BEST Subject Lines + WORST Subject Lines


How to get a higher % of open rates =



Let’s start with…The Worst Email Subject Lines.

Never ever use these:

  • The Weekly Newsletter  i.e. “[Your Company Name Here] Weekly Newsletter” – Telling your recipients what they can expect from your email will go the distance. Your email subscribers already have loaded inboxes, so give ‘em the goods right away and tell them what’s inside. Generic subject lines like, “Weekly Newsletter,” “Monthly Wrap up,” “Daily News,” aren’t enticing or descriptive and they’re a snore. When sending an email newsletter, highlight your two most interesting topics in the subject line and your third in the pre-header.
  • The Symbol Fanatic – Symbols such as hearts and happy faces are fun, eye-catching, and pretty darn cute, but use too many, too often and they go from cute to “cut it out!” quickly. Symbols garner engagement, but make sure they’re appropriate for your content and audience, and only use one, occasionally.
  • The Desperate Crier i.e. “Open Me!” – Desperation’s rough enough, but begging for an open is hitting rock bottom and won’t give you the engagement you desire.
  • The Grammar/Spelling Mistake Sore Eye – Everyone makes mistakes, so everyone also deserves a “Get out of jail free” card when it comes to a grammar or spelling mistake, but it shouldn’t become a common occurrence. Make sure to use spell check, have at least one other person proof your subject line (and the rest of your email), and when in doubt, refer to some of our favorites: The AP StylebookThe Chicago Manual of and Grammar Girl.
  • The Novel – Don’t give everything away in your subject line, that’s your email’s purpose. To find out what your audience really likes subject line-wise, you have to test it, however, the majority of the time, less is more. Keeping the subject line short and to the point will entice your recipient to open and to read o
  • The Copy Cat (sending multiple emails w/the same subject line) – If you’re sending a series of emails, say a promotion over a course of three weeks, don’t be tempted to use the same subject line over again. This will cause people’s eyes to glaze over, or worse, they’ll delete the email thinking you either 1) sent it to them twice, or 2) they already read that email; delete! Rework your original subject line with a slightly different spin.
  •  The One Word Spam Alert i.e. “Hi” – If you’re trying to catch a recipient’s attention by being mysterious, do so by asking a question:  “…they generate 92% higher comment rates than non-question posts,” on social media according to Buddy Media. Try it in your subject lines, too. Including just one word in your subject line screams “spam alert!”
  • The Punctuation Abuser!!!! – Like all caps, punctuation shouldn’t be abused. Use more than one punctuation mark and it also seems as if you’re screaming (!!!), you don’t remember proper punctuation rules, or you must think everything is important. One exclamation point or question mark serves its purpose.
  • The False Alarm i.e.”URGENT!” – As our Public Relations Manager, Connie eloquently put, “Unless you’re only sending to one person, it’s not ‘exclusive.’ Same goes for “breakthrough,” “pioneering,” “revolutionary” and all those other fluffy adjectives…” Granted, she’s speaking about press releases, but the same goes for your subject lines. If something isn’t really “urgent” or “breaking news,” exaggerating could let readers down. Plus, many people don’t open their email until days after it’s been received, so the sense of urgency may be lost.
  • The Fake Reply –Including Re: in your subject line indicating that it’s a reply is sneaky. “Oh look, someone’s replied to an email I sent them! But wait, I don’t know who this is? What’s this all about?” Sure, you’ll get opens, but the key is to engage and connect with your readers. This tactic will likely get your message deleted. If you really want to entice readers, try asking a question.


Now on to…The BEST Email Subject Lines!

For Retail

Gap: Hurry! Save NOW until 10AM Wednesday 

ModCloth: 20% off. 100% awesome.

David’s Tea: In store exclusive: free honey for mom

Pottery Barn Kids: ★ 3 great sales TODAY only! ★ Save 20% + free shipping on beach towels, gear & Freeport Chairs

Omaha Steaks: ★This is almost too good to be true…★

Open Table: Give the Gift of Deliciousness

lululemon athletica: did someone say brownies?

Tory Burch: Ends Today: 25% Off — Friends & Fans Event

Piperlime: Extra 25% off SALE items under $100

Lilly Pulitzer: Take a peek at our new summer catalog…

Old Navy: Got SUPER CASH, Kim? Redeem It Today!

Orbitz: Quick! This promo code’s ending soon

J Crew Factory: HURRY: This deal will change at noon

Shutterfly: 3 days left: Up to 40% + get an extra 20% off

abercrombie kids: we could just say ‘thanks’ but we think this is way better… Weekend savings up to 50% on CA favorites

Fabletics: want to win $100 to fabletics?

Banana Republic: Surprise! (Can you guess what yours is?)

Birdy Botanicals: Our Newest Product Just Got Better & A Favorite Local Event is Back

Walgreens: Your selfies aren’t going to print themselves – 40% off mobile photo orders with our FREE App

Kara’s Cupcakes: A Trio of Seasonal Favorites for Your Enjoyment!

Priceline: Get $20 Off Hotels Instantly! Email Exclusive

Warby Parker: Finally

Everlane: See What’s Coming

Birchbox: Come Back and Get a Free Gift

Photojojo: *NEW* A Portable Pop-Up Photo Studio

Workshop: We’ve got spring fever at workshop! Check out our calendar for our spring faves!


B2B (Business to Business)

Copyblogger: Renew your Authority membership right now (and save big) 

Social Media Bulletin: Marketing Metrics Bible – 70-Page Guide

Practical Ecommerce: Report: Top 10 Comparison Shopping Engines

Big Data Bulletin: Includes: How to Avoid the Worst Big Data Mistakes You Can Make

Which Test Won: Test of the Week: Demo vs Video – Which Copy Won 48.2% More Leads?

