Email copywriting, Maslen on Marketing

Ten openings for killer subject lines

This month, I thought I’d return to a subject that’s becoming more important with every passing day: email subject lines. Specifically, the first word.

Why is this word so important?

Because online readers scan their inboxes looking for diamonds among the dross. And they do so by skimming down the first words of the subject lines.

So here are ten openers with a better-than-average chance of hooking your reader. The first five all have something in common. See if you can spot it.

1. Announcing

This is the very first copywriting tip ever given to me, by my first boss. You can use it to tease your reader as well, since you don’t have to mention the product by name.


Announcing a new approach to web design

Announcing 5 index-beating stock picks

2. Introducing

This another variant. You can use your product or company name here, especially if you are targeting a market unfamiliar with your products.


Introducing b2b copy from Sunfish

Introducing proven email copy training

3. New

Who doesn’t want to find out about something new? This opening is as old as the hills and it still works. Even online.


New decision support tool from XYZ Corp.

New: classic auto cleaning products

4. Now

A proven winner for all types of headlines, ‘Now’ carries a real punch of immediacy in just three letters. That’s very useful in subject lines.


Now web copy is even easier to write

Now: SEO copywriting from Sunfish

5. At last

This version suggests something your reader has been waiting for. You can also say, ‘Finally…’


At last: HR software that pays for itself

At last: Pr. Cru Bordeaux you can afford

Did you get the connection? That’s right. 1-5 all concern themselves with news.

On the web, news is a great angle. You can distinguish yourself from all the plain sales messages flying around.

6. How to

People always want to know how to do stuff, especially make money, improve themselves or reduce risk.


How to boost your profits in EAMEA

How to improve your writing skills

7. How

Looks similar to 6, but actually a subtle way to introduce your product.


How 4 hours’ work could make you richer

How you can land your dream job

8. Why

This style of subject line can act as an educational headline. As we all know, education is the new paradigm [Whatever one of those is – Ed.] for online copywriting.


Why some promos flop, and others score

Why wait for better copy? We can help

9. Which

This is a great way to appeal to your reader’s self-interest. They want to know whether they have anything to worry about, or learn, or profit from.


Which of these copy errors do you make?

Which stocks will beat the FTSE 100?

10. Advice

People want useful information, especially if it’s free and could help them solve a problem.


Advice on web copywriting

Advice for marketing managers

Notice that in the 20 examples above, every one comes in at under 40 characters, so it won’t get truncated in the reader’s inbox. This is an overriding rule for subject lines that isn’t a problem for offline communications.

And I’m telling you this because?

Your subject line, as you know, is the only thing that stands between your carefully crafted email and the Recycle bin.

As well as being short, reader-centric and free of spam-happy words (like free), it has to grab your reader’s attention from the very first word.

These ten are tried and tested crowd-pleasers. It’s got to be worth testing them in your next e-mail campaign.

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