Don’t Hurt Your Open Rate with These Common Words

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There is nothing worse than pouring time and energy into a clever, targeted email campaign, only to have your email deleted without ever being read. The wrong subject line will send your artfully crafted message to the trash bin and kill your email open rate. Luckily, the right subject line can help pull readers in. Here are a few common words and phrases to avoid.

1) “Final” or “Last Chance”

While it may seem like using “hurry up” words like “final” or “last chance” would incite a sense of urgency, in fact, they have the opposite effect. While they certainly are dramatic, they elicit almost a “used car lot commercial” feeling. They feel pushy and desperate. Let’s be honest—most email recipients realize that it’s only the “last chance” until the next email comes along. Avoid over-the-top words like these (and don’t pair the word “final” with anything—“final offer,” “final opportunity,” etc.); instead, try something a bit softer and conversational like “For a limited time…” or “We don’t want you to miss this…”

Screenshot of an email inbox that's zoomed in showing the mouse cursor hovering over the Spam folder link
You want your messages to see the eyes of your customers, not their spam folders.

2) “Reminder” or “Don’t Forget”

We all have a million things on our calendars. The last thing we want to do is be reminded of one more. Especially if it’s an unsolicited email, attempting to masquerade its way onto our radar. Readers can see right through this tactic. Instead of using chiding “reminder” words, try something like “Please join us for…” or “Will you save the date?” By offering a choice, you put the subconscious element of control back in the reader’s hands, and they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. A better unique open rate will follow a credible, transparent call-to-action in your subject line.

3) “Sale” or “Save”

Perhaps it is because they are two of the most overused words in prospecting emails, but “sale” and “save” simply don’t draw in readers. Even when coupled with a specific amount (“save 50%,” for example), they don’t have the desired effect. One interesting difference is when “save” is used in the context of “save-the-date.” Readers are more receptive when there is an invitation attached, rather than dollar amount. No one wants to miss a good party! If you need to communicate a special sale, try catering to the “save-the-date” concept and say something like “A special savings event for you” or “Join us for special savings.”

4) “Offer” or “Discount”

Digital rendering of an open email envelope surrounded by many other open emails
Don’t come off as desperate and rushed in your messages. Craft your words to be more inviting and suggestive.

Similarly to the words we just talked about, “offer” and “discount” are also reader repellents. They are overused and tend to under deliver, so they get ignored. Instead of waving a discount around in your subject line, try a more subtle approach like “For our valued customers” or “Let us earn your business.” Again, putting your customer on a pedestal and offering them the choice of doing business with you or not will go a long way toward ensuring that they do.

5) “Free”

Last, but not least, is everyone’s favorite standby word “free.” It may seem counterintuitive that this word is such a dud when it comes to click rates; after all, everyone loves “free stuff,” right? Unfortunately, nothing is free, and the human psyche knows it. Readers tend to flip on their “cynic switch” when they see the word “free,” and your message is ignored. Try using words like “complimentary” or “a gift for you.” They’ll elicit a better response naturally and create intrigue, leading to a better email click rate.

Conclusion

There is a fine line between crafting an assertive subject line and an off-putting subject line. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader when you write. What grabs your attention? What makes you hit “delete?” Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, but do it in a way that makes your reader trust you, and your open rates will skyrocket.

How to Craft the Perfect Follow Up Email

Avatar for Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner graduated with an MFA in professional and creative writing from Western Connecticut State University in 2014. He's worked on a number of professional writing projects with clients such as Pearson Education, WatchMojo.com, and Michael Mailer Films. Giving brands a voice is his passion.


Avatar for Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner

Eric Steiner graduated with an MFA in professional and creative writing from Western Connecticut State University in 2014. He's worked on a number of professional writing projects with clients such as Pearson Education, WatchMojo.com, and Michael Mailer Films. Giving brands a voice is his passion.