Writing Emails That Get Opened

Laptop with Gmail
June 17, 2022
4 min read
Article Contents

Did you know that over 60% of emails are reported as spam once they hit your recipient's inbox?

That means that only 30ish percent of our readership are actually seeing our content.

Do you know what the largest factor leading to writing emails that get opened or not is?

It's the subject line.

Every week when I sit down to craft this content, a variety of factors lead the direction I ultimately take.

Here are just a few things I ask myself:

  • What situations have I experienced this week?
  • What time of year is it, and what major events may be on the horizon?
  • What can I talk about that will bring THE MOST value to you right now?

From there, I decide on a topic and begin my process of mind mapping and content planning.

Sometimes the topics have been rolling around in my head for months and it's suddenly the right time to put pen to paper, other times, the topics may have only been with me a few hours before they become an article.

Regardless of how the creative process rolls for that week, I am always aware of my subject line and how that will impact your engagement with my efforts.

The Reason & Purpose for Emails

As we all write and receive emails for different purposes, the reasons why we open them can vary slightly but let's explore a few:

  • We know and trust the person sending the message.
  • There is urgency or timeliness tied to the information inside.
  • It is relevant to me and my interests.

A connection to the human, brand, or subject matter related to the message does account for a lot of the engagement rate with the content, but the other half is what is presented to you in the subject line.

What Makes a Great Email Subject Line?

Many of us don't give much effort to the subject lines we write (so long as they're "relevant"), but what if you thought of each email sitting in your recipient's inbox as a little advertisement - and your only job was to get them to click it?

In this instance, the subject line would be the delta between that person opening your message [right now] or choosing to open it later - only for it to be buried by other, "more important" emails.

Regardless of your reason for writing messages to others, you want them to be read.

Here's a few elements of subject lines that get opened:

  • Including a sense of urgency - like "Decision needed by 4pm"
  • Including an element of curiosity - such as "You've been doing this wrong"
  • Including an offer that can't be passed up - like "Lifetime access for beta testers"
  • Including personalization - such as "Joe, you're our top pick"
  • Including relevancy - like "Info before the conference"

If you can combine multiple elements in the examples above you stand to increase your open rates even further BUT be sure not to get too long with your titles!

Watch Your Subject Length

A subject line that exceeds 40+ characters not only gets cut off in most mobile email platforms, but also becomes more cumbersome to read for the user.

Instead, keep your email subject lines to about 30 characters and about 5 words, if possible.

Test Your Subjects & Save Them for Future Use

Tools like the Free Email Subject Line Tester from Omnisend are great resources to use when honing your skills and improving your email's open rate. (Side note: "Writing emails that get opened" scored a 92% in the tester above in case you were curious) 😉

Once you have some formats that work for you - many email platforms will allow you the ability to save their structure as a "template" or "snippet" to be used in the future or even shared with your team!

Bonus: Make Your Email Subjects "Findable"

How many times have you found yourself on the phone with a client, customer or donor when they say "oh hang on, let me see if I can find that email I wanted to talk to you about..." - only for them not to be able to find it easily.

As you think about your subject lines, make sure you are not only crafting them for opens, but also for them to be easily identified in a search - potentially weeks after it's been sent.

For example: "Board Meeting Notes - 1/2/2022" is greater than "Notes from last week's board meeting"

Here's to Higher Open Rates

Whether you are a marketer - crafting an eblast for thousands of subscribers, a customer support representative - writing to one client at a time, or a CEO - addressing their board of directors, you are now armed with the skills and the tools to increase your open rates, beat the spam box, and grow your engagements!


Thank you for reading and make it a great week!

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Dottie Rutledge

President, DR & Associates
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