Effective Email Subject Lines & How To Write Them

Effective email subject lines

The whole point of expanding your reach and getting more subscribers is to have a relationship with your email list… but you can’t have that unless you have effective email subject lines that get people to open and read your emails!

Let’s face it, we all have a lot of email to read on a daily basis, so spending a few extra minutes coming up with a good email subject line is worth it if it means more people will read your emails.

How To Write Effective Email Subject Lines

1. Make your email subject lines read like an email from a friend

You don’t want your subject line to look like marketing. What would a friend say about this topic? Would they use all caps, or drop caps? Probably not, so you shouldn’t either.

Would they hype it up, or just say “check this out…” and leave it up to you to decide if it’s cool or not?

2. Take a look at the emails that you open, and make note of what subject lines they use

Keep a “swipe file” of subject lines that worked on you. Check out my Evernote video on idea gardens are swipe files for more on how to do that.

3. Use a little curiosity

You don’t need to reveal everything you’re going to share in that one email subject line.

The point of the subject line is to get people to click and open up your email. Then the first line of your email is to get them to read the next line, one step at a time.

This also allows you to open and close loops, so when someone reads an effective email subject line they want the answer. When they read your email body, they want to click to find out more, effectively closing a loop with each step.

4. Tell them what’s in it for them

If you’re giving something valuable away (and you should) then you can give them a hint about what they can expect.

Example: Your visualization inside…
Example: Learn how to code, today

You’re not going to be able to teach them to code in that email subject line, and there’s enough curiosity about the visualization to get people to open up.

5. Effective email subject lines don’t get caught in the spam filters

A few email subject line “no-no”s can get your emails caught in the spam filters.

Do not use the word “free” anywhere in your email, and make sure to run your email through the spam assassin checker from your email management system.

Start with these email subject line writing tips, track your results, and go from there!

What effective email subject lines work for you?

I’d love to hear what email subject lines you click on the most, or which ones have had the best open rates for you. Leave a comment below, and let’s learn from each other’s examples!


  1. Caroline Frenette Master Intuitive Coach on May 1, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Great timing, I was just about to send an e-mail to my list :)

  2. Jason Gracia on May 1, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Great episode, Nathalie!

  3. Nathalie Lussier on May 1, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Thank you @Caroline – I hope this made writing your email subject line easier! ;)

    And happy this was helpful for you @Jason!

  4. Malaika Paul on May 1, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    This is right on time. Thank you. I started yesterday taking notes on subject lines that was attractive to me.

  5. Vicky on May 1, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Love these tips Nathalie! Since starting b-school I’ve realised how important email subject lines are and I’ve noticed that there are some emails that just make me respond no matter how busy I am (yours is one of them :) I love the tip on writing like a friend and the one on curiosity.

  6. Elloa on May 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Thanks Natalie.
    I notice that I basically always open emails from the same trusted people. A great email headline from someone I’m only lukewarm about still won’t get me as interested as an average subject from someone I trust and like reading with regularly.

  7. Virtual Assistant Info on May 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I usually take more time thinking of a subject line then actually writing the email. thank you!

  8. Nelly Odessa on May 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Love your advice Nathalie.

  9. Emily Sullivan on May 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for the video Nathalie. I never knew that including free would automatically spam it.
    Elloa, I totally agree! What makes me open something is knowing who it has come from. If I want to hear what they have to say Ill open it, every time.

    Nothing beats having a genuine message and building an audience that connects to what you are saying. That’s been my realization lately. And I want to be sending emails to people who will open because they want to hear from me :)

    See you at off the charts this weekend!

  10. Alexa Nehter on May 2, 2013 at 1:26 am

    AHA! Thank you Nat!

  11. Natalie Sisson on May 2, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Oh emails – love viewing them from a more strategic aspect and looking at what makes people open, what's makes for an open headline, and thanks for the heads up on free – eek broken that rule a few times. Great advice Nathalie Lussier.

  12. Tamisha on May 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Love these, Nathalie. :-) Awesome tips. Something I’ve found that works well too, is combining two things in my email subject line that normally wouldn’t go together to evoke that curiosity. Something that combines the personal with the abstract. Like “twisting my ankle and a breakthrough way to look at fear”.

  13. Keri Nola on May 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I just sent my first email out after watching this episode and the open and click rates are already up from average and it's only been an hour! Thank you for sharing your beautiful wisdom and experience with us, Nathalie!

  14. Corrina Gordon-Barnes on May 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for this, Nathalie.

    I included the word “free” in my subject title this week and Aweber marked it as 0 for spam rating. What’s your reason for recommending we don’t use it?

    Thanks in advance – and warm wishes from Cambridge, England,

    • Nathalie Lussier on May 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      If it got good open rates, then all the better. I’ve just seen that when I use the word free it doesn’t always deliver properly or get as good open rates. :) It could also be a combination of the word free with something like “Free trial” or “Free photos” or something like that. Right?

  15. Anneke Krakers on May 10, 2013 at 11:53 am

    My best subject line ever was "Invitation for a cup of coffee". Unbelievable ;-)

    • Sarah Jordan on March 30, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      I am learning so much from everyone on this thread :)

  16. Pat Harris on June 10, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for this post – it’s right on time for me. Just started a newsletter mailing list for my photography business and googled tips on doing it right and came up with your post. Read a few more things on your blog as well that were great tips (like the FB commenting plugin.) Thanks!

  17. Yvonne Radley on February 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    My top two are

    1: Are You Coming?

    2: Bad News…….

    • Sarah Jordan on March 30, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Oh wow, thanks for the great tips!

  18. Nathalie on July 26, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Had no idea about not using “FREE” in the email. Thanks for the tip. I’ve gotten much better at my headlines recently. I’m also making them playful.

    The last one was I wrote, “Are you lost in the jungle of weight loss?” had most people open it.

    Thanks for the tips,


  19. Anna on November 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I always find that emails hinting at something personal will get more opens. Everyone’s curious to find out personal stuff!

    • Sarah Jordan on March 30, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      I find that too, Anna :)

  20. Sarah Jordan on March 30, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the great reminders, Nathalie! Curiosity always does the trick :)