Email, Marketing

6 preview text and email subject line best practices for higher open rates

Learn 6 preview text and email subject line best practices that get subscribers interested in opening and reading your emails!

Your email preview text (also known as the “email preheader”) and subject line are the first things subscribers see when they receive your email. And they help determine whether your beautifully written and designed email gets read:

  1. Write a boring email subject line and/or preview text, and your subscriber’s eyes may just glaze over. They may then skip reading your email.
  2. On the other hand, an enticing subject line and preview text may catch your subscriber’s attention and get them opening your email right away.

Naturally, you’ll want your emails to fall within the second scenario instead of the first. So read on to learn some email subject line best practices, along with email subject line examples and email preview text examples, to get your email open rates up!

How long should your email subject lines and preview texts be?

Here’s one of our top email subject line best practices for marketers running a professional email newsletter:

Keep your email subject lines short.

Absurdly long subject lines only turn off subscribers from reading your email—and can even make your email the subject of social media ridicule.

Just check out this Twitter user’s response to politician Bernie Sanders’s super-long email subject line, for example:

Based on a study conducted by marketing automation software Marketo, subject lines with up to 7 words, or 41 characters, are ideal. Here, anti-snoring device retailer ZQuiet’s email has only two words (“Box Breathing…”):

What about the preview text?

Email clients generally limit preview texts to between 40 to 140 characters depending on:

  • The email provider, and
  • Whether the subscriber is viewing the email from their computer or mobile phone.

So you’ll want to keep your preview text length within these limits.

3 tips for writing good email subject lines

Just writing a short subject line isn’t good enough to get people to open your email. Here are more email subject line best practices to maximize your email marketing success!

1. Ask the subscriber a question

There are two separate steps here:

  1. Phrase your subject line as a question. This is helpful for engaging the subscriber (and encouraging them to open your email). That’s because when you ask a question, people will feel an urge to answer it if they can. 
  2. Write your subject line using the second-person point of view. In other words, address the subscriber as “you” in your subject line for email. Doing so further engages the subscriber because you’re speaking to them directly.

Medical clinic Parsley Health has done a good job of executing both these steps in its email titled “Is it your hormones?

When subscribers read the subject line, they’ll think: “What about my hormones? Are they causing a health issue?”

And then they might just feel compelled to open the email to read more.

2. Avoid using spammy phrases

Some words and phrases have become so overused by spammers that email subject lines containing them are more likely to be seen as spam.

According to email platform ConvertKit, such words and phrases include:

  • “Free”
  • “Exclusive”
  • “Unbelievable”
  • “Sale”
  • “Limited”

Email clients are trained to detect spammy words in subject lines. They may then block your email from reaching your subscribers’ inboxes. If so, your email will never be read. Ouch.

But even if your email does make it past the spam filter, subscribers may take one look at your dodgy-sounding email subject line—then delete your email.

And the end result is the same: your email doesn’t get read.

Therefore, for professional email subject lines, avoid using such scammy words if you can.

“Even if you are selling something in your email, try to write your email so that it sounds human and conversational,” advises ConvertKit.

3. Tap on FOMO

FOMO, also known as “fear of missing out,” leverages humans’ natural urge to make use of an opportunity before it’s gone forever—especially if the people around them are doing the same.

It’s therefore an effective tool for spurring on your subscribers to read your email and learn what they’re potentially missing out on.

This email subject line by jewelry retailer IDYL provides a solid example of FOMO at work: “Almost completely gone…

The subject line hints to subscribers that something is almost completely gone, so they’ll have to get their hands on it soon if they want it.

But what exactly is this “something” in the first place? That’s where subscribers will have to read the email to find out!

3 tips for writing good email preview texts

The preview text is the next thing that subscribers will see after your subject line. Don’t let a good subject line be ruined by poor preview text—use these three tips to make your preview text compelling!

1. Elaborate or expand on the subject line

Writing a short subject line (as discussed above) has its disadvantages. For one, you might not be able to share as many details as you’d want to.

But that’s where you can take advantage of your preview text to expand on your subject line.

Take this email from freelance writer community Peak Freelance, for instance:

Its subject line is “The R word,” and it follows through with preview text that reads “Will you lose clients in the recession?”

By itself, the subject line of “The R word” is pretty ambiguous. (Maybe even intentionally so.)

It’s only when you read the preview text that you realize “the R word” in question here is “recession.”

2. Pique the subscriber’s curiosity

When you ignite curiosity in your subscribers, you create an itch they might not be able to scratch unless they open your email.

We especially like the preview text for this email by The Milk Road:

The cryptocurrency newsletter has titled its email “🥛 Inside FTXs leaked numbers👀” and provided preview text that goes: “Revenue grew by how much?!🤯”

First, the preview text says that the revenue of cryptocurrency exchange FTX grew. Revenue growth is a good thing, but it might not be enough to get subscribers curious about learning more.

Which is why The Milk Road then goes on to vaguely say “by how much?!” followed by an exploding head emoji to suggest that the revenue growth was a lot.

And to find out the exact numbers…you’ll have to open the email to read it!

3. Dangle an offer

Discounts, free items, free shipping—these are tried-and-tested offers that help generate sales. They work well for improving email open rates too! Just pop them in your preview text to tell subscribers about them.

Here’s an example of email preview text from women’s wellness product retailer Love Wellness that illustrates what we mean:

The email’s subject line says “Detoxing. Can you do it?” and gives no indication that Love Wellness has a special offer.

But the preview text of “We have an easy option + a free gift!” does! And when subscribers read that, they might just open the email on the spot to learn what free gift is up for grabs.

Email campaigns made easy with the PosterMyWall Email Maker

Found these preview text and email subject line best practices useful? Here are more articles on the Gradient blog that can help you send more impactful email campaigns:

As for writing and designing your emails themselves, use the PosterMyWall Email Maker to create your email campaign! It’s got tons of beautiful email templates that you can customize to your heart’s content in a user-friendly design platform.

It’s free to start creating emails with the PosterMyWall Email Maker. So go on, give it a try. We can’t wait to see the stunning emails you make!