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The right words in the right place

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The inbox is a competitive place. With so many emails jostling for your subscribers’ limited attention, it’s important that you make your subject line stand out – and get your email opened.

So, what works best?  There is no “silver bullet” to getting people to open your email, research indicates that, so far, there is no magical formula or golden combination of words that can guarantee an open. Sorry, everyone. What works best for a particular piece of content in one industry, does not ensure the same responses with another.

But after research into thousands of campaigns certain patterns and ‘Power Words‘ have emerged. 

So, what makes a “Power Word”?

While some words boost a subject line’s success when they feature as either the first or last word (eg. “Invitation”, or dates), others only provide a notable open % uplift at one end or the other of a subject line. This is in part due to grammatical correctness – for example, a pronoun like “We” or present participle like “Introducing” would seldom feature at the end of a sentence.

It’s important to make these distinctions, if only to highlight that word order (and context) matters. As much as it would be lovely to string words together and see your open rates go up exponentially, there are no shortcuts to the ideal subject line.

A shortlist of “Power Words” (Source: Campaign Monitor):

First word: Open % Change

Last word: Open % Change

Personalisation (ie. recipient’s name)











Your / You / You!



Year, eg. 2016







Month name, eg. June



Special / Specials






Sale / Sale!




Offer / Offers


How can you improve your subject lines?

There are a few trends that can be found by looking at these Power Words. These include:

  • Personalization rules – It’s said that a person’s favorite word is their own name and now, we have the facts to back this up. Without a doubt, subject lines that are personally addressed, do the best – just don’t forget to test! 
  • Personal pronouns work, too – Don’t have your subscribers’ names handy? The popularity of “We” and “You/Your” shows that subject lines that make some kind of appeal to the reader are more likely to get a response.
  • Make it timely – Another trend to note is that subject lines that feature dates, or urgency seem to perform better than those that don’t. Holding your subscribers to a date to act, or letting them know that you’re waiting on them (with say, “Invitation”) can be a very persuasive tactic.
  • Be exciting! Finally, we noticed while doing this research is that subject lines that end with an exclamation mark tend to result in more opens than those that don’t. While we don’t encourage everyone to go overboard with enthusiastic exclamations (!!), it’s certainly interesting to see how a little extra energy in your subject impacts email behavior.

We hope that this look at “Power Words” in email subject lines was as revealing to you as it was to us. 

Length matters

With more and more emails being opened on mobile devices, which typically show fewer characters of a subject line than a desktop, you may be wondering if your subject lines should be shorter to accommodate your on-the-go subscribers? Is there a secret to the perfect subject line length?

Every business and subscriber list is different, so the perfect subject line length depends on a variety of factors. It is possible, however, to get some intel into what length will work best for your campaigns.

We can share some actionable insights on how to determine the optimal length for yours. Read more…