How to Properly Evoke Emotion with Your Subject Line

Tara Crutchfield | Senior Writer, Article-Writing.co

Posted On: July 19, 2017
Who would ever think that an email subject line was so important? Well, anyone familiar with email marketing content writing who has ever not gotten a response back and been ignored, might have a clue.
Author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller,  Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Ann Handley remarked,
“Writing doesn’t have to be long to be meaningful. I’d argue that the words we use everywhere – on our websites, on our landing pages, on our LinkedIn profiles and so on – are just as important as the words we use in places we typically think of as ‘writing.’ ”
Email marketing content writing is important, like really, really, important. A statistically significant, 66% of people will make a purchase due to an offer or message sent via email marketing content writing, and 35% of people will decide whether or not to open that email based on the subject line.

How frustrating, to write a beautiful email that you’re sure will be a hit with its readers with a great offer or important information inside, only to find that you don’t have any readers because your subject line stinks.

Think of your email subject line as the introduction to a Broadway show. Which of these two shows would you be most likely to see, after hearing the following introductions?

“Here’s Broadway show X, come see it.”


“Introducing the tear-jerking Broadway drama of the year, with a twist so juicy you won’t see it coming, show X!”

Most likely, you’re dying to see the second one, right?

But why?


The most intrinsic part of being a human is emotion. Emotion determines how we act and respond to the stimuli around us. That extends to even the most mundane experiences like deciding to click open on an email.

Let’s take a look at the different emotions that elicit response from readers, how to execute them, and some to avoid using altogether.


Excitement and joy

The example used above about the Broadway show had an element of excitement to it. It gave the reader something to look forward to when considering seeing the show.

Using excitement or joy as emotional elements for your subject line is great for generally good or helpful news or content.

You want to engage your readers in an exciting way through your subject line, but how?

  • Make your subject line THRILLING! Don’t be scared to use an exclamation point or caps to top off your exciting intro, but careful not to overdo it. There is a huge difference between:

Simply delightful looks that are MUST HAVES for this summer!



The latter takes it from exciting to aggressive.

  • Consider your word choice. Use words that promote excitement and anticipation, like:






  • Excite your readers for this moment.

Independent consultant and one of Entrepreneurs 50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2016, Jordie van Rijn said it best


“Attention is always real-time. You don’t have to create the most interesting thing ever, just the most interesting thing at the moment.”
Apply this to your subject line method and keep their attention by using an offer or comment on something relevant to now, not down the road.  Use present tense when discussing the content of the email (this, now, current, today, etc.).



Urgency and excitement can go hand and hand, the difference between the two being the reaction from the reader.

Creating a sense of urgency to open your email through your subject line can be done by using strategies that include limited-time offers and time sensitive material.

Your reader should see the subject line and feel the need to open the email lest they miss a crucial opportunity.

There are two different ways to increase urgency by tweaking your wording.

The first, is a straightforward message within the email, telling the reader the content requires their attention.


The second wake is to evoke this response is to use vocabulary and tone to show or make the readers feel the urgency of the email.




In his, The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation, George Loewenstein discusses what is known as “the curiosity gap.” The gap he talks about is that space between what we already know and what we want to know.

Use curiosity in your subject line to present that gap, giving a substantial reason or draw to open it, and then bridge it with your email marketing content writing.  

When composing a cleverly curious subject line, keep it relevant to your readers and make them care and wonder about the content of your email. One way to do this is to employ two elements that aren’t normally associated with one another:

What a cat can teach you about achieving the writer’s life”

The mere thought of a cat teaching you something about writing is both humorous and open-worthy.

It’s important to be specific to really peak the curiosity of your audience. For example, who cares about something this vague:

“Can you deal with these?”

These what? Why should we care about “these”?

Do not click-bait your audience, though. Whatever has them wondering from reading the subject line, should be clearly in the email, otherwise you’ll just leave them feeling mislead.


Photograph via Pixabay

Exclusivity and self-interest

Top social media influence and founder of A Real Change International, Inc. and Sandpaper Tablet, Inc., Sandy Krakowski says,

“Lead people with what they want. – Lead with what they’ve already said. – Lead people from where they’re at. – Lead them with the things that concern them.”
Drawing a line from her quote to how to craft an emotionally compelling subject line, your email marketing content writing should keep your reader at the forefront of their mind.

How do you appeal directly to your reader?

  • Make it about them by speaking directly to them

“Facebook’s New Pixel: What You Need to Know”

“Become a Certified Digital Marketing Professional”

“3 wicked AdWords tactics to increase your ROI”

  • Offer them something exclusive that will provide them value

“Google Compliant Landing Page Checklist [Download]”

“[Flash Sale] A 7-Step ”Paint By Numbers” Process for FB Campaigns”


Subject lines emotions and mistakes to avoid

  • Boredom – “Content Marketing Advice”
  • Aggression – “CONTENT MARKETING ADVICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • Misspellings and grammar problems – “Contant Market Advce”
  • Misleading subject – “These email marketing tips will change your life!” (email is about social media marketing and doesn’t mention emails at all…and subsequently won’t change your life)
  • Emoji Overload –“ 👍😁💅😎👽🎃 Check out these cool tips!”
  • Vague language – “Get Advice on This Thing”


Photograph by Tumisu via Pixabay

Let an expert in email marketing content writing take it from here

A subject line can pull at emotions, stirring excitement and curiosity or providing exclusivity with urgency for a harmonious combination that screams “open me!”

There are a ton of ways to combine emotions for the perfect subject line, and a ton more ways to mess them up.

Experts in email marketing content writing are well versed in writing strategic, engaging content within the email, but are also no stranger to the perfect subject line.

Stop having Jane the secretary write your emails and subject lines, and outsource the work to a professional writing agency staffed with professionals in email marketing content writing that know how to elicit response from your audience.

With a professional writing service, you’ll have someone to assist in making your email marketing campaign a success and have access to other resources like blog and article copywriters (that know how to write headlines that grab attention) and social media management.