358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet]

Many have been debating the use of symbols for months, now. To my knowledge however, one question remains: Which symbols are safe to use, and which ones trigger colorful emojis on iPhones/iPads and in Hotmail/Outlook.com? I put it to the test on emailmarketing.de last week. Here is a summary plus a little add-on.

The (rather) safe symbols list

Here’s my selection of symbols:

■ □ ▢ ▣ ▤ ▥ ▦ ▧ ▨ ▩ ▪ ▫ ▬ ▭ ▮ ▯ ▰ ▱ ▲ △ ▴ ▵ ▶ ▷ ▸ ▹ ► ▻ ▼ ▽ ▾ ▿ ◀ ◁ ◂ ◃ ◄ ◅ ◆ ◇ ◈ ◉ ◊ ○ ◌ ◍ ◎ ● ◐ ◑ ◒ ◓ ◔ ◕ ◖ ◗ ◘ ◙ ◚ ◛ ◜ ◝ ◞ ◟ ◠ ◡ ◢ ◣ ◤ ◥ ◦ ◧ ◨ ◩ ◪ ◫ ◬ ◭ ◮ ◯ ✁ ✂ ✃ ✄ ✆ ✇ ✈ ✉ ✌ ✍ ✎ ✏ ✐ ✑ ✒ ✓ ✔ ✕ ✖ ✗ ✘ ✙ ✚ ✛ ✜ ✝ ✞ ✟ ✠ ✡ ✢ ✣ ✤ ✥ ✦ ✧ ✩ ✪ ✫ ✬ ✭ ✮ ✯ ✰ ✱ ✲ ✳ ✴ ✵ ✶ ✷ ✸ ✹ ✺ ✻ ✼ ✽ ✾ ✿ ❀ ❁ ❂ ❃ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉ ❊ ❋ ❍ ❏ ❐ ❑ ❒ ❖ ❘ ❙ ❚ ❛ ❜ ❝ ❞ ❡ ❢ ❣ ❤ ❥ ❦ ❧ ❶ ❷ ❸ ❹ ❺ ❻ ❼ ❽ ❾ ❿ ➀ ➁ ➂ ➃ ➄ ➅ ➆ ➇ ➈ ➉ ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ ➘ ➙ ➚ ➛ ➜ ➝ ➞ ➟ ➠ ➡ ➢ ➣ ➤ ➥ ➦ ➧ ➨ ➩ ➪ ➫ ➬ ➭ ➮ ➯ ➲ ➳ ➴ ➵ ➶ ➷ ➸ ➹ ➺ ➻ ➼ ➽ ➾ ☀ ☁ ☂ ☃ ☄ ★ ☆ ☇ ☈ ☉ ☊ ☋ ☌ ☍ ☎ ☏ ☐ ☑ ☒ ☓ ☖ ☗ ☚ ☛ ☜ ☝ ☞ ☟ ☠ ☡ ☢ ☣ ☤ ☥ ☦ ☧ ☨ ☩ ☪ ☫ ☬ ☭ ☮ ☯ ☰ ☱ ☲ ☳ ☴ ☵ ☶ ☷ ☸ ☹ ☺ ☻ ☼ ☽ ☾ ☿ ♀ ♁ ♂ ♃ ♄ ♅ ♆ ♇ ♈ ♉ ♊ ♋ ♌ ♍ ♎ ♏ ♐ ♑ ♒ ♓ ♔ ♕ ♖ ♗ ♘ ♙ ♚ ♛ ♜ ♝ ♞ ♟ ♠ ♡ ♢ ♣ ♤ ♥ ♦ ♧ ♨ ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯ ♰ ♱

Why did I choose specifically those?

Well, I generally thought I’d test the Unicode blocks Miscellaneous Symbols, Dingbats, and Geometric shapes. They contain some of the most appropriate and interesting ones to use in email subject lines. So I extracted all the codes from Wikipedia, put the whole list step by step into a subject field within Outlook 2010, and sieved out the ones that showed an error. The erroneous ones obviously didn’t work in Outlook 2007/2010/2013.

