15 Professional Email Subject Line Ideas

How many times do you receive an email, only to ignore it because the subject line hasn’t caught your attention? The email subject line is the first thing anyone sees when they look at their inbox and, when your subscribers receive numerous emails fighting for their attention every day, you need to make sure that your marketing emails aren’t amongst those which are binned for being, well, boring. Although we’re only talking about a few words here, those few words are well worth investing time and effort and reach perfection – after all, the content within is irrelevant if you don’t convince those recipients to click and open. Making some very subtle changes to your professional email subject lines can have a huge effect on the impact of your email marketing, and now’s a good time to learn just how you can make sure those email campaigns work for you.

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Not convinced that the subject line really matters? Your subscribers know you and know you’re sending content they’re interested in, right? Actually, no. Being familiar helps, but it’s not everything  – have a look at these stats to see just how important it is to tweak those professional email subject lines:

Reckon you’re up to the challenge of creating truly great email subject lines? Of course you are! You already (now) know that you need to personalize to encourage your email recipients to click, and optimize so they can do that easily on their mobile devices, and we have plenty more wisdom to share.

Get comfortable, settle in, and learn everything you need to know about writing professional email subject lines.

Here Are 25 Professional Email Subject Line Ideas That Can Bring Your Open Rates Through the Roof

In the second part of this guide, we will discuss the components which make up great subject lines, and make sure you get higher open rates and click-through rates – after all, that’s what email marketing is all about. For now, here are some excellent examples of words to use in email subject lines, as demonstrated by a variety of successful senders. Use these to get your imagination going, and ready to construct your own masterpieces for your next email campaign!

To get your content really noticed by your email subscribers, you will generally need to appeal to them on one of these five levels:

1.  Interest

Your primary aim when writing email subject lines that work is to appeal to your audience’s interests. Let them know how opening your email and, of course, buying your product or service can benefit them. Mix it up a little to begin with, as you work out what’s going to be most effective with your own email subscribers – maybe some very direct approaches, combined with some teasers which give just a hint of the delights contained within this email they really, really should open…

  • The Rules of X That Really Matter
  • How To Write Professional Email Subject Lines That Work
  • How To Write Blog Posts That Generate Sales
  • Start Using This New Email Marketing Type Now

email marketing subject line

The email above obviously appeals to those with a particular interest, but how about this one for some mystery? 

idea for email marketing

2. Recognition of birthdays and anniversaries

As a species, we love to be recognized and celebrated, so it fits that email subject lines which mention special offers for the subscriber’s birthday, or the anniversary of, for example, joining your email mailing list or purchasing from you, tend to draw people in.

example subject lines grammarly

According to research from Experian, birthday emails outperform pretty much any other strategy you may have in your arsenal, receiving:

  • 481% higher transaction rates than other email marketing campaigns and promotions
  • 342% more revenue per email sent
  • 179% higher click rates when compared to general promotional mailings

Timing is important, as always, and with birthday emails, in particular, reminders can be powerful marketing tools, given that people like to treat themselves for their special day. Reminder emails generate up to 20% more sales than the original birthday offer.

subject line example free

You can, of course, also draw customers in by making offers when your own anniversaries come around – show them they’re valued by including them in your celebrations.

email subject lines examples

Even a simple “Happy birthday X, here’s a gift for you” can be incredibly effective. 

3. Good Old Curiosity

Albert Einstein said “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”; Games of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin wondered “why is it that when one man builds a wall, the next man immediately needs to know what’s on the other side?”; and chemist Linus Pauling declared “satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life”.

Curiosity may or may not have killed the cat, but it certainly will get your email open rates through the roof. However, if you go too far with the mysterious professional email subject lines, your subscribers are likely to get bored, so use this one well, and use it sparingly.

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Baking Chocolate Cakes
  • How to Apply for a Credit Card and Get Approved
  • Your 10-Point Checklist for Moving into Your New Home
  • Our Software Updates That Will Make Your Life Easier

These are some of the curiosity-piquing email subject lines we’ve mentioned before as we outlined how to boost your email open rates, and the examples below provide some more curiosity-based email subject lines that work.

creative subject lines

Admit it, you want to know how to get a better car, no matter where you are, don’t you? People love this kind of thing, and your job as a creator of excellent email campaigns is to give them exactly what they want.

