12 of the Best Email Subject Lines We’ve Ever Seen

Illustration by Mary Delaney Best email subject lines served on a platter.

Has an email subject line ever made you raise an eyebrow? Laugh out loud? Or simply curious enough to open an email?

Like me, you’ve probably spent hours crafting your email newsletters, perfecting your timing, topics, images, and CTA.

But what good is an amazing email if no one opens it?

Email subject lines can make or break an email. For subscribers who get tons of emails in their inbox every day, a funny, shocking or simply factual subject line can compel someone to actually open your email.

In fact, nearly 47% of email recipients say they open an email based on the subject line. Plus, 69% of email recipients say they report email as spam solely on the subject line, which can tank your deliverability rate.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything to improve your open rates, the issue might be with your email subject lines.

Below are some of the absolute best emails subject lines we’ve seen and why they work.

1. ⚡ FLASH SALE ⚡

This email title comes from eBags, an online retailer of luggage and travel accessories. They have some really creative email titles across the board, but this one is a favorite.

This email title stands out for a few reasons. It uses emoticons, which are visually appealing and still not too common in most email boxes. The title also leaves a little mystery. Well, how good of a sale are they having? The only way to know is to open that email!

eBags uses emoticons quite often in their email marketing. Here are a few of their more recent email titles.

Email subject lines.

Why it works: Using emoticons increases open rates by around 25%. They aren’t a quick fix, but they can make a good email subject stand out.

2. “Hey, VIP! You get early access to our one-day FREE SHIPPING event!”

This title is from online flower retailer ProFlowers. It hit inboxes at the end of January, which is prime time for ordering Valentine’s day flowers. (For more, check out: 4 Tips to Prepare Your Emails for Any Holiday Calendar Event.)

This email subject line works because it triggers FOMO, i.e. a fear of missing out. I only have ONE DAY? I should get on that! Shipping for flowers is often more than the arrangement itself, so free shipping is a tempting offer.

The exclamation points make it feel a bit more urgent, as do the caps for FREE SHIPPING.

A word of caution here: The overuse of ALL CAPS and !!!!!! can trigger inbox spam filters. (Here are a few more ways you might be triggering spam filters without realizing it.) This title carefully walks the fine line between looking spammy and excited.

Why it works: This email subject makes the recipient feel important while also highlighting a limited time offer that triggers FOMO.

3. “Unlock your review pages, save 25%”

Sounds a bit boring, right? Maybe, but it is still quite effective.

This email subject line comes from Vimeo, a video platform and online community for video creators.

Their recent email campaign aimed at encouraging users to come back and sign up for a paid plan. The reason this one made the list? It is straightforward and to the point. If you are on Vimeo’s list, you know exactly what you are going to get from this email.

Sometimes clarity is a good thing. There’s nothing better than clear communication.

Why it works: This title is to the point and doesn’t try to hide intent. If you have a good deal, flaunt it!

4. “No lights? No camera? Action.”

Taken out of context, this email subject line might not stand out. But it comes from Soapbox, a Chrome extension designed to help people record and share professional-looking presentations and videos.  

The email goes on to explain how users can use their tool to create professional videos, all without the fancy gear many video producers have.

Example of Soapbox email.

Not having fancy equipment is clearly a pain point for their audience, and Soapbox uses this simple email subject line to let subscribers know they have the solution.

Why it works: This subject line hits on a common pain point for Soapbox’s customers, and offers a solution.

5. “Your basket is having abandonment issues… :(“

This abandoned cart email subject line comes from Jack Willis, the British clothing brand.

Here’s the thing, most email subject lines are uninspired and, well, boring. While short, to the point subject lines can be effective, sometimes a little creativity and just plain fun can go along way.

The clever wording in this email subject line is an attention-grabbing way to remind site viewers to finish their purchase.

Example of Jack Wills email.

Why it works:  Cart abandonment emails are effective on their own, but the clever wording of this email title makes it stand out.

6. “Invoice like a pro: Get your invoices paid faster”

This email came from Quickbooks, the online accounting software aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses manage their books and grow.

The email gives subscribers a step-by-step process for setting up free bank transfers.

Example of Quickbooks email.

But the email subject line is a teaser. It makes subscribers want to know how can they get paid faster? It is a good hook that addresses the needs of any business owner.

Here’s the thing: you have to be honest if you use this type of teaser subject line. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. This subject line offers — and the content delivers.

