Did you notice a raft of hearts in your inbox around Valentine’s Day? If so, this may also be a good sign that something “special” works in email subject lines. Namely special characters, like the ♥ (♥). So – are such symbols generally safe to use in emails and email subject lines?
Bad news first: no. Not all of the many sexy Unicode symbols will render consistently in every possible mail user agent your subscribers use for viewing their emails. Also not only with regards to the email header fields like subject line sender name. This restriction also equally applies for UTF-8 character encoding and using HTML entities in the email body. (Campaign Monitor checked HTML-entity-support in emails in 2010, and the advice “you can use many, but you should test!” is still valid today.)
However, the good news is, some special characters in fact do work very well. They even work in the header fields and therefore in the subject line. Tim Watson pointed out on smartinsights.com some weeks ago that one of those well-supported symbols is ♥ (♥). It renders nicely across Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook and every other client. It generates a good degree of attention in the inbox clutter, which should arouse interest: standing out usually means more opens. In addition, there are many possible occasions for using it – just check the many upcoming special months, weeks, or holidays on e.g. brownielocks.com. Just make sure to you can encode your heart-filled subject line in UTF-8 quoted printable or Base64:
The email header-fields in quoted-printable (Q) respectively Base64 (B) looked like this:
- Subject: =?UTF-8?Q?=E2=99=A5=E2=99=A5=E2=99=A5_Renee=2C_verliebe_Dich!
- Subject: =?UTF-8?B?TmV3IFRyZW5kcyBXZSDimaUgKyBTYXZlIFVwIHRvIDIwJQ==?=
- Subject: $30 Off Ends Today! Show The =?UTF-8?Q?=E2=99=A5?=!
You should prefer using quoted-printable as there is no need to encode binary data in subjectlines. Some spamfilters like SpamAssassin, which warns senders against using strange characters, might classify Base64 as a means to obfuscate something …
Add, 2012-02-24 / 2012-05-06:
Johanna Miller from email service provider Responsys also jumped in on this topic. As did Greg Zakowicz from Bronto, who witnessed some problems on on Android and BlackBerry devices.
(I collected more articles here. For inspiration, I suggest you to have a look at two unicode blocks: miscellaneous symbols and dingbats. Use the Litmus subject line checker to test, if they work. A little bonus tip: Subscribe to my newsletter below and receive the unpublished Symbol Cheat Sheet as a welcome gift.)