How to get the best email subject lines

Great email subject lines get more people to pay attention to you. Let us give you some subject line ideas – or check out the guide to write your own.

Email Subject Line Generator

Choose a keyword category (Benefit, Topic, or Pain-Point), then enter your keyword. Then click "generate subject lines" to get a list of ideas for your next great subject line!

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Write your own

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What if you want to write your own email subject lines?

Our email subject line tool lets you get some quick ideas for email subject
lines based on proven templates…but what if you want more customization? What
if you want to write your own email subject lines?

In other words…why do these subject line templates work?

When we were building this tool, there were a lot of subject line templates we
couldn’t use – because even though they’re stunningly effective, they need to be
more customized for your business (and the specific email you’re sending). Here
are a few great subject line examples we had to leave out:

  • [Provocative question]
  • [Thing] = [Thing that it shouldn’t equal]?
  • Sick of [thing they’re definitely sick of]?

But you can use them. And customize the subject lines from the tool above. And
create your own from scratch.

How to

How to write great email subject lines

Why do people open emails?

  • They’re expecting your email (e.g. you’re delivering a lead magnet you
    promised them)
  • They trust and enjoy emails from you
  • Your subject line promises them something they want
  • Your subject line makes them so curious they have to click

You build your reputation as a sender over time. You build trust with your
readers by sending them great content that they love (and knowing exactly what they want to see</a >). This guide will give you…

  • 5 research-backed ways to write mouthwatering subject lines (this bullet
    uses 3 of them)
  • Why picking “weird words” can help people grok your emails
  • Another 11 email subject line templates that you can steal and customize

How to make people so curious they can’t not click

Have you ever heard of an “information gap?” The term comes from a 1994 paper by
behavioral economist and Carnegie Mellon professor George Loewenstein.
[0]</a >

More recent research supports this idea that curiosity comes from a gap – the
distance between what you know and what you want to know. [1]</a >

We’ll skip to the important part – 17 pages into his paper, Loewenstein lays out
5 ways that you can make someone else curious.


Here are the 5 ways you can make people curious:

  1. Ask a curiosity-inducing question
  2. Start a sequence of events, but don’t finish (e.g. an unfinished story)
  3. Violate expectations
  4. Imply that you have information they don’t
  5. Imply that they used to know something that they’ve since forgotten

Really, this is all you need. Take any subject line or headline, add a
few of the 5 methods, and you’ll make people more curious. Here’s an example
from a classic ad by the copywriter Eugene Schwartz</a >. Which headline is the most intriguing?

  1. How to earn half a million dollars a year
  2. How can you earn half a million dollars a year?
  3. Do you have the courage to earn half a million dollars a year?

The first headline uses Method 4 (imply you have info they don’t). It’s boring
and kinda scammy. The second headline uses Method 4 and Method 1 (ask a
question). It’s a bit better, but… The third headline adds something unexpected
(Method 3). It asks if you have courage. And that’s what makes it one
of the most famous ads of all time. If you want more examples of
headlines/subject lines that use these 5 methods, look no further than Upworthy</a > headlines like…

Upworthy has mastered curiosity gaps. Upworthy headlines start stories, imply
knowledge, and are most definitely unexpected (princess phase –> leadership
skills?!). Notice also – Upworthy’s stories are packed with emotion. Phrases
like “and it’s perfection” or “gut-wrenching” are powerfully emotional. Research
by Jonah Berger [2]</a > shows that emotional content is more likely to get shared, probably because
they make people more likely to take action. Emotions have a well-documented
[3]</a > in making decisions – and even though the action you’re going for is a “click”
instead of a “share,” amping up the emotion in your subject lines is probably
going to help.


How can you use all this to write better subject lines? Here are the three steps
you can use:

  1. Decide on the topic of your email. What are you talking about? What are you
    promising? What problem do you solve?
  2. Take that idea and run it through the “curiosity filter” (the 5 methods). Go
    through and ask how you can use each curiosity lever to make a more
    mouthwatering subject line.
  3. With your new subject line, amp up the emotion. Replace normal words with
    arresting, emotional words. (More on this in a second).

A word of caution – it’s easy to turn this curiosity filter into clickbait.
Instead of using all 5 methods at once (which is like using a sledgehammer to
bang in a nail), choose 3 and do them well. How can you do each of the 5
methods? Four of them are pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes it’s hard to be
unexpected. Let’s cover that next.


