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5 Email Subject Lines That Killed the Sale

Most people’s email inboxes are packed with notices about upcoming promotions and weekly newsletters, among all of the other social and corporate communications that take priority. And with average open rates as low as 10% in some industries, the subject line is incrementally responsible for permeating the chaos and getting your recipient to (intentionally!) click and carry through.

To help you improve your subject line writing skills, check out these five email subject lines that killed the sale:


I know what you’re thinking: Do people really still do this? The answer is yes. Take a gander in your spam folder and you’re bound to find a few of these ALL-CAPPED “gems.”

It may be tempting to capitalize certain words of your subject line or the whole kit and caboodle, but you risk getting your monthly newsletter or promotion thrown into an even lower inbox dimension. Take my heed on this one: The subject line DEALS FOR JENNY doesn’t really pique my interest or excite me to see what’s inside the email. If anything, my personal spam radar goes off and it’s an automatic delete.

Subject Line Lesson Learned: Use your inbox voice.

  1. The Overzealous Sender

Sale on Women’s Cardigans!!!

Sweaters are a cold weather wardrobe staple, and I may be in the market for a warm cardigan, but piling on the exclamation points is no way to entice your reader. In fact, much like putting your subject line in ALL CAPS, adding excessive symbols tends to have the opposite effect of getting prospective buyers to click through to your promotion.

If what you’re saying warrants excitement in the minds of your target audience, grab their attention by using active phrasing over excessive exclamations.

Subject Line Lesson Learned: A little punctuation goes a long way.

  1. The Longwinded Author

If your recipient can’t get a succinct representation of what your email covers from its subject line, they’re more likely to refrain from opening—once again stopping the sale in its tracks. Plus, with more individuals viewing their emails on mobile devices, this already slender window of opportunity is now even tinier.

Desktop email clients keep between 60 and 70 characters in view before subjects are cut off with dreaded ellipses, while some smartphones viewed in the upright position leave room for only as few as 30 characters.

What’s a marketer to do? Keep your lines in line by minimizing character count to create an impactful pre-opener.

Subject Line Lesson Learned: Write digestible subject snippets.

  1. The Repeat Offender

Sending the same subject line over the course of your email campaign is another serious no-no, especially if the line you’re using isn’t anything to email home about.

Your subject line should give the inbox owner a peek of what they’ll find inside. Lines that are consistently the same or that only vary in number (e.g., Newsletter #1, Newsletter #2) are more likely to be ignored.

These yawn-worthy subject shreds don’t draw me in to click, largely because I don’t know what I’m getting into. Plus, going with Newsletter #1 isn’t the best use of your available character limit. Whittle down to a phrase or two that sums up your newsletter’s most engaging articles instead.

Subject Line Lesson Learned: Every subject line is a unique, beautiful snowflake.

  1. The Counterfeit Reply

RE: That Time We Talked Before.

Yikes! Starting your subject line with Re: or FW: in an effort to get your potential customers to click is one of the ultimate ways to kill the sale.

Unsuspecting clickers are likely to be a bit peeved once they find out that you in fact haven’t had a conversation in the past. This category of trickery tends to turn off recipients to your promotions even more. It also increases the chances that they’ll unsubscribe completely right then and there.

Subject Line Lesson Learned: For your customer’s honest business, be honest with them.

Thinking Outside the Inbox

Writing a subject line that will get your subscribers to engage may seem like an impossible feat. But by putting some thought behind what you write and testing a few different versions, you’ll be leaps and bounds closer to finding the techniques that work best for your target audience.

Want more tips for strengthening your customer connections? Check out our free webinar 7 Secrets to Turning Prospects into Buyers with Lead Nurturing to learn how a lead nurturing campaign can help you motivate your subscribers all the way through the sales process.

Until next time,


—Jenny Prikockis is an Inbound Marketing Copywriter at Stream Companies, a full-service Philadelphia-area advertising agency.{{cta(‘1ddd21f6-81a1-41c2-bdef-da00c5262c23’)}}