Don’t use a spammy teaser subject line because people will lose trust in your brand. You may get a higher open rate today, but you lose in the end by damaging your long term relationship with subscribers.

Why it works: By offering a result that every small business wants, this email subject line makes people want to read more.

7. “A shipment from order XXX2016 is on the way”

Transactional emails, like this one from Shine Craft Vessel Co., earn 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email. More importantly, transactional emails can generate six times more revenue than other types of emails.

This email subject line isn’t particularly clever; it simply lets the customer know their order is on the way.

The trick? Don’t just automatically send customers their tracking number and be done. Include a way for your customer to convert again by linking to your store, like Shine does in this email, or include a “related products” section at the bottom of the message.

Example of Shine Craft Vessel Co. email.

Why it works: This email subject makes it clear it is a transactional email, so it’s more likely to be opened.

8. “[In Case You Missed It] Our best-performing blog post of all time”

How often have you heard  “Did you see…?” or “Did you read about…..” in the past week? With the rise of social media, information spreads faster than ever, and none of us want to be caught not being up to date.

This title plays on our desire to know about the latest trends, memes, and news.

Digital Marketer reported this email title had an open rate of nearly 22%, which is pretty impressive when the average open rate in the marketing and advertising niche usually hovers around 16%.

By leveraging FOMO, this email subject line encourages readers to read the email to find out what their best-performing blog post of all time is and why it is so awesome.

Why it works: Innately, people want to be a part of the crowd. We think “Well, if so many other people like it, I bet I will too!” Titles that play on this desire have higher open rates.

9. “What do yoga shorts have to do with honesty and kindness?”

This intriguing email subject line comes from Fortitude and Flow, the website of educator and coach Audrey Holst. She helps people build the life they want while staying balanced and present, so the quirky subject line fits her brand well.

The reason this one really works? It makes the reader curious. What in the world do yoga shorts have to do with honesty and kindness? Her emails are generally insightful and honest, so I knew this would be an interesting read.

Example of Fortitude and Flow email.

Why it works: Intrigue, plain and simple. If you can inspire curiosity, your subscribers will click. Just make sure to avoid bait-and-switch subject lines that don’t deliver on their promise.

10. “$50 For Your Thoughts”

This subject line comes from Frye, a manufacturer and online retailer of leather shoes and accessories. It stands out for a few reasons — clearly the $50 offer is enticing, right? But it is also a clever play on the “Penny for your thoughts” phrase.

The real secret to this email subject line? It is shorter than the average subject line. Sounds counter-intuitive, but the shorter subject line stands out! It makes the reader feel like their time is valuable and generates a bit of curiosity.

Take a look at this email inbox.

Emails in Gmails inbox.

Notice how the first five are around the same length? The subject lines that stand out the most is the shorter ones from David Sherry (also a great subject line, by the way) and Ibotta.

Why it works: This email subject line is shorter than average and uses a clever turn of phrase, which helps it stand out in crowded email boxes.

11. “Black Friday Sale! Up to 50% Off Sitewide.”

Sometimes, keeping it simple is the best strategy. This email from Incase, the online retailer of sleek computer cases, backpacks, and travel gear lets subscribers know exactly what to expect.

As simple as it seems, there is a secret strategy you might not recognize. “Sale” is an email subject line power word. In fact, using the word sale increases open rates by 23%. (“Save,” on the other hand, only gives open rates a 3% bump.)

Why it works: Power words convey more emotion and are different enough to stand out in an overcrowded email box.

Other power words or phrases to use for your email titles include:

  • Be the first
  • Forgotten
  • Sneak peek
  • Members only
  • Secrets
  • Extraordinary
  • Private
  • Unlock
  • Become an insider

12. “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”

This email subject line from the online deal finder Groupon has been included in several email title roundups in the last few years, and for a good reason.

This subject line perfectly nails the humorous vibe Groupon is known for, while explaining what the recipient can expect when they open the email.

Why it works: Groupon is known for being a little tongue in cheek, so this subject line is on brand. The touch of humor makes the subject line stand out, while the middle portion of the subject line lets the reader know what to expect.

Wrapping Up

If you have been struggling to improve your open rates, your email subject lines might be the culprit. Hopefully, the examples above will inspire you to write creative, engaging subject lines that will make your readers want to open your emails and read what you have to say.

Just remember to stay away from spammy practices, like using too many exclamation points, or using misleading subject lines. Your long-term email strategy should be to build a strong relationship with your list, not use gimmicks to get a good open rate on one email.

Ready to get started? Which strategy do you think will work best for your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!