Dasheroo: Top 5 Customer Support Metrics You Need to Track, Now!

PsPrint: The Results Are In: Top Designs from Our Artwork Contest!

CMSWire News: This Week: Jive, Cisco Collaborate + Better Mobile Workforce Management

Fanatic Promotion: “Power pop prog space rock so futuristic it makes you nostalgic for music that hasn’t been thought up yet!” – Roctober



Marine Mammal Center: Show Your Mom Some Love

Humane Society of the United States: Be inspired, create change

American Diabetes Association: We need backup

American Red Cross: Everyday heroes like you

American Lung Association: Honoring our volunteers

World Wildlife Fund: Reminder: Jill, You Can Make a Huge Difference

Humane Society of the United States: Need some convincing?

American Diabetes Association: Take it. Share it. Step Out.

Care and Share Food Bank: Eat your greens!

Friends of the Sea Otter: Mother’s Day Spa and Dinner Raffle 

Community Music Center: New Items Added to the Community Music Center Auction!

SFMOMA: It’s Not Too Late

The San Francisco Ballet Association: Don’t miss the final program of the season!

Root Division: Take an Art Class! Fall Schedule

GREAT Ideas for sending emails this summer.


Ah, warm weather is arriving (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere of course). Use this seasonal change to propel your email marketing this month.

Celebrate National Trails Day

Include a list of local trails in the June edition of your company’s newsletter to celebrate National Trails Day, which is June 7. Remember, customers appreciate helpful, usable content and a newsletter is a good place for it.

Send a summer discount code

Summer is a terrific time to give your customers a little incentive to buy. An eyeglass shop used asummer-themed email to offer a discount. Don’t forget to create a clear call to action in your email.

Welcome summer and new guests

Send an email that not only welcomes the warm weather but also welcomes new customers, too. If a customer has bought a new product or signed up for a new service in the past six months, applaud their actions with a well-crafted welcome email.

Summer giving

Team up with your local food bank this summer and get your customers involved. Send an email asking them to bring in canned goods like KinderCare Learning Centers did.


If you’re in the U.S., get a little patriotic. Use the Fourth as a catalyst for a series of emails.

The perfect Fourth of July party

This holiday is all about getting the crew together for a backyard barbecue. To help your customers host a rockin’ independence party, offer some tips to create the best gathering possible. You can also offer a Fourth of July discount like Shoplet does.


“During the holidays, customers are expecting sales,” Womack says. “The Fourth of July is a holiday known for cookouts and backyard parties, which is why Shoplet displays products like paper plates, cups and utensils.” Try connecting your products to the holiday too.

Recognize a vet

You don’t have to wait for Veteran’s Day to honor a vet. Devote a section of your newsletter to your employees who are also vets. Offer a “Vets in the Spotlight” section that talks about their service and their role in your company.

Remember the first walk on the moon

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July of 1969. In honor of this patriotic event, host a “Biggest Accomplishment Competition.” Invite your customers to add their biggest accomplishment to a growing list on Facebook. Give the biggest accomplisher a company-specific prize.

Made in America email

Take pride in your American-made products by offering a discount. Menards, a home remodeling store, sends a sales flyer to its customers that highlights its American products.


It’s all about creating useful content this month. Here are a few ideas you can use to create “tips and tricks” emails.

A watermelon-centered email

August 2 is Watermelon Day. Yes, Watermelon Day. Think up a way to connect your product to this fruit-loving celebration. Lego did. The company emailed invitations to LEGOLAND’s Watermelon Day event complete with tips to grow watermelon and a Lego building contest. Yum!

Ring in ‘Work Like a Dog Day’

Celebrate this funny holiday, which falls on August 5, with an email about how productive your product or service can be. Try something like, “Today is Work Like a Dog Day, but you shouldn’t have to work that hard. Here are three tips to be more productive using our products.”

Tips to use your product better

Create a useful email that will help your customers get more out of your product or service. TurboTax does this well. Marketers for the tax-filing software sent an email out about money-saving tips.


You want your customers to succeed with your products or services; try sending a how-to email once a month with a useful tip that helps your customers and your business. Serving your customers instead of always selling to them creates loyalty that lasts.

Celebrate Relaxation Day with a reorder email

August 15 is Relaxation Day. It’s a great day to send a reorder email out. Encourage your customers to relax by stocking up on your products. Send something similar to this reorder email from 1-800-CONTACTS.



It’s back-to-school time. Use this month to market to both parents and students.

Offer a back-to-school discount

Recognize this is an expensive time for parent shoppers by offering a discount. Shoplet, an online office supply store, offered a 15 percent discount to customers on its email list. If you offer a service such as a salon, spa or car mechanic tailor your message for stressed parents or college bound students



“Back-to-school marketing is extremely valuable for Shoplet, as it is one of our most lucrative seasons throughout the year,” Womack says. His advice to other business owners is to “make sure your customers are aware of your competitive pricing and convenient selection and services during the back-to-school season.”

A favorite teacher contest

Everyone has a favorite teacher, so invite your customers to participate in a favorite teacher contest via email. Dollar Days, a discount online retailer, did this exact competition and asked customers to weigh in on Facebook. More than 107,000 people voted and 18 teachers were given prizes through this social media promotion.

Last chance sale

If a deal has a deadline, customers are more likely to act fast. While you can use the last chance sale throughout the year, it made sense for Shoplet to try and cash in on this busy time of year with a last chance sale.

Dorm decorating tips

Don’t forget, college students are returning to dorms, too. Offer helpful tips for the college-bound group. For example, offer tips to create dorm decor that suggests a few products from your shop.  Or offer ideas on how to cook ramen in a dorm room, pizza or restaurant deals, or a back-to-school oil change before they set off.


Please share this with those that need it xo -Amy  @amyhouckceo