Next, I send some tests to Gmail and other email clients, in order to sieve out more. The final results are shown above. So if you want to experiment with symbols, you should pick one from these. They are of course not 100% save across all possible email clients (see e.g. these two screenshots). But it’s better than picking something out of the dark.

iPhone & Hotmail: triggering colored graphics

Next, I wondered what symbols would trigger graphics in the subject lines on iPhones and within Hotmail. In fact, several customers already asked that. And I wasn’t aware of any list on the WWW. (Did I miss something?)

The following screenshots disclose that secret. You see the results on iPhone and iPad on the left, Hotmail and Outlook.com on the right. Compare them with the list above to see, which symbols have been converted by the rendering engines:

Cool stuff, isn’t it? Why not try out…

  • the airplane for travel offers
  • the pencil for dates to write down
  • the phone for announcing a service call
  • the scissors for visualizing coupon cut lines

One last thing to remember: Don’t stuff your subject lines with random symbols. Many are not supported on every device. For example, Outlook 2003 and Lotus don’t show any of them. In addition, below you’ll find two screenshots of the results on an Android 2.2 (left) and on a BlackBerry 5 OS (right). The results don’t satisfy either:

Download the symbol cheat sheet

Comparing a list of about 350 symbols with four screenshots may be a bit confusing and complicated. To make things clearer, I created a little Cheat sheet.

The sheet contains a table showing our safe symbols, emoji graphics on iPhone and in Hotmail (if one is triggered), and support on BlackBerry and Android. It’s a poster – print it out and pin it next to your monitor, when you start experimenting.

(Update: You will also receive a list of static and animated emojis, which you can use in Gmail subject lines.)

The sheet is also free to download. Well, sort of. Forgive me to ask for your email address in exchange. ;-) But hey, I’ll only use it to send you weekly round up with readworthy email marketing articles, which I stumbled upon. No ads, just for fun. If you don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe.

I’ll include the sheet’s download link in the welcome email. (If you got problems with the download, just drop me a line.)

Symbols grab attention, but they don't work across all email clients. Sign up for my newsletter and receive the helping Symbol Cheat Sheet as a welcome gift: (archive♞)
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39 Responses to 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet]

  1. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet] http://t.co/jvG3cAvb via @LukeAnker

  2. 358 #symbols tested in #subjectlines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet]: http://t.co/L0nApn1C

  3. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet] | E-Mail Marketing Tipps http://t.co/tru7DmFv

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  6. Want to pimp your subject line with a symbol to gain extra attention? Check this out here: http://t.co/CFw1JjIK… #Copernica #Emailmarketing

  7. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet] http://t.co/34VjiUfn via @lukeanker

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  9. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet] http://t.co/sTQ5N1Uk via @lukeanker

  10. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet]
    http://t.co/KAp3gV41 @LukeAnker

  11. RT @rutdawson: 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet]
    http://t.co/KAp3gV41 @LukeAnker

  12. RT @rutdawson: 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet]
    http://t.co/KAp3gV41 @LukeAnker

  13. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet] http://t.co/5PGWTyPx

  14. …Interesting thought. Smiley faces and the like should never be used in a marketing message, but I quite like the idea of some of these symbols being used.

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  16. 358 symbols tested in subject lines – iPhone, Hotmail & more [incl. Cheat sheet] http://t.co/OA3bcFVu via @lukeanker

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  18. Cheat sheet: 358 symbols tested in subject lines (iPhone, Hotmail & more!) http://t.co/UaqUgSSIaL #emailmarketing #emailtips

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  21. Pingback: Symbols in subject lines, AKA the resurrection of Wingdings

  22. Thanks for offering this information.

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  24. …Awsome

  25. …Thanks

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  27. Great tips I will download thank you :)
    Maby you can post an update with the new icons?

  28. gif characters can be added to the subject line?

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  30. …Think from now onwards, My Email will be more attractive then my colleagues. All thanks to this post :)

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  33. Thank you so much for providing this cheat sheet. I look forward to using it on my emails! :)

  34. Thank you, that’s really useful!

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  36. great help and martketing tips :)

  37. Hey, am already subscribed but still didn’t receive your email. Do you still sending newsletter?

    Thanks

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