Best Email Subject Lines: 6 Ways to Write Catchy Subject Lines and Boost Open Rates

best email subject lines

This is a guest post by SendFox customer and video producer Garth Dew. He uses SendFox for his email newsletter about creativity, marketing and entrepreneurship. Find the best email subject lines below!


So, you want to build a powerful email list. Great idea!

But starting your list is only the beginning.

To get results, you’ll need your subscribers to OPEN your emails.

And that’s not as easy as it sounds…

The average email marketing open rate is around 20% (source). That means, on average, 80% of your subscribers are not opening your emails.

Your audience’s inboxes are flooded with other emails fighting for attention. 

So, if you want to get your emails opened, they need to stand out from the crowd.

Enter the SUBJECT LINE.

The subject line placeholder in SendFox
The subject line area of SendFox.

The subject line is the first thing people see when your email lands in their inbox.

And the subject is so important that 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

If you optimize your subject lines, you win big — and you can dramatically increase your open rates, click rates, and more.

So, let’s look at 6 ways to write the best email subject lines.

These are REAL examples and strategies that your audience won’t be able to resist.

Best Email Subject Lines: 6 Strategies That Really Work

Strategy #1 – Curiosity

Curiosity is a powerful marketing tool.

People want to know the answers to their biggest questions — and can’t resist a good curiosity email subject line.

You can make subscribers curious by doing three key things:

  1. Asking a question. Questions in subject lines lead a reader to opening their email to find out the answer.
  2. Offering something interesting. In the land of dozens of emails that all blend together, it’s important to stand out.
  3. Saying something bizarre. Just like those weird facts you read online, weird facts or a bizarre statement in a subject line can be a great way to get opens.

Here are a few examples of curiosity subject lines from our inbox:

Curiosity subject lines
Examples of curiosity subject lines.

Strategy #2 – Personalization

A study by Yes Lifecycle Marketing found non-personalized subject lines had open rates of 14.1%… compared to 21.2% for email personalized with names.

Bottom-line: Personalize your subject lines for better results.

An easy way to personalize is by using the subscriber’s name in the subject line.

To do this in SendFox, use the {{contact.first_name}} personalization tag in your subject line.

Combine personalization and curiosity to really up your email marketing game, like the example below:

Email personalization
Combine personalization and curiosity for the best results.

Here are some examples of personalisation from big brands you know:

Personalization examples
Great examples of personalization subject lines.

Strategy #3 – Humour

It doesn’t matter what you’re emailing about — if you make your readers laugh with your subject lines, they’ll look forward to your emails.

One of the best ways to do this is to use puns and pop culture references. The AppSumo emails have some of the best.

Check out these pun-tastic subject lines AppSumo has used to promote new software offers:

  • Suite dreams (are made of this)
  • The Fresh Prince of LMS
  • Four-ggedaboutit
  • Bring home the Beacon
  • Don’t lose your (Metri)cool

Here are a few more examples from other brands:

best email subject lines
The best email subject lines for… socks?! Hey, you have to be funny sometimes.

Strategy #4 – Contrarian

Using contrarian statements is another great way to arouse curiosity.

The aim is to make your audience think, “What the…?!”

The piqued interest convinces the reader to open the email to understand the full context of the contrarian statement.

To make a contrarian subject line, take two opposing ideas or contrasting statements and put them together.

This works especially well with commonly-held beliefs or “accepted” ideas. If you provide contrasting information to something that most people believe, the shock will cause a lot of people to open.

Here are a few examples:

Contrarian email subject lines
Contrarian email subject lines get your readers’ attention.

Strategy #5 – Clear-Cut Benefit 

Sometimes you don’t need to get creative. You can tell it to your audience straight. Simply by stating the benefit of opening the email in the subject line.

This type of subject line is very effective if you are teaching something or sharing useful information.

If you have multiple pieces of content in your email, picking the first item can be an easy way to pick a subject line to use.

This approach usually gets a good response on my list — averaging a 50% open rate compared to 30% for other types of subject lines.

Check out some recent examples from my inbox:

Clear-cut benefit email subject lines
Examples of clear-cut benefit email subject lines.

Strategy #6 – Celebrity 

Using recognisable names and references in your subject lines can pique interest in the same way gossip magazines and tabloids use headlines. 

The master of this approach is legendary email marketer Ben Settle.

The 4 examples below are from his free newsletter, which is worth subscribing to if you want some daily subject line inspiration.

  • Once upon a time, Grant Cardone had a sale
  • Trump the Aristotle of copywriting?
  • The Steve Jobs prophecy
  • X-Men actress admits getting hired ain’t about talent or skill

You don’t have to be an email marketing wizard to create the best email subject lines.

Following a few simple principles, you can create subject lines in seconds that help skyrocket your email open rates:

  1. Curiosity. Tease the content with a short subject line.
  2. Personalization. Use your subscriber’s name in a subject line.
  3. Humour. Give some personality, and make jokes — people open what makes them laugh.
  4. Contrarian. Take two opposing viewpoints, and turn it into a subject line to really entice.
  5. Clear-cut benefit. Keep it simple and tell readers exactly what they’ll get when they open.
  6. Celebrity. Use recognizable names and readers will want to open to find out.

Get a more affordable, easier-to-use email software to try your new subject lines. Get SendFox starting at $49 one-time cost. Pay once, email forever.

Check out this guide on how to improve your open rates and keep your deliverability high – Email Deliverability: How to Improve Email Open Rates.

Ever considered incorporating Employee Engagement tool? These have become very popular lately, check out the solutions here.

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