How to write email marketing subject lines that get opened

From our previous article, “10 Proven ways to grow your email marketing list in 2023”, we have seen how to build a quality email list. We have seen what must be done so that our email will not land in the spam folder. We have also seen the best day of the week, and the best time of the day, to send an email.

So, let us assume our email has successfully landed in the recipient’s inbox! Is that a guarantee the recipient will open it? No!

Mostly, we do not open just any email that lands in our inbox. So…

  1. Which ones do you open?
  2. Which ones do you scroll over?
  3. Which ones do you open but do not read them?
  4. Which ones do you delete after reading?
  5. Which ones do you delete without reading?

As said earlier, whether you will open an email depends on the subject line, especially if you do not know the person. And there is data to back that: 35% of all email recipients make their judgment about the content of the email just by looking at the subject line. So, if the subject line is intriguing, if the subject line creates some sort of urgency, if it makes you curious, if there is some good offer in there, then the chance that you will open it is high, even though it might be the first-time receiving email from the sender.

We must, therefore, put in all efforts to make sure the subject line satisfies all the conditions (urgency, curiosity, offer, etc.).

How do we do that?

Below are some best practices that, when practiced, will help recipients to click the email and hopefully, read it–increasing your open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate.

Keep the title short, maximum of 10 words

Email subject lines get cut off when they are too long, particularly on mobile devices. With 46% of emails being opened on a mobile device, subject lines with fewer than 50 characters are much more likely to appear in their entirety for people scanning your emails on their phones or tablets.

As seen from the above screenshot, the subject line “How to Start Online Business in Ghana” displays clearly on a mobile device. Same as the email from YouTube–”You can now choose your YouTube handle”.

To make sure the subject line fits within the acceptable length, remove words that have no much impact on the message. In order words, try re-writing your subject line as much as you can so that it fits the recommended character length without losing meaning.

Personalize the email: Be human!

We are all getting fed up with the lots of emails we get bombed with daily. We see it as a general email that marketers broadcast. To stand out, personalize yours.

  • Instead of “Dear Sir/Madam”, use the person’s first name (e.g., Dear Kwame, or better still, Hello Kwame)
  • Make it conversational: Instead of “you are”, use “you’re”. Instead of “we have”, use “we’ve”.
  • Use local words that your audiences are familiar with: Words like “Charley”, “things hard”, “no be easy”, etc. Note: These words are okay for my audience (Graduates in Ghana) but might not be appropriate for someone else’s audience. You can also make use of local examples. For instance, instead of referencing a market somewhere in the US, you can use Kejetia. The baseline is, the more information you have about your subscriber, the more personalized the email can be.

Below is an example of an email I sent in late 2020.

“Techloo Mantey, this is your Online President.

2020 is finally folding up. Hureeeeyyy! Happy Xmas to you and your family, and how is the Xmas fever at Achiase?

Lemme ask this quick question: If you are to remember one challenging thing in the year 2020, what would that be?

Hold on, I can guess. Almighty Economic Crisis, isn’t it? :)”

As you can see, the content is personalized, and the tone is friendly (conversational). I have never met this person, but because I gathered enough information about him, I am able to address him by his first name, and I know where he lives at Achiase, Kumasi.

The Subject line must correspond to the content.

“When it comes to email marketing, the best subject lines tell what’s inside, and the worst subject lines sell what’s inside.” –

Yes, do not spend all your time crafting an intriguing subject line only to write a horrible or deceptive copy (content). Make sure you have both a great subject line and valuable copy (content) to match it. Your recipient will be disappointed if the subject line pushes them to open and their expectation is not fulfilled in the content (copy). They might mark it as spam, delete it, or will not open your future emails.

Start with action-oriented words or phrases.

These are words that tell the recipient to take some action or to figure out something. “Join us” is a typical example of an “action-oriented verb”. Another example is “How to…..”, or “Why…..” Such words will inspire the recipient to click.

Make people feel special

Sometimes you see certain emails that tell you “This is for the first 100 people”, “few clients”, “first subscribers”, “subscribers in Greater Kumasi.”, etc. When people feel like they are part of an inside group, they are more likely to open your message.

Create a sense of urgency

One study showed that subject lines that create a sense of urgency can result in open rates that are 22% higher. Using deadlines that communicate scarcity can encourage your recipient to act now rather than putting it off until later. Therefore, you may find “limited offer”, and “One-time payment if you buy it this month”, in some email subject lines.

Use numbers

Yes, use data, use facts, and use numbers in the headline. It works!

Example: headlines such as “This is why 75% of youth in Ghana are online” or “75% of youth in Ghana are online. What are they doing?”

Avoid the use of spam-triggered words.

Limit the use of words like “100% Free”, “x% Off”, “Wonderful”, “Special”, “Buy Now”, etc. Also, do not use special characters in the subject line. Characters like the exclamation mark (!!!,!!!,!!!!, etc.).

To conclude, once you decide to do email marketing, you must make sure your efforts are not in vain, by doing certain practices that will land the email in the spam folder. Follow the above practices regarding your subject line, and you will increase your open rate, click-through rate, and conversation rate. Once it lands in the inbox, the Subject line will determine whether the recipient will open it.

I hope you found this article helpful. You might also find the articles on my website ( helpful, especially those relating to How to Start Online Business in Ghana.

Author: Kaunda Ibn Ahmed (Online President) | Communications Team Member, Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana, Communications Team.

For comments, contact author | +233234809010.

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