The Email Subject Line Hall Of Shame

Email marketing, when executed correctly, can be extremely effective in reaching your audience and motivating them to respond in a particular way. But your email must be opened and read first, and one of the first lines of defense against a bounced or unopened email is a well-crafted subject line.

The subject line is more than a “headline” to your email. It is the key to getting through spam filters, which are notorious for degrading the ROI of your campaign.

Here are the stars of the “Subject Line Hall of Shame” and how your emails can avoid being just like them:

1. Everything you need to know about this email is in the subject line, so open it now and read.

At 92 characters long this subject line is likely to get cut off in most email clients, and has a high probability of being blocked by a content-based spam filter. Think about how you write a personal email. The subject line is usually just enough to convey importance, urgency, seriousness, or humor. It should act as an attention-getter, not a summary of the message.

We recommend subject lines be 35 characters max.


This email looks so spammy, your filter can’t wait to block it from being delivered. All-caps are an immediate giveaway that the email is a poorly-crafted message that needs to SHOUT to be heard, or it was written by that guy in a foreign country who has $5,000,000 waiting to be deposited into your account. JUST SEND HIM YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER TO GET RICH.

Do not use all-caps.

3. Tips are a tipoff

If I wanted your advice I would have asked for it, so this email must be junk. Here’s a tip: tell me what the benefit is to me in the subject line and I’ll be motivated to read the email. Otherwise, I’ve got 20 other emails in my inbox that have identified themselves as requiring action.

Tips are too passive to be effective, and unsolicited advice is rude.

4. $ave Money!! Act Now!!

Benefit driven? Check. Short? Check. Upper and lower case? Check. Spam? Definitely, according to your filter. Spam filters look for symbols like exclamation points and misused dollar signs in subject lines. And “save money” is such a blind benefit that the reader will wonder how for about 1 second before they delete the email.

“Save money on your cable bill” or “Save money on groceries” focus the reader’s attention better because these kinds of lines communicate real, tangible benefits.