Firstly, congratulations to:

Raj S.
Jo O.
Gary M.

All of whom win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. They were picked at random after completing the one question survey I sent out last week:


Thank you to everyone who entered and sorry if you were unlucky with the prizes this time – I’m sure you’ll have another chance at some point in the future!

Needless to stay this is all a bit unscientific but having gone through all of the results here are the top 10 from least annoying (No.10) to most annoying (No.1).

10: “You have a commission…”

This is just one example from a wider set of spammy subject lines:

  • You have a payment
  • Congratulations you are in
  • Activate now
  • Your account details
  • You have been selected
  • About your order (when you’ve ordered nothing)

My only comment with these is that 95% of them are likely to be either:

1) Genuine spam (i.e., completely unsolicited emails)


2) “Biz op” promos (The kind that lead to videos with actors, mansions, fast cars and no information on what the actual product is)

In other words, if they are not already being funneled automatically into your spam/junk folder, then they should be!

9: “Good news and bad news…”

This was actually the example which inspired me to run the survey in the first place. I was surprised that it wasn’t cited as a more frequent offender really. But I guess it just goes to show different things annoy different people!

8: “Page 1 Rankings Instantly…”

This is a category of subject lines which could be labelled as “unrealistic and over-hyped claims”. You provided several more examples:

  • Make 6 figures overnight
  • How I banked $XXYSYZ by (sending XY) emails…
  • Mr X made $10,000 last week using this SIMPLE trick…

Again very “biz oppy” in nature and targeted at desperate people rather than people who want to start a genuine long term business.

7: “Don’t buy [XYZ product] until…”

A classic affiliate promotion. Of course the sender still wants you to buy the product, but only through their affiliate link.

6: “Secret loophole”

A curiosity play. Perhaps not that much of a secret though if it’s been broadcast to thousands on email?

5: “Game changer”

A timeless classic! Enough said.…

4: “Last chance”

Scarcity is one of the most powerful influencers in the whole of marketing so it’s not surprising that it is used so often. In the survey many of you were very cynical about the use of false scarcity citing other variations such as:

  • Not many left…
  • Last chance before price increase…
  • Ending soon…

3: “DUDE” / “HEY” / “OPEN UP”

A number of you have pointed out that these one or two word subject lines seem to have been popularized by a very high profile US marketer (won’t name them here!) and then copied by many others.

Gavin M. commented, “I’m not a DUDE, but think the two guys in the movie Bob & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are! How also does this headline sit with female recipients? Sorry [NAME OF MARKETER WHO STARTED IT], you need to rethink this one!”

2: “RE:” or “FWD:”

This was widely cited as extremely annoying and essentially a “trick”.

1: “Sorry wrong link!”

Variations include “Oops!” and “I messed up!”.

This was by far the most cited example in the survey and people seemed to regard this as a “manufactured mistake.”

Mike H. put it as follows: “Most of the time, the cynic in me sees it rather as a very calculated excuse to send yet another email out pitching a product – not that I have a huge problem with people sending multiple emails for a product they truly believe in, but I just find that one lacking in imagination and quite dishonest, really. And way too overused.”


I thought Frank B made an excellent point:

“Personally, I will open any email from any marketer I follow, because they’ve gained my TRUST and for the good stuff they sell/promote. I don’t even look at their subject lines.”

This says it all really: Yes there are subject lines that are tired, overused and annoying. But as an email marketer if you go the extra mile to be honest and provide genuine value your subscribers will perhaps judge you less on the exact copywriting techniques and more on your actual offers.

What do you think? All comments welcome, please SHARE etc if you care to and drop a comment below…. Cheers, Rob 🙂