Curiosity doesn’t only work when you’re selling a product or service – have a look at this excellent example from charity UNICEF.

good subject line email

The prominence of the statement “water is opportunity”, and the call to action of “see what happened next” are prime examples of powerful words to use in email subject lines, and how the layout can really make a difference. Calls to action should never be underestimated either. 

4.  Fear of Missing Out

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is tied in with curiosity, with a leaning towards urgency. Generally, if there’s a sense of urgency, your subscribers will want to make sure they take advantage of your offer or invitation. Again, this is one to use sparingly, as “Last Chance!” email subject lines every week or so will soon start to look old.

creative email marketing

Perhaps surprisingly, the word “urgent” can put people off, while a general sense of urgency trends to draw them in. Some other examples of professional email subject lines along this theme include:

  • It’s Your Last Chance to X
  • It’s Now or Never – Don’t Miss Your Chance to X
  • Limited Stock – Act Now!
  • ICYMI [insert offer/story/news]

5.  Vanity

Even the most modest people love to feel special (see the section above about the effectiveness of birthday offers), and you can incorporate this by writing professional email subject lines implying that they are part of a select group. Exclusivity is more valuable than you may think.

  •  X, your VIP offer is here
  • 50% off for top subscribers today only
  • We love you!

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t necessarily need to include details in a professional email subject line – what could appeal to vanity more than simple, yet definite, declaration of love?

amazing subject line

Remember, it’s a good idea to work on your relationship with your email subscribers beyond just selling to them, so why not send an email purely to acknowledge your appreciation?subject line learning

6 Tips to Optimize Your Professional Email Subject Lines

Now that you’ve seen some examples of great email subject lines, you’ve probably started to think of some possibilities for your own future email marketing campaigns. Of course, the examples we’ve given you are just that – examples – it’s not a template that will work word-for-word in every environment. Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to focus more on news and communicating time-sensitive information, rather than appealing to your subscribers’ vanity, for example, so make sure that the approach you take is one which will work for you.

Chances are, you’re not going to get it perfectly right the first time, so the next section of this article will focus on how you can optimize your professional email subject lines for your specific audience.

1. A/B Testing

Although all of your email recipients will have one thing in common – they’ve subscribed to your marketing updates, blog posts, or other content – they’re also likely to have a lot of differences. Never assume that one email will work for your entire email list. With A/B testing, you can send tweaked versions of your mailings to different segments of your email list, using the resulting analytics to tweak some more and create email subject lines that work fantastically. For example, you may find that some of your email subscribers respond well to a conversational tone, while others prefer you to be more formal.

There are several types of A/B testing available when you use email marketing automation software, but each has the same end goal of increasing your open rates and click-through rates. Using regular A/B testing, you send different versions of your email to two groups of subscribers and use the results to inform your future digital marketing decisions.

Automation splits involve sending two different versions to a specific segment of your email list and using those results to inform how you communicate the information to the rest of your subscribers. This method allows you to try out a range of metrics as you test various versions.

Thirdly, you may opt to use API testing, where you set up some protocols and use email marketing software to assess the results. This option means you don’t need to continually review your results, as this can be automated.

email ab testing

2. Personalization

Never underestimate the power of personalization when composing a professional email subject line. Nobody wants to feel like just another entry on an automated marketing list – we all want to be recognized for the individual we are. When you use email marketing automation software, it’s very easy to personalize the emails you send out to include the recipient’s first name and add that little bit of connection that gets your email opened.

email marketing example

You can use software to personalize multiple aspects of your email, not just the subject line, but never forget that this is what your email recipients see first (and what makes the difference between being opened and being deleted).  

Seeing as we’re focusing on professional email subject lines at the moment, we won’t go into too much detail about the actual content of your email, but did you know:

  •   Almost 80% of millennials want their communication from businesses to come via email, and they expect it to be done well. This could be a massive proportion of your revenue either won or lost, depending on just how good that subject line is
  • You’re not exempt from writing great email subject lines if you work on a B2B basis – 86% of business professionals also prefer to communicate in this way
  • Segmented emails receive up to 100% more click-throughs than non-segmented email campaigns. This need for personalization and tailoring of content starts with your email subject line
  •  Different words work for different audiences, so try out a selection. Did you know that using the word “donate” in an email subject line could reduce your open rate by around 50%, for example? It’s time to get creative (or use the thesaurus). Brackets in professional email subject lines also tend to work well, by the way.

