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15 Email Subject Line & Preheader Tips

15 Email Subject Lines Tips and How To Use Preheaders | Also 200+ keywords you should avoid in your email copy to increase inbox delivery rates.

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Email subject lines are one of the most important reason why people open their emails. It makes a difference if they know the sender, of course, but when the average person receives over 100 emails a day, they will only open an email if the subject strikes them in a curious and unique way. The right email subject line can get your email, opened, ignored or dismiss them in the spam folder. 47% of email recipients open their email based on the subject line whilst a whooping 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line.


Preheaders on the other hand are complementary to subject lines in its use and effectiveness. Preheaders are the line of text you see after the subject lines in emails. They go hand in hand to tell the recipient what to expect when they open the email. Subject lines and preheaders are important to email marketing because they are the first thing a recipient sees and trust that they will be the reason why your email is opened or not.

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Importance of subject lines and preheader texts

Since subject lines and preheaders are the first thing an email recipient sees, it is important to get them right from the start. Your email can contain the best sales content and if your subject and preheader text do not grab the attention and curiosity of the recipient, it will never be read. Take your own inbox as a practical example. What makes you open an email to read? I bet the answer will be the email subject. I have put together 15 email tips to help you craft simple and engaging email subject lines that will capture attention.

15 subject line and preheader tips and best practices

Be precise and straightforward

Subject lines and preheaders do not afford you the luxury of writing long sentences. In fact, estimates for an ideal subject line length is seven words or 41 characters although you should be safe up to 150 characters. Subject lines work if they are short and straight to the point whilst conveying the intended value to the recipient. Try not to fall for the temptation of making your subject line a lengthy mess. It will be cut off after the character limit. Instead, mention the most significant part of your email. Also, cut out all the unnecessary words that make your subject line too long. For example, instead of writing “We are having our biggest sale on this Friday!”, say “Our biggest sale this Friday”.

Personalize to make them relevant

Personalizing email subject lines is a great way to get attention to your email. With the right dataset, you can personalize your subject line based on your recipients name, location, purchase history and more. Nothing beats a personalized email that makes the recipient special rather than than just being a part of some automated email database. Personalization actually increases email open rates by 26% so spend some more time to personalize subject lines and preheaders. 


Use merge tags to address recipients by their names to grab their attention. For instance “George, your order is ready!” Personalization shows your customers that you think about them and have gone an extra step to address their unique needs. Always remember to keep personalization subtle as too much of it can come off as being invasive. If you are new to personalization, a quick read of this email personalization article would help.

Avoid spam-triggers and LOUD uppercase

There’s nothing more painful than spending time to craft a good email campaign and seeing it end up in spam folders. Your emails can end up in spam folders for containing words or formatting that trigger spam filters. Other reasons are not adding an unsubscribe link to your emails, mass sending emails to lists you purchased online resulting in a high bounce rate and sending badly designed emails that have faulty code.

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Download a list of 200+ spam words you should avoid.

Use a recognizable sender name

People receive a ton of emails every day from different companies. To stand out, your email should be warm, friendly and easily recognizable. Your recipients should not feel like they are receiving emails from some automated company bot. Make your emails easily recognizable by using a human sender name and keeping it as consistent as you can in your communication. You can use your own name or a pseudonym to make your recipients feel a human connection. 


Using [email protected] carries a more humane approach with it. Try to avoid no-reply email as that can be a little uninviting and intimidating sometimes. It gives off the feeling that you do not want to interact with your recipients when that may not even be the case. At the end of the day, you spend time crafting a value driven email because you want it to be read by your recipients. Why not make the sender name more welcoming by adding a human touch to it. Read: How to set up new sender identities for your email marketing campaigns.

Use segmentation

Audience segmentation offers you the opportunity to experiment with your email data and divide your recipients into powerful groups that you can target with customized messages. Mass sending emails to all your recipients with the hope that it resonates with the majority of them is not the most prudent email marketing strategy especially when your subject line is the first thing they see. Segmenting your users will give you the flexibility to craft separate subject lines that will attract the attention of the recipient. Try location based segmenting for recipients in a certain geographical area and create a matching subject line. 


