First impressions count. And this definitely applies to the subject lines of mailings as well. 47% of users state the subject line as the reason for opening an e-mail (source: Chadwick Martin Bailey). The subject line, being the first impression or teaser of an e-mail, lets the reader decide whether it is worth the time to open and read the e-mail or not. In crowded mailboxes, a crisp subject line is the eye catcher that leads your customers to open exactly your mail. A good subject line increases the opening rate of a mailing, so its effect is undisputed.

Basics and the 2-2-2 Formula

These basic rules for writing subject lines are of course well-known to copy writers and online editors:

  • Keep it short and get to the point.
  • Clarify the relevance your mail has for your user.
  • Design your subject line adaptive to ensure that they are fully displayed in the mobile version.
  • Arouse curiosity: Put questions into your subject line that leave the reader curious about the answer, start a dialogue and generate interest.

But have you also heard of the 2-2-2 Formula for subject lines? 2-2-2 stands for “2 seconds“, “2 words“ and “2day“. “2 seconds” is the time that your subject line has to convince your readers to open and read your email. It is all the time recipients take to make their decision whether they are going to read or leave your mail. Keep that in mind when writing your subject line and ask yourself: Can I read and process this in 2 seconds?
“2 words” means that the first two words are the most important ones. They should form the core of the message, because those two words are the first to be read and they can shape a recipient’s mind. If they are trivial, you may risk that they are the first and the last two words your recipients will read.
With “2day” the formula underlines that you have to make clear that the recipients need to read the mail now and today. Signalize a sense of urgency and incite your readers to open your email at once! If they plan on reading the mail later on, it is highly possible that they will forget about it and it will just slide further down the inbox with newer messages arriving and piling on top of yours.

Think outside the box

Subject lines such as the following are based on a specific pattern:

  • Service XY: Discover great offers now!
  • Our highlights in august: come take a look!

Of course, you can play it safe and create your subject line according to the book. That may even have worked out quite well so far. But thinking in fresh ways can turn out to be surprisingly rewarding. With humor and creativity you will achieve a quick effect and formulate appealing subject lines. Use for example puns, allusions, or even visual elements to stand out from the homogenous mass of subject lines. But whatever you do: keep the 2-2-2 Formula in mind. Because even when you come up with something new and creative, clarity and comprehensibility will always stay important.
Emoji attract attention – just as much in subject lines as in any other written media. Why not use the colorful and funny icons for your mailings? Compared to subject lines that only consist of text, subject lines with emoji generate up to 56% higher opening rates (source: email Uplers).
Think outside the box in order to stand out of the masses! Make it abundantly clear that reading your mail is urgent and well worth the while. This will help achieving the results you wish for.

Score with specific and personal subject lines

Take a look at these example subject lines:

  • Subject line 1: Marketing tips for your business!
  • Subject line 2: 7 helpful tips on social media marketing for your B2C business!

Which one appeals to you more? The second version specifies the content of the mail and is thus bound to be more appealing to most of your recipients. The subject line needs to reflect very clearly what your readers can expect from the mail’s content in order to trigger their interest. If you only mention “marketing tips”, the readers have to actually read the mail to figure out if its content is relevant for them or not. There is no shortage of different marketing topics and marketing experts cannot and do not want to inform themselves about each specific area. It is the same in other subject areas. The subject line offers the possibility to address specific interests.
In addition to more specific subject lines, more personal subject lines bring you an advantage as well. When the recipient feels personally approached, ignoring the email becomes less easy. Non-personalized subject lines easily convey the feeling that this is a mass mailing and not especially targeted to the person. Address your recipients by name or their position in the company, so they will notice that this message is especially directed at them. Subject lines can easily be personalized using our Realtime-Marketing-Automation-Technology ELAINE.


Subject lines are the headlines of your mailing, the eye catchers in recipient’s inboxes. They need to be short, comprehensible, personal and specific. Subject lines are a determining factor for the improvement of the opening rate of your mailings. Of course you don’t have to consider each single tip for each single subject line. Use our tips as a sort of guideline when handling with this little yet significant part of your mailings: the subject line.
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