Become a Rock★ and ❤ Your Email Subject Lines with Special Character Symbols

Email marketing is all about getting into the inbox and getting your customers to open your messages. We know that the email’s subject line is one of the biggest factors in getting recipients to open.

So, what do lipstick and SPAM have to do with each other? No, we’re not talking about putting lipstick on a pig. I want to focus on something that is often considered taboo for email subject lines: special characters. I’m not talking just about exclamation points, question marks, and hashtags; I’m talking about hearts, smiley faces, and lipstick symbols.

You’ve probably been taught that using special characters in your subject lines is a bad practice because it can impact your sender score and cause your emails to not be delivered. While it does have an impact on deliverability, it is not the immediate red flag to ISPs that it might have been several years ago. You will still not want to stray away from email best practices when you’re ramping up your IPs and building a new brand. But, for established, whitelisted brands, it shouldn’t be a problem to add a few special character symbols to your subject lines here and there.

Special character symbols in email have been around for many years, from the time that we moved beyond plain-text messages. Recently, we’ve noticed more and more brands using special characters in subject lines. You’ve probably received an email recently that used special characters to highlight a sale or express how you’ll feel about their offerings, like, “②⓪% Off For ❹ Hours Only!” or “You’ll ❤ Our Spring Colors.” The use of these characters allows their subject line to stand out in an increasingly crowded inbox.

How can I use special characters?

Here’s a quick way to find the special character you’re looking for:

  1. Find the symbol you want on the Unicode Character Table. It’s one of the most complete lists and has helpful search and drop-down navigation.
  2. Grab the HTML code for the character, which will start with an ampersand followed by a pound or hashtag, then a series of numbers that’s closed by a semicolon

So, in order to get our heart symbol to display, we need to enter “❤” into our subject line. So, “You’ll ❤ Our Spring Colors” displays “You’ll Our Spring Colors” when you send the email.

(Get more expert email advice in your inbox. Sign up for the PostUp Playbook!)

Don’t forget to render test before you send

Pasting a code into your email is easy enough to do. The difficult part is knowing how that symbol will render across different email clients. Testing the display of these special characters is another item that you will need to add to your testing checklist. Fortunately, the new rendering tab in PostUp provides Return Path-generated previews that include subject lines across a wide variety of email clients.Here are some examples of how a lipstick icon can differ across email clients:

email subject line special characters emojis

You can see that this same symbol may not clearly display across different clients. Some of these icons could be mistaken for a candle, a marker, or a pen. In the Gmail preview of my inbox, the symbol is not recognized and displays a generic box.

Another example is the Apple icon. This symbol displays only on Apple devices. So, when I originally received the message on my Windows laptop, it looked like a broken symbol. When I viewed the message on my iPhone, I was able to see the Apple logo. I think this particular brand was probably fine with the way the symbol displayed in their subject line; their offerings are geared towards the Apple ecosystem. It also doesn’t necessarily add or take away from the message of winning a new Macbook. But, it’s potentially off-putting, seeing a broken symbol at the beginning of the email subject line.

Best practices for using special characters

My advice is, try adding some special character symbols into your mailings occasionally. But make sure you’re following these best practices:

  1. Make sure that the symbols you’re using match up to your message.
  2. Do not overuse special characters in your messaging. They tend to stand out because they’re not used by everyone all of the time.
  3. Think about the offers and seasons for your brand. In general, you’re likely to see more hearts being used around Valentine’s Day. A heart in your subject line may not stand out with a higher number of other emails also using that symbol, at that time of the year.
  4. Test as much as possible to see what it’s going to look like in different email clients. With any email changes, testing is key. PostUp allows you to test in a lot of different ways with rendering and A/B splits, dynamic content, and much more.

For more subject line best practices one of our partners, Litmus, has a great post, if you’d like to get some stats and general information about them.

Making a small change, like occasionally using a special character symbol to enhance your subject line, can help tackle that first challenge of getting recipients to open your message. Using special characters in your subject line and continuous testing, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an email marketing rock★.

For any additional training on creating or testing marketing emails with special characters in Postup, please contact us at training@postup.com.

Email symbols CTA