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Email Writing Tips: A Tip for Savvy Subject Lines

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

One of the most helpful email writing tips is this:

Don’t cut-and-paste other headlines into email subject lines. Write a new and different subject line from the page you’re linking to – one that’s creative and colorful.

Email subject lines are a type of headline. And there are additional headline-writing specifics that go with writing a subject line: keep it short, be specific, write with urgency, and use your name in the “From” line rather than the name of your organization. (Get more Subject Line Do’s and Don’ts here.)

But you need to have a bit of fun, too, so that your email subject lines get the “Open” click.

How Email Subject Lines Are Unique

Email Writing Tips: how to get the "click" with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting

A web page headline (or a blog post headline) introduces content that stays permanently in cyberspace, waiting for potential readers to find it. These headlines also take search engines into consideration. The best ones include keywords associated with the site or the blog and summarize the content on the page. You could say that a web page headline or a blog post headline’s function is to help the page “get found.”

But an email does not live forever on the web (unless it’s in your archive … another discussion for another post.) It is a one-shot deal. An email subject line’s main job is to get the reader to open the email. Its function is to “get the click.”

That means an email subject line needs to be a bit different from a web page headline or a blog post headline.

Email Writing Tips: Don't Cut-and-Paste ...
Be Creative and Colorful

Let’s say you’re writing a weekly email to subscribers. The email content has a couple of teaser lines from your new blog post and then a link to that post on your website.

The temptation is to use the blog post’s headline as the subject line for the email. That is, simply cut-and-paste the headline, recycling it verbatim as an email subject line. 


Instead, be savvy. Make the subject line different. Make it fun. Make it personal. Be creative and colorful to get the click.

Look At An Example 

You write a page on your counseling blog titled, “Break Free from Controlling Thoughts.” The headline summarizes the page’s content – the ways readers sabotage themselves in their thought lives. You have discovered “break free” is a keyword phrase you want to use on your website to pull in readers, so you’ve included that in the headline. Since the information on the page is evergreen content that readers will search for and read over and over, the page title works.

If you’re like many writers, you use the blog post headline, “Break Free from Controlling Thoughts,” as your email subject line. After all, it summarizes the content.

But remember … unlike a blog post headline or a web page title, a subject line’s job is not to “get found” by summarizing content. Its job is to get the “Open” click.

Be different. Be fun. Be a good writer!

Try this: “Who’s the Biggest Control Freak in Your Life?”

That subject line makes me curious. Names come to mind – those who qualify as the biggest control freak in my life. I want to know if the answer in the email lines up with who I am thinking about.

So I click “Open.”

When it comes to writing email subject lines … don’t cut-and-paste to get found. Be colorful and creative to get the click.

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