Newsletter Subject Lines: Tips to Create Yours In Under 1 Minute

It’s just an email, right? Why would you want to worry over measly newsletter subject lines?

Consider this: Email marketing is 40 times more effective at helping businesses acquire customers than either Facebook or Twitter. Let that sink in a moment.

And that’s just one of the crazy email marketing statistics you should consider when writing newsletter subject lines.

Now that I have your attention, let’s dig in a little deeper.

Why Are Your Newsletter Subject Lines Important? And Why Do You Need to Pay Attention to Them?

Why Are Your Newsletter Subject Lines Important? And Why Do You Need to Pay Attention to Them?

Email copywriting is a tricky business. If you’re good at it, you’ll increase open rates, click-through rates, and engagement rates.

That’s reason enough to pay attention to your newsletter subject lines.

But there’s more to the story. Email clients, such as Gmail and Yahoo!, are cracking down on spam in a big way. They send millions of emails to spam folders every single day.

If your email is among them, your prospects probably won’t ever see your emails.

Since you’re using your email marketing campaign to engage with your prospects, you want people to actually read your emails. If your newsletter subject lines fall flat, subscribers will unsubscribe, send your email to spam, or delete it unopened. That’s all bad for your spam score.

What Are the Factors That Make a Great Newsletter Subject line?

What Are the Factors That Make a Great Newsletter Subject line?

Okay, so email newsletter sunline lines are important. We get it. But what constitutes a great subject line?

1. A Sense of Urgency and Scarcity

These are two of my favorite words in the marketing lexicon. If you can make your reader feel compelled to open your email through urgency or scarcity — or both — you’re doing your job right.

Limited time only! Just a few products left in inventory! Do you want to make a change today?

All of these phrases spur your reader into action. But get creative and put your own spin on them.

2. A Personal Message to the Reader

If it’s possible, address your reader by name. Personalization feels intimate and interesting. People are more likely to click if they see their names.

In fact, using names in email subject lines can be more effective than using them in the bodies of emails. Think about it. How do your friends start an email?

They might say “Hey!” or “How’s it going?” They probably don’t write, “Dear Mike.”

3. Relevance to Your Reader

Consumers are pretty savvy these days. They value their time and energy. If a newsletter subject line doesn’t seem relevant, they won’t bother opening it.

That’s why you need to address a specific pain point or desire in your newsletter subject lines. What do you know about this segment of your email list?

Are your readers tired, hungry, overscheduled, dissatisfied, or anxious? Use those emotions in your newsletter subject lines.

Do your readers want to make more money, lose weight, find a better house, travel more often, or dress more fashionably? Again, hit those desires in the subject line.

4. Engaging Your Readers’ Curiosity

Perhaps curiosity killed the cat, but it also got your emails opened more often. We’ll call it a draw.

Humans have a natural desire to satisfy curiosity. That’s why, back before DVRs and Netflix, people were willing to sit through mind-numbing commercial breaks to find out what would happen next on their favorite television shows.

Use that to your advantage. Asking a poignant question in your newsletter subject lines or alluding to a secret can vastly improve your open rates.

5. Offering Something Special for Your Readers

Think of your email list as a special club. Members only, right?

We like to feel special, appreciated, and valued. You can help your readers feel that way by offering up something special.

Maybe it’s a discount only your subscribers get, a free shipping offer that lasts one month, or a free copy of one of your digital products.

6. Initiating a Great Story

Storytelling is one of the best ways to improve your newsletter subject lines. Think of the subject line as your story’s hook. It’s what gets your reader to turn the page — or, in this case, open the email.

Upworthy and similar sites do a great job of this with their article headlines.

Initiating a Great Story

You can follow their example, but make sure you deliver on the subject line’s promise.

7. Brevity, Clarity, and Power

You’ve heard the phrase “pack a punch,” right? That’s what your newsletter subject lines need to do — in as few words as possible.

Start with a strong verb. Use a thesaurus if you have to.

Write your headline. Use as many words as you want. Then start pruning.

Remove every word you don’t need and that doesn’t clarify your message. Try to use as few “stop words” as possible.

8. Humor and Emojis Carefully

It’s possible to go overboard here. If you’re not careful, you’ll just irritate your subscribers.

One emoji is okay. Two might be all right. Three or more is overdoing it.

And if you’re using an emoji, you’d better have a darn good reason. It should replace a word in your subject line or add a dose of humor to the message.

9. Numbers and Statistics

Catchy newsletter subject lines often contain numbers or statistics. Why? We’re drawn to them.

But it can’t be just any number. It should be impactful. Consider the statistic we use on the Hello Bar exit intent popup.

Numbers and Statistics

The number is really surprising, so it captures interest.

Similarly, if you’re giving your readers a list, it should be worth the click to open your email. Don’t give people two tips or 10 tips. Give the, 101 tips.

10. Calls to Action

You know you need to use awesome call-to-action phrases within your email body, but what about the subject line? It can work, but only if it’s directly appealing to your audience. You need to hit a pain point or desire pretty hard for it to work.

