Copywriting Exercise & Critique – How To Write Better Subject Lines


What makes a stellar subject line? Come along with me as I take you through one of my favorite copywriting exercises ever…

I’m about to share my unfiltered critiques of 6 subject lines – what made them great, what left me wanting more and what would make them EVEN MORE powerful…

Hey, Posse! What’s up? It’s Alex. 

Last week, I posted a video about 5 Simple Copywriting Exercises you can do everyday to help you master the art of copywriting. One of those tips was to find headlines online and use your mad-copywriter-ninja-skills to make them even better. 

So for this tutorial, I’m gonna go even deeper into that one exercise by showing you my critiques of 6 subject lines, from 6 different people – all for the same email…

So let’s get started.

Now, if you’re following me on Instagram @copyposse, then you’ve probably seen my regular “Make It Hotter” posts…

Where I find an ad, headline, or subject line – and put it out to the community to, you guessed it,  Make It Hotter!

Not only is it a great way to practice, but it’s a great way to see how OTHER copywriters think…

And helps you better understand WHY certain things work and WHY certain things don’t… 

And, the BEST part of this exercise for me is when I get to put on my Posse Prof spectacles and critique the top-voted submissions.

So in today’s blog post, I’m going to take you through one of my latest editions of “Make It Hotter” on SUBJECT LINES and break down my critiques – point by point. 

BTW if you want to see more in-depth critique tutorials, like this one, leave me a comment below! 

Alright now, let’s take a look at this post, where I asked the Posse community to make THIS subject line even hotter.

This was an email from Foundr.


The subject line was: “Why 2021 is the “perfect storm” for eCommerce…”

And the meta, or preview text, was: “Here’s my prediction: 2021 is about to be the biggest year online store owners have ever seen!”

With over 200 submissions—the Posse really showed up for this one!

But before I get to my critique of the submissions, first let’s critique Foundr’s original copy… What worked? What was lacking? And what could be better?

Now the first thing I noticed is that both the subject line and meta are a touch long. With more and more users viewing emails on mobile devices, the amount of visible real estate for subject lines should be considered.

Of course, it varies from device to device how many characters are shown in the subject line – but the rule of thumb I like to follow is having around 30 characters. And 50 characters or less for the meta or preview text.

This ENSURES your copy is being seen in its entirety for the majority of devices and providers. 

Remember, when it comes to the inbox – less is often more. 

Now, if you’re wondering what the heck a meta or preview text is…

It’s that little email preview that you see with certain email providers, like Gmail and Outlook. It’s essentially a teaser that gives more info about the email, and is another opportunity for you to pique curiosity and entice a reader to click. You can see it here “Make 2021 your best year ever” in this email from Ad World.

Now, albeit short, the subject line and meta text are two of the most important parts of your email. 

This is what determines whether people open your email, flag you as spam, or send you straight to the trash.

To craft HOT subject lines, you want to either:

  • Create urgency
  • Evoke curiosity
  • Be controversial 
  • Get personal
  • Tell them what’s inside

Foundr did a good job at evoking curiosity here with “Why 2021 is the ‘perfect storm’ for eCommerce…

But a way they might strengthen this subject line is by eliminating some unnecessary words and adding personalization. The Meta description is also a bit long.

So with that, let’s take a look at the Posse’s subject line submissions – along with my critiques! These 6 subject lines were selected because they received the most amount of “likes” or “votes” from the community.

#1 – Subject line: <Name> See why eCommerce is dominating this year Preview: It’s not too late to join! —@leannmreyes

#2 – Subject line: 10 years of eCommerce growth in just 90 days?! Preview: The 2021 boom is on —@joolieboolie17

#3 – Subject line: Why eCommerce in 2021 is going to explode to apocalyptic levels… —@hannpena

#4 – Subject line: 3 reasons why you should start your eComm business in 2021. Spoiler: it’s going to be epic —@elizabeththolah

#5 – Subject line: 2021 will be a record-breaking year for your eComm store How? Read inside. —@riddhipanchal

#6 – Subject line: How a pandemic = massive WIN for eCommerce?   —@brittany_herzberg

PHEW! Seriously, everyone did such a great job on this exercise!

If you want to play along in the next edition of “Make It Hotter” then be sure to follow me on Instagram.

If you guys liked this tutorial and want to see more in-depth critiques like it in the future, make sure to let me know in the comments below!

And feel free to grab a copy of my FREE Ultimate Email Marketing Cheatsheet, to help you master the ABCs of the inbox influence. 

Until next time, I’m Alex — ciao for now!

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