Why “weird words” in your email subject lines can help you snag eyeballs

Which is more interesting?

  • He walked through the door and sat down in the chair
  • He plodded through the door and sat down in the chair

The second one, right? It uses a stronger verb and tells you something about the
character. If you wanted to, you could probably even take it a step further:

  • He turtled his way through the door and plopped down in the chair


Weird words are a great way to snag eyeballs (notice we didn’t say “get
attention”). When can you use unusual language?

  • When you have a normal verb, make it a less common one
  • When you have an adjective, use a weird one (or substitute a stronger verb)

One of the fastest ways to amp up your language is to swap out normal
“placeholder” words like “easy” or “quick” with something more specific. Which
is more likely to grab attention?

  • 5 Quick Ways to Write Good Email Subject Lines
  • 5 Piece-of-Cake Ways to Write Succulent Subject Lines

Find weird ways to say normal things and you’re more likely to get attention
(and opens, and clicks). (Note: Will your audience know the word “succulent?” It’s usually better to
stick to smaller words</em >)

Brick-and-mortar words make your email subject lines intriguing

Did you know? Not all words are created equal. Some words literally activate
different parts of your brain. [4]</a >

Why did we say “snag eyeballs” instead of “get attention?” Why do we say
“brick-and-mortar words” instead of “concrete words?” Because, in your email
subject lines, it’s better to use words that people can picture. Why? Because
according to research [5]</a >…

  • People can understand concrete words faster than abstract words
  • People remember concrete words better than abstract words

If you hear “farmer’s market,” you can instantly picture a farmer’s market. You
do it without even thinking. If you hear “justice,” what do you picture? Maybe a
jail cell, a judge, or a gavel? But it’s not as easy to imagine, which means it
takes you longer to process and understand (and notice – the examples are all
still concrete images). Gary Bencivenga has been called the greatest living
copywriter. And when he writes headlines like this one</a >, you can understand why.

sl guide img 1

This could just as easily be an email subject line (Source, Gary Bencivenga</a >)

“Fuzzy dice” is peak concrete language. How can you not imagine a pair of fuzzy
dice?The stunning thing is that we don’t even remember what the secret is</em >! We just remembered the phrase “fuzzy dice.”Concrete imagery makes
your subject lines more intriguing – it’s one of the best ways to be more
unexpected with your subject lines.In their best-selling book Made to Stick [6]</a ></em >, Chip and Dan Heath lay out the key factors that affect memorability.

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • StorieS

(You’ll notice this more or less spells out “SUCCESS”). The
easier something is to understand, the easier it is to remember. And the easier
it is to pay attention to. And the more likely someone is to click on it.

11 more email subject line templates you can steal

The email subject line tool up top has dozens of subject lines you can take and
use right away. What if you want to customize a bit more? There are lots of
other email subject line templates out there, that you can use with just
liiiiitle bit of tweaking. Now you know how to write great subject
lines. So here are some templates to get you started.

1. The [famous person] of [category]

For example: “The LeBron James of carpet cleaning”

Compare a famous person to a category that they wouldn’t usually have anything
to do with. If you’re going to do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The person you pick is famous enough that everyone knows them
  • The category your pick is utterly unrelated to the person

You probably wouldn’t talk about about the Tony Anselmo of washing dishes. And
the LeBron James of basketball is…LeBron James. But who’s the Oprah Winfrey
of auto mechanics? What does that even mean? This is a quick way to be
unexpected and intriguing.

2. [Thing] = [Thing that it shouldn’t equal</em >]?

For example: “The LeBron James of carpet cleaning”

Compare two things that usually wouldn’t be compared. One of the two things is
probably your service or your product – the other should be something
completely unrelated. If you’re going to do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The two things are totally unrelated
  • One of the things relates back to your business
  • Your email actually makes the comparison

This is another fast way to be unexpected and intriguing.

3. The [weird name] technique to get
For example: “The “Fuzzy Dice” secret to exploding your

Give your solution to a problem a weird name. Put that name in your subject
line, along with the benefit people will get. If you’re going to do this well,
you need to make sure…

  • Your name is weird enough (unusual adjective + concrete noun is a good
  • Your benefit is specific
  • Your email explains why the technique has its weird name

Weird names with concrete images are a good way to build curiosity.

