3 subject lines to get your email opened

Work Wisdom

3 subject lines to get your email opened

Ping. Ping. Ping.

A steady trickle of emails begin to slide into your inbox — and it’s only 8:30 a.m.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve got an overloaded inbox to sift through and prioritize. Some you open, some you leave for later and many you delete unread. You’ve probably learned to use subject lines to identify what’s valuable and what’s better to toss into the trash folder.

Now, flip the script and imagine you need to write an email to elicit responses. How can you make sure your email is read and stays out of the trash or the “I’ll get to this later” pile?

Write an attention-grabbing subject line.

Try these 3 types of subject lines to help your emails get read:

1. Show clear value.

Depending on the content of the email, opt for clarity rather than creativity. Donald Miller, author and founder of Building a StoryBrand, says human beings ultimately care about information that will help them thrive and/or survive.

People want to learn how they can seize the day — or simply make it through the day. So draft subject lines that will help them achieve their goals.

Give your readers a clear reason why they should open your email. Position the value proposition in their terms:

  • Sign this so we can move forward with the sale
  • Spend less time fiddling with our company CRM
  • Get our boss to like you 

2. Spark curiosity

Subject lines that pique curiosity have higher open rates. They capture interest, then withhold details. It’s not until you click through do you satiate your interest.

  • The secret ingredient to (topic) is …
  • Here’s what you need to know about (topic)
  • Our vendor contract contains this surprising clause

Why are these so alluring? Researcher George Loewenstein calls this phenomena the Curiosity Gap. Humans want to complete the story arch, to finish the feedback loop.

Writing a subject line to spark curiosity drives action: It entices the reader to click to find a resolution (hopefully) within the content of your email.

3. Personalize

As “How to Win Friends and Influence People” author Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Put the addressee’s name in the subject line. It’ll stand out.

  • This made me think of you, (insert name)
  • Hey, (insert name)! quick question
  • (insert name), your name came up in conversation

But what if you’re messaging a lot of people? No problem. You can mail merge to personalize subject lines for multiple receivers quickly. Click here to find out how.

One caution: You can overuse any of these tactics. If you do, the novelty of the approach will wear off. Then, your receiver might be more apt to disregard and trash your message. The Atlantic even wrote about this phenomenon regarding the curiosity gap: Overuse produces significantly diminished returns.

Spend an extra minute crafting a subject line email like one of these three types. They work — just use them sparingly.