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10 Effective Ways to Use Special Characters in Email Subject Lines

10 Effective Ways to Use Special Characters in Email Subject Lines

According to Nielsen Norman Group's research, special characters do not guarantee a user will open the email. However, if you know some special moves and use emojis reasonably, you can make your subject line more attractive. Today, we'll find out how to use special characters in email subject lines, learn where to get symbols and how to make sure they display correctly.

How to Add Special Characters to Email Subject Line

Copy an emoji from a database and paste it into the subject line of your email.

We recommend sending a test email to see how special characters will be displayed across different devices and email clients. 

It’s especially important for new special characters because your trendy and funny emojis can turn into something like this 🗆, this ⮽, or even this `emoji`, and we don’t want that to happen.

You can also use the apps.timwhitlock.info or unicode.org to check how special characters in the subject line will look like on different devices:

Examples of how the special character of a smiley face looks like on different devices.

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Where To Get the Symbols for the Subject Lines

Unicode symbols table — contains lots and lots of unicode symbols and emojis. You can see how each symbol will look in this or that system.

Theglitchy.com — a massive kaomojis database.

Fancy Text Generator — this service lets you change the font, add squiggles and special characters.

Examples of Using Special Characters in Email Subject Lines 

With our tips, you'll learn how to use special characters in email subject lines.

Add Relevant Emojis

If you want to immerse the readers into the email content before they open it, just add a suitable emoji. If a user sees a smiley face, they will know something good is coming, an apple or french fries will hint at food, while a dollar bill will let them know that it's something about finances. The main thing here is to use special characters that are clear both to you and your audience.

Examples of special characters in Gumroad's email subject lines
In gumroad's case, emojis in emails can be ambiguous without context. It may help them stand out from other emails in your inbox, but if emails from specific senders get to separate folders, they can make your eyes bleed

Make Your Emails Mobile-friendly

Mobile browsers clip the preheaders and long subject lines: you can add a special character to the email subject line to preserve its meaning even if something gets lost.

Desktop versions show about 80-140 symbols, but most mobile apps display only 30-35 symbols. That’s why we highly recommend keeping your subject lines short and informative.

An example of using special characters in email subject lines in a desktop version.
An example of email subject lines that are shortened in a mobile version.
That’s how the same subject lines look like in a desktop version and in a mobile one. Seems like Shopify hasn’t learnt their lesson yet.

Use Special Characters to Make Your Email Subject Lines Fun

Emojis don’t always stand for literal objects — you can also use them to add some irony, puns, or jokes.

An example of using the special character of a peach in email subject line to add a joke
You know what this special character stands for, and it's not a peach

Build a Word With Emojis

You can write a short word using emojis to highlight it. However, be cautious, as special characters of different color and size will look pretty odd together.

An example of using special characters to make up words in email subject lines

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Use Special Characters 

Just imagine that you need to draw attention to your campaign without big words. So, how about adding some suitable special characters to your email subject lines? These will give the message some action.

An example of using the special characters of a question mark in an email subject line
An example of using the special characters of an asterisk in an email subject line
Is this just us or did Gap try to also make a pun by filling every gap with symbols?

Insert a Hashtag

If you are going to promote your campaign on social media, just use a relevant hashtag in the subject line.

An example of using the special character of a hashtag in an email subject line

Choose an Emoji Referencing the Brand Logo or Signature Style

If there is a special character that somehow resembles your brand's logo, you can use it in the campaign. This icon will help your email stand out from the competitors and it is also a good way to attract more attention to a special project or a collaboration with another brand.

An example of using the special character of a bat in an email subject line
An example of using the special character of victory in an email subject line
The bat and the victory hand emojis are referring to two DC Comics characters, Batman and Peacemaker
An example of using the special character of a blood drop in an email subject line
Back 4 Blood campaign uses a blood drop that is aligned with the game's main theme and a part of its title

Set a Topic or a Theme

If you send regular curated content newsletters, you can pick an emoji for each topic.

2K games and WB games email with halloween themed emojis in the subject lines
2K and WB tell about the Halloween sales using related emojis — Jack-o'-lantern and a ghost

Keep Up With the Trends and Use Kaomojis

Kaomojis are the Japanese kind of emojis made of Japanese characters, Latin letters, and punctuation marks.

There are ordinary smileys among them: («• ᴗ •»).

And even whole standalone stories: (* ̄▽ ̄)旦 且(´∀`*), (҂` ロ ´)︻デ═一 \(º □ º l|l)/.

An example of using a kaomoji of a smiling man in an email subject line
It's better to place kaomojis at the beginning of the text because if some of its elements get clipped, the pic may become incomprehensible

Use an Unusual Font Style

You can use an alternative font to write the name of your brand in the subject line to make it pop.

An example of using unusual fonts in an email subject line

Keep in mind that not all fonts can be displayed in every email client and format. Usually, they support only standard fonts: Arial, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, Verdana.

The Main Strategies of Using Special Characters in Email Subject Line

  1. Use no more than 2 special characters per email subject line. If you use more, the focus will be blurred and the subject line will just look sloppy.
  2. To avoid clipping, place emojis at the beginning of subject lines.
  3. Always remember that you need to understand the meaning of the emoji to use it. Don't be scared to double-check it if you're not sure. Some fruits like a banana, an eggplant or a peach have ambiguous connotations. Special characters of some animals like a pig, a rat or a chicken (yes, you know what is that another name for this particular bird and what it means) may be understood as an offense.
  4. Emojis must correlate with the topic of the message, supplement and develop it, instead of being just a mere decoration.
  5. Before sending an email with emojis or special characters in the subject line to your base, send a test message and check whether everything works fine.
Sofia Prozorovskaya
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