9 ways to write an irresistible email subject line no one will be able to ignore

Anna Kholina/Strelka InstituteYou might already know to avoid writing your emails in all caps or otherwise sounding like a spam filter. But, what should you instead include?
  • You might be wondering how to write an effective email subject line.
  • There are several ways to take a subject line from so-so to excellent.
  • Experts told Business Insider that getting specific, like including a deadline or how you know the person you’re emailing, is important.

A boring email subject line might mean that your email will never be read.

“You do have to grab enough attention with the subject line to make it worth your reader’s time,” Marc Cenedella, CEO of Ladders, told Business Insider.

You might already know to avoid writing your emails in all caps or otherwise sounding like spam. But, what should you include instead?

Business Insider asked experts to understand the key components of any email subject line – whether you’re emailing a coworker or a potential mentor. Here’s what they told us to include:

A verb

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If you’re getting a request from a potential connection to get lunch, you’re more likely to be interested in “Let’s grab Thai food” than “Networking lunch request.” Begin your subject lines with a verb rather than a bland summary of your request.

“Subject lines that begin with action verbs tend to be a lot more enticing, and your emails could be drastically more clickable by adding a vibrant verb at the beginning,” suggests HubSpot.

“Your subject line should always state exactly what you want as a way to grab attention,” career coach Judge Graham told Business Insider.


Rachel Premack/Business Insider

Dmitri Leonov, cofounder of email assistant tool SaneBox, suggested adding tags like [Time Sensitive], [Urgent], or [Action Item] at the beginning of your subject so your recipient knows just what the message entails – and how urgent it is to reply.

As a caveat, don’t tag all your emails with these, especially if you don’t know the person you’re messaging. The 13th “urgent” email that week about, say, the office’s new dishwasher brand is going to be ignored.


Rachel Premack/Business Insider

NNTO means “no need to open,” while EOM means “end of message.”

If you just need to send a quick, casual update to your team or a connection, Leonov said this tag is a great addition to a email subject line. Just write what’s important in the subject and leave it at that.

Some workplaces might prefer to send this sort of note over a messaging app, like Slack, instead of fill up people’s inboxes. But if your workplace is email-reliant, this might be a useful tip for you.


Rachel Premack/Business Insider

There’s a reason why magazines, newspapers, and online outlets love publishing lists (like this one!). The human brain typically memorizes and learns information through categorising it in lists.

And a list-based email subject establishes from the beginning what the reader can expect to understand as a result of reading your message.

These sorts of subjects “provide enough eye-catching micro-details to make recipients take notice, draw interest and send a response,” Graham said.

A shared connection

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People are more likely to help you out if you’re from the same hometown, went to the same university, or have some other shared connection.

As a bonus, your knowledge of their background shows that you put in the effort to research them – you’re not just messaging them out of the blue.

A compliment on their work

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Cenedella highlighted this tactic as one of the most effective if you’re emailing someone out of the blue.

“The article, the talk, the video, the new product blog post -something about this person, company, or team caught your eye,” Cenedella said. “If you can make an authentic connection to their work, your email will be more powerful.”

The other person’s name

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As Dale Carnegie famously said, “There is nothing sweeter than the sound of one’s own name.”

You probably know that saying a person’s name while talking to them is a good way to get them to like you more. Not surprisingly, using a person’s first name in an email increases the likelihood of them opening the message, according to marketing software platform HubSpot.

A date

Rachel Premack/Business Insider

Noting a deadline or date in the subject line is a good way to encourage the email’s recipient to open your email right away, instead of ignoring it for a few days.

“Include an incentive or other gentle pressure to get them to reply,” Leonov said.

Key words

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Leonov said it’s important to make sure your email can be quickly picked up when your colleague is searching for the note in a few days or weeks.

“Making the subject specific and descriptive will make it easier to find later,” Leonov said.

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