4. [Challenge / Provocative Question]

For example: “13 people couldn’t guess the winner. Can

Challenge your contacts to guess a winner or question something about
themselves. If you’re going to do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The challenge is specific
  • The challenge seems easy or short to complete
  • Your email gives the answer to the challenge

Challenges and provocative questions create an information gap. As long as the
challenge doesn’t sound like a lot of work, these subject lines can build

5. Why [good thing] is [not good]

For example: “Why your raise might cost you money”

Take something that most people consider good and explain why it isn’t good.
If you’re going to do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The good thing is (almost) universally considered good
  • You have a specific reason that it isn’t good
  • You share that specific reason in the content of the email

Questioning something that most people believe is a good way to grab

6. Why I turned down [thing everyone wants]

For example: “Why I turned down a free trip to Maui”

Name something that people generally want, and explain why you said no to it.
If you’re going to do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The good thing is (almost) universally considered good
  • You can connect turning down the good thing to your business

This is a simple way to defy expectations.

7. [One word.]

For example: “blah”

Make your subject line just one word. If you’re going to do this well, you
need to make sure…

  • You use it in moderation. This stands out because it is unusual, but it
    will stop working
  • The word is a little odd

One word subject lines are rare, so they can catch someone’s eye in the inbox.

8. Well, that [Meeting / Event] went well. (It did
For example: “Well, that dinner party went well. (It did

Name an event or occurrence. This subject line tells the beginning of a story
to build curiosity. If you’re going to do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The event you choose is as specific as possible
  • You connect why the event didn’t go well back to your business

Stories are intriguing, and this one is unfinished. Explain why the event
didn’t go well (and, potentially, why what you sell could make it go better).
(Credit for this subject line template goes to Laura Belgray</a >).

9. Don’t [Action]. Trust me.

For example: “Don’t work out at home. Trust me.”

Name an action that someone might consider doing, then tell them not to do it.
“Trust me” implies that there’s a story behind your advice. If you’re going to
do this well, you need to make sure…

  • The action is something someone might actually try
  • You have a story behind your advice

This subject line works by telling an unfinished story and being unexpected
(by telling someone a normal action is a bad idea).

10. You are [comparative] than you think

For example: “You are richer than you think”

Name a positive quality that people are likely to want more of. Then explain
why people actually already have that thing. If you’re going to do this well,
you need to make sure…

  • The comparative you choose is a positive thing people will want
  • Your email can explain why they have that quality

This is a clever use of curiosity Method 5 (imply someone has knowledge, but
doesn’t realize it).

11. [Say what’s in the email]

For example: “Get 20% off jeans”

Sometimes all the clever tricks in the world can’t match up to just saying
what you mean. Email subject lines are usually better as teasers than
summaries – but sometimes it’s worth being direct. If you’re going to do this
well, you need to make sure…

  • What’s in the email is relevant to your reader (not just about yourself)
  • You aren’t wearing people out (e.g. 10 “last chance” emails, constant

There are worse things than being clear. Test your direct subject lines</a > against your other templates to find the winners for your business.


[0] Loewenstein, G. (1994). The psychology of
curiosity: A review and reinterpretation. Psychological bulletin, 116(1), 75.

[1] Kang, M. J., Hsu, M., Krajbich, I. M.,
Loewenstein, G., McClure, S. M., Wang, J. T. Y., & Camerer, C. F. (2009).
The wick in the candle of learning: Epistemic curiosity activates reward
circuitry and enhances memory. Psychological Science, 20(8), 963-973.

[2] Berger, J., & Milkman, K. L. (2012).
What makes online content viral?. Journal of marketing research, 49(2), 192-205.

[3] Suri, G., Sheppes, G., & Gross, J. J.
(2013). Predicting affective choice. Journal of Experimental Psychology:
General, 142(3), 627.

[4] Papagno, C., Fogliata, A., Catricalà, E.,
& Miniussi, C. (2009). The lexical processing of abstract and concrete
nouns. Brain research, 1263, 78-86.

[5] Clark, J. M., & Paivio, A. (1991). Dual
coding theory and education. Educational psychology review, 3(3), 149-210.

[6] Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to
stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. Random House.

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