Example, your segmented email to all London based recipients can read: “Londoners, our new shop is open!”. Segmentation can be done based on numerous data points available to you. Others are new subscribers, purchase history and frequency, engaged users as well as membership renewals. Read our guide on segmentation to get started.

Create FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Communicating urgency and FOMO to recipients through your subject lines can move them to action. When you set a strict deadline to a promo you have launched or set limited access to your product, recipients who want it are often moved to action because they fear missing out on it. This is actually a very common strategy used in marketing used by many brands albeit not regularly. Do not form the habit of creating FOMO all the time in your emails as it becomes quickly obvious to your recipients that this is your strategy to get them to take action. They may easily become immune to it as a result. Instead, use FOMO subtly and for your most important campaigns. tinyEmail has some great email template features like countdown timers to help you communicate that urgency to your recipients. Try creating a campaign

Make promises that you can keep

Your email subject lines should be very clear, concise and communicate promises you can only keep. It is very easy to overestimate the capabilities your products and services as a brand through marketing. Avoid click-bait subject lines that try to hook recipients into opening emails that ultimately do not deliver what is being promised in the subject line. Recipients will quickly realize this and if your unsubscribe rates, do not shoot through the roof, you are most likely going to get reported as spam. 


Get right to the point in communicating the value the email brings. Is it an Ebook for download about a certain topic or it is 3 tips to boost sales? Be specific and deliver exactly on what you promise. Do not be tempted to loop in your recipients into circles and circles of landing pages before getting to their desired information. It is frustrating and comes off as a spam. 

Use Emojis (in moderation)

Emojis have become a part of the way we text and they have quickly found their way in brand messaging as well. Over the years, more companies have become comfortable using emojis if their brand tone allows it. Emojis communicate fun and jovial tone that recipients can easily relate with. It makes perfect sense to splash a few emojis in your subject line if you need to but I strongly advice you use them in moderation. One is great or two if you must. Use too many emojis and your email may be flagged as spam. Also, depending on the tone of the email, you may want to watch the use of emojis. 


A very formal email may not necessarily require the use of emojis. Check your brand image and desired tone of the email to see if emojis will be a great fit. If they are, include them! Finally, another important thing to note using emojis is how they render across different devices. Always test your emails on multiple devices before launching them to check if they render as they should.

Make the most of numbers

Solidify your email subject lines with numbers. Using numbers and facts that you can back in your email body increases your credibility and tells recipients you are knowledgeable in that area. For recipients who are enthused by data, you are more likely to catch their attention with well-researched stats and facts. It will also give them something to look forward to if it is a regular addition to your emails. 


Ask questions

Asking relevant questions in your email subjects can increase open and engagement rates. Craft your questions in a way that gets your recipients curious and want to know. You can ask new subscribers if they need help getting started. If customers miss a crucial email, you can send them a follow up asking if they missed the early important email. A recipient is most likely going to wonder what email they missed and will open it to find out more. Asking the right questions in your subject line is a simple yet powerful strategy you can use to get recipients to open and engage with your emails.


Make your audience feel special

Making your audience feel special is a sure way to get their attention through your subject lines. People generally like to be included in exclusive circles. Similar to the Fear Of Missing Out, your audience will feel special if they feel included in a segment that is exclusive. You can invite your audience to a beta version of your product or include a section of your most loyal customers in a VIP segment where they have early access to products or services. Subject lines like the ones below are certain to get the attention of your audience.

