10 Worst Performing Email Subject Lines


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Have you ever read an email subject line and thought, “What was the author thinking?” Sadly, it happens a lot.

In a recent post, we covered the top 10 best performing subject lines and since a top 10 'best' list would be complete without its corresponding '10 worst' list, we've compiled a list of subject lines associated with the 10 worst performing emails campaigns. We also commentate of what the subscriber was probably thinking after reading it, and explain what went oh so wrong. 

Without further ado, here are the 10 worst performing subject lines:

1. Open and Save!

Open and save on what? New shoes? A baby pig? And how much can I save?

Generic, non-descriptive subject lines don’t captivate an audience and they certainly don’t encourage subscribers to open an email.

2. October newsletter

Ok, what’s in the newsletter? Why should I read it?

It takes time and effort to put together a newsletter, so don’t send it out with a ho-hum subject line like this. It doesn’t encourage the subscriber to open it. The creator should have pulled out a headline from the newsletter, or explained an event that’s highlighted in it. Anything is better than this generic gem.

3. We want your feedback!

That’s nice, but I don’t have time to sit at my computer and take some 15-minute survey that your intern created.

When subscribers see the word “feedback” they assume a long, tedious survey is involved. This shouldn’t stop you from creating and sending surveys; it just means your surveys need a better subject line. Tell subscribers how long the survey is, or why it’s important. If you’re offering an incentive, mention it in the subject line.

4. Shop now and save 5% on our early bird sale (sent at Noon)

Five whole percent? Really? That’s not worth my time. What product or service could I save 5 percent on anyway?

Plus, the email was sent at noon. On what planet does an “early bird” sale start after lunch?

This subject line is too generic, and doesn’t offer a good enough deal for the subscriber.

5. We are hosting the most epic event next weekend. Reserve your seat now.

Holy long-winded subject line.

Subject lines should be 40-50 characters, or about 5-6 words. The author of this 13-word subject line should have trimmed it down before sending. Not to mention there is no description of this “epic event.”

6. Don’t miss out, book now

Don’t miss out on what? What am I booking? Why?

The subject line lacks details. The “Don’t miss out” section is good because it creates a sense of urgency, but the rest of it doesn’t offer enough information to make a subscriber open the email.

7. We’re teaming up with (charity name)

First of all, I’ve never heard of this charity. Second, why should I care?

Subject lines should cater to subscribers. Rather than make an announcement that’s fit for an inner-office memo, tell subscribers why this partnership is important to them.

8. Safety training

Um, why do I need safety training? Safety training for what?

This could be a class aimed at parents to keep kids safe online, or a class that teaches hikers how to stay safe during a bear attack – no one knows. Subject lines should be short, but in this case 2-words isn’t enough.

9. Try our new product

What is your new product? Do I have to pay to try it? Why should I try it?

Giving customers a free trial is great, but subscribers need more information to actually take advantage of it. A subscriber will likely hit “delete” before ever finding out what the trial is even for.

10. I want you!

Did some email from an X-rated dating service land in my inbox and not my Spam folder?

The author of the email was trying to recruit volunteers for a charity event by using the old army slogan from 1917, “I Want You.” Without an explanation, it reads like an inappropriate email, not a recruitment tool for a local food shelf.


While these are some of the worst performing subject lines, check out our list of 10 Best Performing Subject Lines to find real inspiration from real business. 


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