10 Tips for Crafting Better Subject Lines and Getting Your Emails Read

email tabletAre people reading your emails? Or are your messages sitting ignored in the corner of inboxes? Not being noticed brings back awkward junior high memories for us, so we decided to put together a list of ways your emails can grab the attention of your campers’ parents (aka the popular crowd).

Email subject lines are the first thing people see and, therefore, are really, really important. It’s easy to switch up the words you use in subject lines and see which get the highest open rates, so try these 10 ideas and see if any finally get your emails the attention they deserve.

1. Be Specific

Your campers are more likely to open an email sitting in their inbox if they know that it will be relevant to them. Be as clear as possible when crafting your subject lines.

  • Register Now for [Your Camp Name] vs. Register Now for Camp
  • New [Name of Program] Added at [Your Camp Name] vs. New Program Added

2. Ask Questions

On the other hand, get your camp parents’ attention by making them curious or firing up their trivia skills. Just make sure that the question you ask in your subject line directly relates to the content of your email. If they open out of curiosity, they’ll feel cheated if you don’t give them what they clicked for.

  • Who was last year’s most popular camp counselor?
  • Which program was voted as the favorite by campers?
  • Can I bring a pillow? Sleepaway Camp FAQs

3. Convey Value and/or Urgency

Incentivize camp parents to open your email or make them feel the urgency of a limited time offer. Think about what the recipient will gain by reading on and use that as the focus for your subject line.

  • Refer a friend and get a free shirt (value)
  • Tell us what you think about [New Program Name] and save 15% (value)
  • Save 10 dollars on registration through Dec 31st (urgency)

4. Use Numbers or Lists

People like to read short, bite-sized things. Using numbers or lists in a subject line hints that the content of the email will be easily readable.

  • Top 5 Reasons to Register for [Your Camp Name]
  • 3 New Ways Your Kids Will Have More Fun This Summer
  • Checklist: 10 Things to Remember for [Your Camp Name]

5. Try Personalization

Test out using a camper or camp parent’s first name in your subject lines to see if it increases your open rates. Typically, it does.

  • Laurie, registration for [Your Camp Name] is now open
  • It’s time to get Bill signed up for [Your Camp Name]

6. Throw in Non-Sequiturs

Use nonsense–things that don’t fit together–to grab the eye and stir curiosity.

  • Registration is selling out faster than a speeding cactus
  • Can kicking a ball help save the world?

7. Start Unfinished Sentences

It’s only natural for people to want to finish the sentence or see what’s behind the curtain.

  • You won’t believe what we’ve added to this summer’s camp…
  • My favorite new program on the schedule is…

8. Use the Rule of 3

Lists of three (whether it’s in a subject line, in bullet points, or even three paragraphs of text), tend to get the most response and readership. So try it out!

  • Fun, Sun & Friends
  • Camp Out, Camp Up, Camp Over

9. Try Shock & Awe

Throw in words with a little edge or surprise to attract interest and attention.

  • A camp experience that’s like a sugar rush
  • Click unlike on those video games – register your kids now
  • The family next door signed up – register before your child misses out

10. Refer to Pop Culture 

This is an easy way for you to capitalize on what’s “trending” or what’s already on peoples’ minds in their everyday lives.

  • Register now for a camp that’s more popular than Harry Potter
  • Get your child ready for the Olympics at [Your Camp Name]


Whether you use one of these 10 ideas or come up with your own creative ones, just remember to track your open rates to see what’s working and what’s not. We also recommend that, in this day of increasing mobile and tablet use, you keep your subject lines to around 50-60 characters. If you must go longer, put the “value prop” (the compelling part of your message) in the first half, in case the subject line is cut off on a smaller, mobile screen.

Never underestimate the power of the subject line. It’s worth it to dedicate some time to crafting these little nuggets!


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About Gina Calvert

Gina Calvert is the Senior Marketing Writer for ACTIVE Network, providing marketing and business resources for active lifestyle organizations across a range of markets, including government, nonprofits, camps, schools and endurance events, for more than six years.