  • “You are invited to our Beta product”
  • “For our VIP customers only”
  • “ Private invite to our cherished client”


Use humour and pun with care

Humour and pun with the right audience can get a good laugh and maybe a social media mention about how funny and different your email is. However, jokes can be very sensitive, especially to the wrong audience. In a diverse world such as ours where people come from multiple backgrounds and cultures, it is very easy for a joke to leave a bad taste with people. If you are not sure of how innocent your jokes are, I would suggest that you skip it. Aside from sensitivity, your joke may just come off as bland and not funny. It is a tricky one to use humour and pun in your subject lines. If done right, it can earn you a delighted audience. If done wrong, well, you can prepare yourself for some backlash. If you are ever in doubt, ask around for multiple opinions.


Send them timely

A good email subject line on its own can get great engagement rates. Now sending the emails at the right time is a combination that will work magic for your open and engagement rates. You can test campaigns at multiple times and days to see when your audience responds the most. Then you can craft appropriate subject lines for your emails that fit that time or day. If your highest open rates or on Friday night, then craft a subject line that has Friday night included. For example “Best meals to eat on Friday night” if you have a food business. Be creative with your subject lines and send them out when your customers are most likely to engage with them.


Use Preheader To Add To Your Subject Lines

Preheader text is the text that shows up right next to or below your email depending on what device you are using. It is used to give the recipient a preview of the content of the email. If you do not set a preheader for your email, the email provider will use part of the content of your email for it. Take preheader as complementary text that supports your subject line.

How to make the most of your preheader text

Now that we know how important preheaders are to your subject lines, let’s look at some best practices for how to come up with great preheaders.

Make them different from your subject line

Remember you are dealing with very limited character space in the subject line and preheader thus every word must count. Make the preheader different from your subject line. Some marketers make the mistake of repeating what is already in the subject line when they could use the preheader as a follow-up to the subject line.


Use it as a teaser for your offer

Does your email include an offer? Use the preheader to give a glimpse of what your audience stands to gain if they open your email. Use the preheader to communicate your discounts, promo codes, sales and other incentives that customers may want. 


Use it to tell your subscribers what your email is about

Use the preheader to give an overall summary of the content of the email. Sometimes, your email might contain content that will be lengthy to fit into the subject line and preheader. In this case, use your preheader to give a summary of what your email contains. If readers want a more detailed breakdown, they can open the email.


Keep it within character limits

As I stated earlier, subject lines and preheader text have a limited character space. For preheaders, in particular, a good character limit to work with is between 30 to 80 characters. Different email service providers have different character limits, however, it will be good for you to stay within the 30 to 80 limit to avoid some characters being cut off.


Make sure it enhances your subject line and builds curiosity

A great preheader will enhance the subject line and subsequently increase the recipients’ curiosity. Build curiosity by asking questions or even starting a sequence of events that you do not finish. In their bid to learn more, the recipient is forced to open your email to check for more information.



Personalizing your preheaders can attract the attention of your recipients. Use merge tags to include the first name of your recipient in the email. They are very likely to stop and read what your email subject is about. If you have done a great job in roping them in, they will surely open the email to find out what it is all about.


Add a CTA

Move your recipients to action by adding a Call To Action. CTAs are just that – calling the recipient to take the desired action. Think about it, when someone politely asks for something from you, there is a high chance you will give it. It works the same in email marketing. Request your recipients to take an action by simply including a CTA in the preheader text.

Final thoughts

Subject lines and preheaders work hand in hand to make email campaigns attractive. They are essentially the first thing your recipients sees when your email shows up. It is also the determining factor as to whether your email is opened or not. Incorporate these tips in your emails for a better result in email marketing. Start off with being as precise and straighforward as you can with your subject lines. Add a touch of personalization and segmentation to make them more relevant to your audience. Then try as much as you can to avoid using words that have been flagged by spam filters. 


Furthermore, pay attention to your preheaders as they support your subject line to deliver your intended message. Use continuity to make the preheader different from your subject line while staying on-topic and try to build enough curiosity with your messaging. Other important tips you should not forget are keeping the preheader within the suggested character limit, personalizing them and adding a Call-To-Action. 

Yaw Biney

Yaw Biney

Yaw is a digital marketer who enjoys writing about growth marketing and technology. | LinkedIn

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