How to Write a Darn Good Email Subject Line


“Don’t **** with me.”

In an inbox cluttered with email, four mono-syllabic words nearly made me wet my pants.

That would’ve been embarrassing for a 32-year-old guy…especially when you find out what the email was about.

Why this short trip down memory lane?

I’ve got a purpose: to teach you how to write subject lines that stop people cold and make them lose their breath.

Great Email Subject Lines Rip Open Your Memory Bank

My reaction to that email was deep. It hit something very basic. Very primal.

Seductive subject lines do that.

It’s almost like a punch in the teeth. It jars loose old memories.

A good email subject line will remind you what it’s like to taste blood in your mouth. What it was like lying on your back, dizzy and nausea.

A good email subject line will remind you what it’s like to kiss a girl for the first time. What it’s like to swoon over a man.

Granted, it’s a fleeting moment.

Normal, healthy people’s BS detectors kick in after 4 or 5 seconds. By that time, though, it’s too late. They’re hooked. They want inside.

Great Email Subject Lines Tease

They want inside because you tapped into a deep, very human emotion. Fear. Greed. Pride. Love. Security.

It’s the great school yard taunt. The one you CANNOT back down from.

It’s the start of a proverbial strip tease. The one that promises a dancer in the cake.

Great Subject Lines Defy Expectations

The unbreakable law of the web applies to your inbox, too: people blaze through there like it were an autobahn. And they blaze on the autobahn to do one thing…look at billboards.

That means you have to break other rules.

Listen: most people expect you to approach them with your head bowed. They want you to grovel. Why? Because it’s easy to dismiss you.

“Pooh, whatever Mr. 14 Lazy Ways to Enlarge My Bank Account Legally. You. Are. Gone.”

And your email dies a quick death.

A great email subject line will buck that trend. It will assert itself and demand attention. When it swaggers by, your reader will be the one to bow his head.

Authority does that to people.

Email Is Not to Be Ignored

Email is NOT the backwoods cousin to blogging…

It’s a die-hard communication device that can give you the cold, hard facts about whether you wrote a damn good subject line or not. [Think analytics.]

You’ve won a significant battle when someone opens your email.

Whether you’re pleading with a state representative or wooing a prospect, that’s a good battle to win.

People inside your email is a good thing.

And by the way: this advice works equally well for headlines, tweets and envelopes. Just about any medium where you need to entice.

Conclusion to My Story

Speaking of being inside an email, when I opened the one I mentioned above all it said was, “I’m sick as a dog.”

Because of the “From” field I naturally knew who it was. Someone in the cubicle farm we loved to toy with constantly. Normally okay with our shenanigans, this time or buddy wasn’t. He wanted to be left alone.

And left him alone we did.

If you love what you just read, then subscribe to CopyBot. And follow me on Twitter or Google+.


  1. says

    Heck, if the headline of this blog post is pretty damn good!

    Great headlines has been essential for ages. It has sold out newspapers, and today it makes sure people actually read your stuff. Yep, you’re right.

    “Don’t f*ck with me.”