  • Fear of Missing Out: We’re all vulnerable to FOMO, right?
  • Vanity: Can you help your reader look better?
  • Greed: People want to earn more money. Can you help?
  • Sloth: How can you make something easier or faster for your readers?
  • Pain Points: What’s troubling your readers right now?

6 Most Common Newsletter Subject Line Mistakes

Most Common Newsletter Subject Line Mistakes

Before I show you some of the best inspirational newsletter subject lines, I want to highlight what you might be doing wrong. Avoiding these common mistakes can keep your emails out of the spam folder, improve your open rate, and boost your reputation among your subscribers.

1. It’s Too Promotional

You’re proud of your product or service, so it’s natural to want to shout about how great it is. Resist the urge.

Newsletter subject lines should be about the reader only. If you’re too busy touting your product, you’ll turn people away.

This doesn’t mean you can’t announce a special sale or discount. Just don’t use lots of superlatives and adjectives to do it. Focus on what the reader will gain from opening the email.

2. It’s Too Click-Baity

Clickbait has a time and place, but you have to tone it down. If the reader will feel cheated upon opening the email, your newsletter subject lines need work.

Keep three words in the back of your mind: Truth In Advertising. Make sure your subject lines are a direct reflection of the email body. If they’re not, tweak them until they fit.

3. It Use Words That Scream “SPAM”

It Use Words That Scream "SPAM"

Some words are simply no-nos for email subject lines. Words like free, spam, no cost, investment, inventory, cash, stock alert, and others automatically trigger spam bots.

The best way to avoid spam words is to write like a normal person would speak. That will keep you on the right side of the spam filters so you don’t have to worry about not reaching your subscribers.


All-caps text is annoying for most readers. It’s not as easy to read as sentence or title case, and many people perceive it as the written version of yelling.

In most situations, sentence case works best. Write your newsletter subject lines as if you were writing a regular sentence — with punctuation and all. Capitalize the first letter of the sentence, but keep everything else lowercase.

5. It’s Not Optimized for Mobile Users

More than half of all emails sent get opened on mobile devices. That’s incredible. If your newsletter subject lines aren’t optimized for mobile users, you could lose 55 percent of your audience.

Don’t risk it. Keep your subject lines brief, and don’t use any special characters that mobile operating systems might not be able to read.

6. It’s Not Original – It Looks Like All the Other Newsletter Subject Lines

Originality is a tough thing to harness. On one hand, there’s no such thing as true originality. If you think of something, someone else has thought of it before.

But don’t let that stop you from getting creative. Focus on creating something that’ll seem fresh and original to your audience. Consider looking for inspiration in a completely different industry, for instance. Then figure out how you can rework it for your audience.

In some cases, it comes down to substituting common words for unique ones. Instead of saying “Get your discount,” for instance, you could say, “Snag your discount” or “Seize your discount.” See what I mean?

15 Super Effective Newsletter Subject Lines Examples And Ideas

Super Effective Newsletter Subject Lines Examples And Ideas

Now, it’s inspiration time. Let’s look at some of the most effective and clickable newsletter subject lines I’ve ever seen. Don’t copy them, but feel free to emulate their approach. Remember, you have to be original.

1. “[URGENT] You’ve Got ONE DAY To Watch This…” – Digital Marketer

My first two examples come from Digital Marketer, and for good reason. They’re great at email marketing, so I urge you to read their work to get tips and clues for better newsletter subject lines.

This one is pretty much perfect. It reeks of urgency and scarcity, which, as I mentioned above, are almost guaranteed to get people to click. Plus, it inspires curiosity because the reader doesn’t know what “this” is until he or she opens the email. Genius.

2. “[WEEKEND ONLY] Get This NOW Before It’s Gone…” – Digital Marketer

Here’s another one from Digital Marketer that’s brilliant in its subtlety. It’s perfect for mobile users — short and sweet — and it begins with the FOMO-inducing phrase “Weekend Only.”

Notice that the email subject line is only eight words long, yet it manages to hit the scarcity pain point twice. First, you only have the weekend to get it (urgency), and second, you’d better hurry because it might be gone soon (scarcity).

3. “Last Day To See What This Mystery Email Is All About” – Grubhub

Who doesn’t love Grubhub? It’s a great business model for people who love convenience when it comes to their food. Plus, the company has a fantastic email marketing campaign.

This is my favorite of its newsletter subject lines because it uses the phrase “mystery email.” I never would have thought of it, but it strikes a chord. Starting with “Last Day” is also smart because it tells people unequivocally that they’d better act now.

4. “9 Disgusting Facts about Thanksgiving” – Eat This Not That

Here’s proof that you don’t have to be all sunshine and sprinkles with your newsletter subject lines. Eat This Not That inspires curiosity and anxiety by promising to share nine gross things about Thanksgiving.

5. “10 Bizarre Money Habits Making Millennials Richer” – Refinery29

Desire is a great motivator when it comes to newsletter subject lines. If you can pinpoint what your readers want, you’ll get them to open your emails.

Refinery29 achieved this by using curiosity in conjunction with desire. The subject line promises “bizarre money habits,” then follows up by explaining that these habits are filling Millennials’ bank accounts.

