipients see the moment they lay eyes on their inbox.

email subject lines hands

So make sure your subject lines catch their eyes. Otherwise, you'll doom your emails to an eternal purgatory of unread status in your recipient’s inbox or spam folder. Unless your recipients just straight up delete your emails, making it a swift death.

Final Thoughts On Your Email Subject Lines

Always remember that no matter how well-designed or well-written your marketing emails are, it is the subject lines that get your emails opened in the first place.

To give your subject line brainstorms a head start, check out Hubspot's 100 Email Subject Lines We Actually Clicked ebook.

You can also read their post with 19 tips for writing catchy subject lines. Check these out for reference if you want to learn about the subject lines used by big brands such as Dollar Shave Club, Hotjar, Dunkin Donuts, and more.

About Samuel Catbagan

Samuel Catbagan is a writer for Chronos Agency, a Done-For-You customer lifecycle specialist and email marketing agency for eCommerce businesses everywhere.