How to Write the Best Email Subject Lines (A 2-Part Recipe)

How to Write the Best Email Subject Lines (A 2-Part Recipe)

Hi this is Courtney Johnston from and in this video I’m going to teach you my 2-part recipe for writing the BEST subject lines.

The goal, of course,  is to get more people to open, read, and click on the emails that you send and none of that can happen if they’re not opening your email in the first place!

If you feel like writing an email subject line is a crapshoot, you’re going to love this formula.



Step 1 – Pick Your Poison

You’re going to want to grab a piece of paper to write this down. There are six main types of subject lines for you to choose from. Your first step is to decide which style of subject line will work best for the particular email you are writing.

The “poisons” are:

  • Specific
  • Benefit focused
  • Urgent
  • Pain focused
  • Curiosity
  • Shock

Let’s look at an example of each one:

Specific email subject lines tell you exactly what to expect and often have a number in them. For example, “The 5 habits of millionaires”

Benefit focused subject lines focus on what you will be able to be, do, or have as a result of opening the email. An example of this would be something like the email I recently got from the Zen Habits blog with the subject line, “Designing a well-lived life”.

Urgent subject lines are best used when the information you’re sending is particularly timely. On Black Friday, for example, your subject lines should mention black friday to add urgency. But it could also be something like “Limited time”, “Open me before X”, “Join me live now!”

A pain-focused subject line is useful if the reader is particularly motivated by reducing a frustration they have. I got an email from Denise Duffield Thomas recently with the subject line, “When clients say they can’t afford you…” which is definitely a BIG pain point that most entrepreneurs have.

Curiosity is perhaps my favorite subject line “poison”. The key here is to pique someone’s curiosity about a pain point, a desire, without giving away the details (but suggesting that they’ll get the answer when they open up). For example, questions are a great format to induce curiosity. So are ellipses at the end of a subject line!

And finally, shock. Shock should be used sparingly or else you’ll be labeled the boy who cried wolf. A shock email subject line is quite easy to write, however. You just have to say the OPPOSITE of what someone would expect or something OUTRAGEOUS. For example…

You should just quit.

I can’t believe I did this (shock and curiosity)

A million dollars in one day.

Coffee is killing you.

Part 2 – Brainstorm 10-20 options!

The only way to find THE subject line you want to use for a particular email is to brainstorm a TON of options mixing and matching the formats I just told you about.

Most great subject lines are a combination of 2 formulas. For example a curiosity

Writing copy takes practice but it’s honestly one skill you cannot outsource completely in your business if you want it done right.

Now that you have formulas for your subject lines, you might be wondering what to write in the email itself! Rather than telling you, I’m going to GIVE you the emails that I’ve sent during a successful launch in a free PDF I created for you because I think having examples is often even better than strategies! Get them here…

And finally, if you like this video, come on over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss the next one! Thank you so much for watching and I’ll see you in the next video!