How to write great email subject lines

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The email subject line is the most important sentence in your email.

It’s the first thing that recipients see and it’s the key point whether they decide to open or discard your email.

69% of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.

-Source: Optinmonster

Despite its importance, many companies and non-profits don’t give the subject line of their email the required attention.

As a result, all the effort that went into crafting a great email and graphics will go to waste.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Below are 5 quick tips to create great email subject lines that increase opens and drive sales.

  1. Keep it short: 46% of all emails are opened on mobile devices (source: Hubspot). This means you need to keep subject lines short or they will be cut off on mobile devices. According to Marketo, you should aim to keep your subject lines to 7 words or less to optimize click-through rates and opens.
  2. Keep it focused: Your subject line should be focused on one action that you want users to take. The average user receives 121 emails per day (source: Campaign Monitor) – your subject line needs to stand out and be laser-focused on the value you are offering the user.
  3. Personalize it: Personalizing email subject lines can increase open rates by 29% higher open rates (source: Experian). You can personalize your emails by using merge tags around the recipient’s name or location.
  1. Stand out: Find ways to stand out in inboxes by adding numbers or emojis (sparingly) to subject lines. Numbers could be related to the content or offer (i.e. Increase your leads by 72%) and emojis could be used to enhance (not replace) words or sentiments. Mailchimp recommends only using 1 emoji at a time and since operating systems use different emojis make sure you test thoroughly.
  2. Test it: Most email marketing software has a built-in testing option that allows you to try out different subject lines and email content to determine which is more effective for your audience. Leverage these tools and keep a running list of all your experiments and what you’ve learned so you keep making your emails better with every send.


Bonus: Use the ‘Johnson box’ or preheader text to boost subject line open rates.


The Johnson box provides a summary of the content in your email – recipients get a preview even while it sits unopened in their inbox.


Whether your recipients are using desktops or mobile devices, the Johnson box adds more space for you to hook your readers and impress them. Keep the preheader text to less than 100 words – be engaging, meaningful and most importantly, straight to the point.


Email subject lines play an important role in increasing your opens, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Check out our Resouces section for more details on how to build and grow your digital marketing.

Or, if you need more help, contact us.

Recent Posts
  • Six tips for would-be Charity Start-Ups
    Six tips for would-be Charity Start-Ups
    Reading Time: 3 minutes

    Are you considering launching a charity? Before you go "live" on a website or file your CRA paperwork, here are 6 key tips to keep in mind...

  • Top 10 Books
    Top 10 Books
    Reading Time: 7 minutes

    In honour of the Ottawa Public Library and the countless hours of reading enjoyment it has brought to me over the years, I want to share with you the Top 10 Books I enjoyed in 2022.

  • Pandemic funding and Canada’s Charitable Sector:  Looking back and forward with United Way Centraide Canada
    Pandemic funding and Canada’s Charitable Sector: Looking back and forward with United Way Centraide Canada
    Reading Time: 5 minutes

    Just a little over six months before a global pandemic was declared, the Government of Canada  announced an Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector, with the express purpose of acknowledging and supporting the, “key role [the charitable sector plays in terms of] providing valuable information and services to Canadians.”

  • Is AI taking over?
    Is AI taking over?
    Reading Time: 4 minutes

    The release of ChatGPT, by all accounts, represents a watershed moment, however. When access was opened up to trial public use in late November 2022, users flooded the platform, and terms like “scary good”, “game-changer”, and “mind-blowing” have been flying around with abandon ever since.