10 Tips for Writing Better Email Subject Lines

Use this collection of tried-and-tested techniques to turbocharge your delivery and open rates of emails you send to journalists. 

The email subject line determines the first impression that journalists get from your press release. While there is no one golden rule for crafting a perfect subject line, we’ve prepared some tips that will help you bypass spam filters, attract the attention of recipients and possibly increase media exposure. Keep these in mind when it’s time to put together your next email.

Don’t go crazy with the length 

The science of writing a subject line proves that getting the best results means keeping it short. As most desktop inboxes display up to 60 characters, six to eight words length should be the target length. More and more journalists in their daily (field) work use mobile phones, where only 25-30 characters are visible. 

Taking these numbers into consideration, industry researchers repeat that subject lines of less than 50 characters have significantly better open and click rates than longer ones. To create a succinct subject line, try to be laser-precise, delete extra words, often adjectives and adverbs, limit punctuation marks, and throw out pieces that can be included at the beginning of the email body, such as Hi. BTW – there is no need to add “RE:” to every reply.

Use urgent language wisely

Psychologically, in the informative era, we indeed face a FOMO syndrome, fear-of-missing-out. Nonetheless, when pitching media with a press release, use urgency language strategically, i.e. only in cases that really need immediate action. This works best, for example, when sending news with an embargo to selected VIP journalists before it’s released to the public. You can also try setting a deadline in the subject line, like Reply by Tuesday

Remember that media continuously fight for a good piece of content on their own and to be the first with online publication, so there is no need to intensify everything without pragmatic reason. Also, don’t let the subject line become too click-baity just because you’re fighting for attention.

Don’t replace words with emojis and always align with Tone of Voice

Hexadecimal symbols are not often used in subject lines, so they can distinguish your message in a journalist’s inbox. This shouldn’t be an excuse for overusing them, though. They should always correspond with the tone of voice of your brand or organization as well. If you will remain compatible on this level, over time your recipients will understand your communication flow and be more willing to open the message.

The idea that emojis should replace written words is not something we want to encourage. Symbols can visualize written words, but in subject lines, they should precede or follow the word they indicate. Otherwise, we create a kind of puzzle that can be distracting, incomprehensible or deprived of all meaning.

You might be interested to know that studies show that 🎁,⭐,❤️,👍 and 😊 emojis can convince people to open. Yet different categories of symbols work differently in different parts of the world due to… different cultures, food or other factors. You should know, then, who you’re targeting with your press release.

Don’t trigger spam filters with your vocabulary

Spam filters are always on standby, waiting to block content that is too salesy, with terminology from finance, marketing and urgency words in the subject lines treated as especially unwanted or harmful. The worst thing you can do is create a press release that never even makes it to a journalist’s inbox. In addition to spam filters, some email clients also redirect some messages to a “Promotions” tab, where they usually die in obscurity. These are all reasons to avoid spam-triggering words when drafting a subject line. 

The email distribution tool in Prowly contains a safeguard that highlights forbidden words, allowing you to fix them before clicking the SEND button.

The good news is that spam filters have become more sophisticated, reading both your subject line and email content in context. They won’t block a message if the usage of some words is explained in the topic covered and the industry it relates to. Exaggerated, pushy or shady claims surely won’t help you get noticed so avoid them altogether.


Build curiosity and reward it in the email body

Communicating everything in the subject line won’t increase your open rate. But overpromising and not delivering valuable content in the message can hit your reputation and make journalists ignore your brand. Use vibrant verbs to attract attention and start a subject line with keywords that highlight the value your press release offers. More detailed vocabulary should be left for the second part of the email title or even moved to the preview text. On the other hand, if you remain enigmatic and vague in the subject line, recipients will think that nothing satisfying waits for them inside.

If you provide recipients with a solution to their problem, consider using a question that they can ask themselves when trying to solve it. How-to subject lines effectively grab attention, especially when the email is targeted solicitously. Trendy topics in the news in some countries or particular industries, with real-time marketing references, can boost the open rate even more. Simultaneously, we highly recommend not cutting a sentence in the middle of the subject line in order to finish it in the email body. That’s just annoying.

Consider a personal touch and sensory language

If you’re building a strong relationship with a journalist, adding a personal touch to the subject line in the form of his or her name can increase your open rate. Prowly allows you to easily personalize mass emails sent to hundreds of journalists worldwide, using their contact properties and keeping the content consistent. 

Additionally, sensory language can activate empathy, sensitivity and altruistic attitudes which can translate into higher readability of your content. When a media representative knows you, sensory wording can make them feel what you are writing about. Triggering such experience and emotions skyrockets engagement, but don’t use CAP LOCKS TO YELL! SERIOUSLY, DON’T DO THIS!

Everyone prefers to converse with a human, too, so use a familiar sender name and email address containing… well, your name. We react to emails sent from general company addresses like kids react to vegetables.

A call to action with commands

You can rearrange your news title in a way to encourage recipients to take concrete steps. This goes beyond just clicking on the message to changing real-life behavior or habits. For example, the already great title “Mower with record low energy consumption shipped” can perform even better like this: “Save money and energy with a world-class mower”. 

Motivate through the magic of numbers

Statistics and percentage values are always effective and this won’t change. Remember to always use the numbers needed to stress the press release’s essence. If you share solutions to change your recipients’ lives for the better, implement some magic and go for “Fix your subject line with 10 useful techniques” or “10 tips for crafting masterpiece subject lines”.

Double-check the subject line before distribution

Some people often copy-paste emails, changing their particular parts, or write content in a hurry. We are not robots, so always double-check to make sure you haven’t made any grammar or spelling mistakes. Experts underline, though, you can break certain language rules regarding articles like an, a and the while still retaining the clear meaning of the sentence in the subject line. 

Use your second chance—the preview text

Recipients see a preview text, like the subject line, in their inboxes before clicking. If you haven’t persuaded them with a title, the preview can do the job, so ensure both parts work together. Furthermore, you still want to motivate media contact to open your message, so don’t create just an essential summary of the email content. Built curiosity even more.

On desktop email clients the preview length is sometimes determined by the length of the subject line, while on mobiles it is usually displayed under the subject. We recommend writing at least 40 characters in the preview, so the beginning of the email body won’t be included. Writing too much, of course, will result in the preview being cut in the middle of the sentence. So just as in the case of the subject line, start with the most important information and then move to the details.

Implementing all these tips at once might be impossible, but always adjust them to the context of the press releases and messages you write. Segmenting recipients and optimizing the content to all groups in separate emails will also help you increase your open rates. Talk to recipients with their language, as some phrases can work, and some won’t trigger any reaction at all. Finally, experiment, test, and measure the success of all activities to make significant progress over time.