Get More Emails Opened with These 2 Simple Subject Line Strategies

Published on November 13, 2013 by
Use questions in subject lines to get them opened.

Use questions in subject lines to get them opened.

Recently I was in a LinkedIn discussion with some email marketers...

And the age-old question came up: "What type of subject lines get the most opens?"

Ah yes, it was only a matter of time before somebody threw it out there. Because let's face it--if your messages aren't opened, your messages aren't read or clicked through.

Which means all that work, all that research, all that strategy--BAM down the toilet, before it even had a chance.

So needless to say, subject lines are an extremely important part of your email. But what's the BEST way to write a subject line for maximum engagement?

Well, you'll get a lot of different opinions here. But while writing hundreds of different emails for dozens of clients in dozens of niches, I've found 2 things I can always rely on to generate more opens--regardless of the audience, product or service.

And here's the secret...with these strategies, it's not about the words, it's how the words are presented.

Yep--a properly structured subject line can elicit more responses than just your run-of-the-mill header. And here's 2 easy subject line structure tips you can implement right now to help boost your opens...

1) Ask a Question: Since we were toddlers, we've all been conditioned to respond to questions. If we're asked something, we automatically reciprocate--whether it's verbal, mental, or otherwise. It's how we're built. So why not utilize this same technique in an email?

I've found that reshaping a subject line into a question tends to drive more opens. If your subject line is a question, there's a natural human tendency to follow that with either answering or looking for an answer--which lies inside the email, and can only be accessed by opening.

I call this the National Enquirer effect. Once a question is posed, we've got to know the skinny. And we'll do anything (such as open an email) to get it. That's why these rags sell millions of copies every week in the Wal Mart checkout line. They entice the lookie-loos with a lot of question-based headers that DEMAND you open to find out more. And open they DROVES.

2) Use an Ellipsis: This follows along the same lines as the question tactic, but with a cool little twist...

An ellipsis, for those who aren't familiar, is those three little dots you sometimes see at the end of a sentence...(like what I just typed right there). This indicates that there's more to the story, something else left to say or reveal, and it can only be found on the next line...

So the typical reader's reaction is to follow those dots and look for the next line. And when those dots are at the end of a subject line...where do you think the reader will typically want to go next? That's right--the body of the email, which must be opened to be examined.

I love the ellipsis, because it's so simple yet so effective. And the reader has no idea they're being lured into an email--they just do what they've always been trained to do when they see one of these powerful little doodads. They FOLLOW it.

Of course, there's more to subject lines than just the format. I cover these extensively inside my Email Copy Made Easy program, which you can find in both a copywriter-focused version here or an entrepreneur-focused version here.

So next time you're struggling with a subject line, take what you've got, rework it into a question or add an ellipsis to the end, then watch what happens. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


Jay White Jay White is an email marketing copywriter, consultant, trainer and speaker who trains copywriters and online business owners on how to write sizzling hot emails that get opened, get read, and get click-throughs. If you want a FREE video where Jay reveals 5 simple tweaks you can make to your email copy to boost conversions and increase profits, click here NOW!


  1. Lynne

    Thanks for the insight. Will take this into consideration as I compose my next email!

  2. Jay

    Thanks Lynne--let me know how it goes! 🙂

  3. Fredrick

    Hey Jay,

    Thanks for the great information you provided in your article, I really appreciate it. I wanted to know the difference between your Email Copy Made Easy copywriter-focused version and the Email Copy Made Easy entrepreneur-focused version? Does the entrepreneur-focused version cover work you did in the Internet Marketing niche for your top clients?

    Kindest Regards,

    • Jay White

      Hi Fred--they're both very similar, except the copywriter focused version has some additional modules to help copywriters learn how to market themselves to those who need email copy services. The rest is pretty much the same. And yes, I cover a lot of the emails I wrote for clients in the IM niche, in both the course and in the extra video copy critiques I provide as a special bonus. Hope to see you inside soon! 🙂

      • Fredrick

        Thank you Jay for answering my question and I'm definitely going to purchase the copywriter focused version. Last but not least, is your Autoresponder Apprentice: How to Become a Successful Copywriter Without Writing Sales Letters the same thing as your Email Copy Made Easy copywriter focused version? I just came across your Autoresponder Apprentice course and wanted to make sure it's not the same thing as your Email Made Copy course because I want to purchase that as well.

        Kindest Regards,

        • Jay White

          Yes, they are essentially the same course. Your best bet would be to pick up the Email Copy Made Easy version, since it's been updated and added on to. Sort of a version 2.0. Good luck!

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