6. “Age-Defying Beauty Tricks” – Le Mer

We discussed vanity above, so it’s no wonder that Le Mer scores a big win with this subject line. It’s short — just four words — which makes it extremely mobile friendly. And although it isn’t overt about hitting a pain point, the phrase “age-defying” will trigger anyone who’s worried about looking older.

7. “Don’t Wear Last Year’s Styles.” – Guess

“Don’t Wear Last Year’s Styles.” - Guess

I think we can all agree that Guess has consistently been great at marketing, from television and radio to the Internet and email marketing. This newsletter subject line is ideal.

Essentially, it’s playing off readers’ worst fears: That they’re wearing last year’s styles and everyone knows it. Again, we’re talking about vanity, but this doesn’t promise anything specific. It simply triggers anxiety and curiosity.

8. “New Must-Haves For Your Office” – HP

You don’t have to look much farther than Pinterest to know that office design has become an obsession for men and women all over the world. Not only do they want functional, efficient equipment and supplies, but they want their offices to look good.

That’s why HP used a series of newsletter subject lines geared toward helping people build the perfect office space.

9. “Get Priority Access.” – The Black Tux

Exclusivity is a powerful way to drive email opens. People want to feel like they’re special and part of an exclusive crowd. That’s why this subject line from The Black Tux works so well.

From the subject line, we don’t know what “priority access” means. But we want to find out. We have no idea what the email contains. We’re going to click to see.

10. “Steal These Email Templates…” – Digital Marketer

Okay, okay, I know I’ve been stealing a lot of ideas from Digital Marketer, but I promise this is the last one. I chose it because it’s one of the best newsletter subject lines for keeping your audience engaged and appreciative.

First, the word “steal” is intriguing. It’s taboo, after all — you’re not supposed to steal. Yet Digital Marketer is inviting you to do just that. Plus, it promises something special and of value.

11. “Get More Kitchen Space With These Easy Fixes” – IKEA

Nobody would argue that IKEA knows its audience. The Swedish giant focuses on helping its core customers use their spaces more efficiently without sacrificing on quality.

And that’s exactly the pain point this subject line hits. You can get more kitchen space, but it won’t take long or require too much effort. Sold!

12. “Learn a Language With Only 5 Minutes Per Day” – Duolingo

Duolingo is a mobile app that helps you learn another language — and, as the subject line above says, you can do it in just five minutes per day. This hits on the pain point of lack of time. Prospects want to learn another language, but they have a small window in which to do it.

13. “Stop Wasting Time on Mindless Work” – Evernote

Sometimes, you have to tell your prospects what to do — or, in this case, what not to do. Evernote has hit on a familiar pain point in a beautifully simplistic way.

Instead of saying “5 Ways to Reduce the Time You Spend on Mindless Work,” Evernote issues a command: Stop Wasting Time…” I think it’s more effective this way.

It hits a pain point without giving too much away. The reader has to open the email to find out what goodies Evernote might have in store for him or her.

14. “Feed Your Guests Without Breaking The Bank” – Pizza Hut

Everyone loves a party or get-together, but nobody enjoys the incredible expense that comes with it. Simply preparing a meal for a few of your closest friends can set you back a few hundred bucks, from the appetizers to the wine and cocktails.

Pizza Hut issues a solution to the problem with this email. Have your party, enjoy the company, but don’t break the bank. Plus, who says “no” to pizza?

15. “Happy Birthday John – Surprise Inside!” – Rent The Runway

I’m a big fan of personalization. In sales, for instance, I want to remember my customer’s full name, his or her spouse’s name, the person’s favorite hobby or sport, and any other details that might help me connect.

In fact, all great salespeople do that. You have to love learning about people and memorizing their most important qualities.

However, when it comes to writing email newsletter subject lines, it’s just as important. If you make the effort to remember a prospect’s or customer’s birthday, you can celebrate that event with him or her.

This is a great subject line from Rent The Runway. Not only does it wish the customer a happy birthday, but it offers a gift to memorialize the occasion.

Want to Create an Email List But Don’t Know Where to Start?

Maybe you don’t have a big email list yet. That’s okay. It takes time to figure out how to build an email list, so don’t panic.

Email collection starts with a catalyst. You need to give people a reason to sign up. A lead magnet does nicely.

Then you need a way to advertise your lead magnet and collect email addresses. Preferably, you want the entire process to be GDPR compliant.

Hello Bar has you covered.

Sign into your account and select the goal to Grow Your Email List. Write your headline and call to action in the spaces provided, then customize your bar based on how you want it to look. Hello Bar will even take the color palette from your website automatically.

Push the bar live on your site. All you have to do is install a few lines of code that are provided for you. Then you’re ready to rock.

Want to Create an Email List But Don’t Know Where to Start?

Pretty simple, right?


Learning from others’ email campaign examples can make you a better marketer. The more you explore new ways to engage your audience, the more effective you become.

Start with your specific niche. For instance, email lead generation practices can vary depending on whether you’re in e-commerce, B2B, SaaS, or some other industry.

Then focus on honing your newsletter subject lines. Use the examples above for inspiration and give them your own spin.

What’s the best newsletter subject line you’ve ever written?


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