Perfecting Email Subject Lines: An Easy Trick to Stay within Character Limits

As usual, it’s Excel to the rescue.

While brainstorming for a new email campaign, I got stuck coming up with a poignant yet concise subject line. I kept writing one line at a time, checking the character count, and then seeing it was too long. This was a slow process; I had trouble remembering the length of one line versus the another. It doesn’t help that Word doesn’t display that information so openly.

With an email subject line, it’s 50 characters tops – including spaces. If you’re optimizing for mobile, and at this point every marketer should be, it’s more like 40 characters. It’s tough to be concise, creative, and direct all at once. Stopping every minute to check the character limit doesn’t help either.

Then, I had an idea: Use Excel. Duh.

I used the LEN formula to count the character length of each subject line as I wrote it. LEN is short for length. Write each subject line in a single cell, and in the next column, use LEN to automatically count the characters for you.

If you don’t use Excel, don’t fret. The formula is the same in Google Spreadsheets.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

Why You Should Write Email Subject Lines in Excel

This method allows you to accomplish a few things:

  • The character count isn’t a guessing game
  • You know the count immediately as you move through your ideas
  • You can easily prioritizeĀ one line over the other when length is more critical
  • Trains your mind to think in 50 characters or less for a quicker writing process next time around (and you thought Twitter was bad)

Over time, as you continue to refine your skills, you won’t even think of subject lines that are too long. Don’t be afraid of trying new Excel formulas, especially when they can provide you with savvy marketing tools.

Share your best email subject line below.

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