3. Always Add a Pre-Header

Unsure what this means? Well, there’s an easy boost for your email marketing campaigns straight away! A pre-header is the small portion of text which appears next to an email subject line in your email subscriber’s inbox and could be the make-or-break aspect when a potential customer is considering whether to find out what you have to say.

If you’re not already adding a pre-header, start NOW! Again, email marketing automation software makes it really easy to do, and a good pre-header plus a great subject line is a coupling which could result in many more emails opened.

email marketing preheader

A pre-header also contains enough information so that, if an email fails to load properly for some reason, the recipient can still get the general idea of what you were trying to communicate, and visit your website if interested.

Bonus tip: when you are creating your email preheaders, make sure to test how they will look on various screen sizes – at least on desktop vs mobile.

4. Embrace the Emoji

If you’re still considering emojis in email subject lines to be unprofessional, it’s time to think again. These tiny cartoon images could be one of the most important aspects of a great email subject line. Experian research has found that including an emoji in your professional email subject line could increase open rates by around 45%, and that kind of boost is definitely not to be sniffed at.

emoji marketing email

Of course, there are some rules for using emojis in your subject lines:

  • Generally, one is plenty. Sometimes, you may want to use a small selection, but don’t forget the words. As you can see above, there are plenty to choose from, but less is more
  •  Use A/B testing to find out if your subscribers like emoji use before you commit to it as a core part of your digital marketing campaigns
  • Always test to make sure your emoji displays correctly on various devices and operating systems before sending
  •  Learn from what you’ve done before, and keep tweaking those professional email subject lines – emoji or no emoji 

5. Use a Familiar Sender Name

People are more likely to buy from those they recognize – this is why so many marketing campaigns include celebrities – but you don’t have to be an Oscar winner or a world-class athlete to be recognizable. It could be as simple as using your name in the sender field of your email marketing campaigns, rather than a generic info@yourbusiness type address. Never use a noreply@yourbusiness sent address, as this does the exact opposite of fostering the trusting relationship you want with your subscribers. 

If you don’t want to use your full name, it’s fine just to use your first name. The importance lies in the element of personalization and familiarity.

active trail email marketing sender profile

6.   Avoid Clickbait

While you want to write professional email subject lines that will draw your recipients in, you definitely do not want to go too far and send clickbait. Email blacklists are the bane of a digital marketer’s life, and being reported for spamming (which clickbait is almost inevitably going to attract) can mean your hard work goes unnoticed as your domain gets blacklisted.

This means it is perfectly fine to inform your subscribers when you have, perhaps, a special offer running where they can avail of a 50% discount, but it’s less advisable to send email subject lines including words like URGENT, too many exclamation marks (!!!), or those instantly recognizable clickbait-type phrases such as “you’ll never believe what happened next!”.

email marketing dont

Using email marketing automation software, and the various testing options that are available to you can help you avoid this risk, as you’ll soon learn from analytics just what your email subscribers do, and do not respond well to. Hint: the image above is a prime example of what not to do.

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In summary, writing a professional email subject line is perhaps a lot more nuanced than you may have thought. You need to personalize it and add an element of familiarity while piquing your email recipients’ curiosity without inadvertently ending clickbait. And the occasional emoji is completely fine.

When you’re trying to find the delicate balance between hitting all of these sweet spots and getting it completely wrong, testing your ideas using email marketing automation software can provide you with the analytics and feedback you need to do it even better next time. Finding out what words to use in email subject lines, and which to avoid, can be a case of trial and error but, luckily for you, there’s some outstanding email marketing software to take the brunt of the effort from your shoulders.


Read more: 

8 Creative Ideas for Compelling Email Content

Everything You Need to Know About Email Marketing Blacklists

10 Converting Email List Sign Up Forms You Should Learn From