Test Results: How Long Should Your From Line Be?

From TagMaybe you’ve never thought about it.

Typically length is a concern that comes up when discussing subject lines – how many characters you can fit in a subject before your subscribers’ email programs cut it off.

But the same thing applies to your “from” line; if it’s too long, subscribers won’t be able to read all of it while viewing their list of emails.

Here’s what I mean:

Emails From My Inbox With Long “From” Lines

Within the last 48 hours, I’ve received messages from these long-named senders:

Long From Lines

See how the “from” lines all cut off right around the same point? They’re longer than Gmail is willing to show me all at once.

What About Other Email Programs?

I wanted to find out if other email programs did this, and if so, at what point they did so.

So I ran a test: emailing different addresses of mine at the various webmail providers as well as in MS Outlook, with “John Jacob Jinglehiemier Schmidt” set as the “from” name.

Here are the results:

Email Client/OS “From” Line Displayed # Characters
Yahoo! (Windows XP) John Jacob Jinglehiemi 22
Yahoo! (Mac OSX) John Jacob Jinglehiemi 22
Gmail (XP) John Jacob Jinglehiemier. 24
Gmail (OSX) John Jacob Jinglehiemier. 24
Windows Live Hotmail (XP) John Jacob Jinglehiemie 23
Windows Live Hotmail (OSX) John Jacob Jinglehiem 21
AOL Webmail (XP) justinsawebertest@yahoo. 24
AOL Webmail (OSX) justinsawebertest@yahoo. 24
Microsoft Outlook 2007 (XP) John Jacob Jinglehiemier Schmidt 32 (all)
Mozilla Thunderbird (XP) John Jacob Jinglehiemier Schmidt 32 (all)
iPhone Mail John Jacob Jinglehie… 20 (then the …)
Gmail (Android mobile phone) John Jacob Jinglehiemier 24

Observations

I include these observations to give you an idea of why your results might vary from these; however, I’d categorize most of these as relatively minor issues and/or edge cases that shouldn’t affect how you use this information.

So Your From Line Should Always Be 20 Characters Or Fewer?

Not necessarily. Just like when you look at subject line length, there’s no one universally right answer here.

Short isn’t always better – not if keeping it short cuts down on your ability to achieve your email campaign’s goals.

Take a look back at the screenshot from my inbox. Some of them – like “Ebates Top Picks Newslet” – are easily recognizable even though they’ve been truncated. Others don’t fare so well. Who is “Maggie L. Fox, Alliance”? I had no idea when I got that email.

Your “From” Line Suggestions?

What have you learned about creating effective “from” lines? Done any testing of them?

How did you determine what to use for your own?

Share your thoughts below!

Print This Post

Related Articles

By:
Justin Premick is the former Director of Educational Products at AWeber.

Become a Better Email Marketer

Subscribe to This Blog by Email
Why Subscribe?

48 Comments

  1. Very nice post, a lot of my clients have over 21 characters in their "From Name"!

    10/14/2009 4:55 pm
  2. This is a great discussion. Beyond the # of characters, do you have any insights (email filters or socially) as to whom you indicate it is from? Do you find emails are more likely to be opened if it is from a person or a company name? Which is more likely to be filtered and never reach the recipient? What about the actual from address if it is generic, or a person’s name, which is more likely to get filtered?

    Thanks for these insightful posts, keep it coming!

    10/14/2009 6:08 pm
  3. how long should my email to subscribers be?

    10/14/2009 6:13 pm
  4. This was probably $1000 worth of your time to dig into this, so I really appreciate.

    I’m running at 1920 x 1200, and I have to always rmember, most people aren’t!

    I’ll be keeping title length in mind for sure.

    My ittybitty lists are getting really high opens though, even with long titles.

    10/14/2009 8:37 pm
  5. hey, that’s my name…..

    10/15/2009 12:23 am
  6. This is really impressive info – who would have thought that. Thank you for this – I adjusted my from line for the 60 Day Perofrmance Challenge immedeately.

    10/15/2009 1:23 am
  7. Our from line was: ‘Rev. Ike’ until he passed away recently, then we switched to ‘Rev. Ike Ministries’ because our subscribers are interested in Rev. Ike and his teachings and we want them to see Rev. Ike’s name. Each of our emails offers a valuable gift of some kind (usually a free sample audio mini-lesson) and we have a high open rate (between 46% and 78% depending on the email). When they see ‘Rev. Ike Ministries;, they know something good is in that email!

    So we keep our from line short and put all our long persuasive copy in our subject line!

    10/15/2009 9:28 am
  8. Joe

    Nice explanation Justin, makes perfect sense to me. thanks

    10/15/2009 9:42 am
  9. Jo Jingleheimer Schmidt

    Useful post. Would not have thought about that. Thanks!

    10/15/2009 9:43 am
  10. I agree! I receive a lot of emails from people at companies who have their name as From. The problem is that I don’t have a clue who those people are. If it is from a company, I would think a quick clue as to the company first, and then their name (even if it is cut off) would let me know if I should/need open it. Oftentimes the subject is something like: Our Current Newsletter. If that is what I see, along with just a name, I immediately delete it as Spam. So, I believe that BOTH the name and subject need to work together for maximum effectiveness.

    10/15/2009 9:43 am
  11. Its an interesting discussion.

    However if the ‘from’ subject is leading on, then it is just like having an incomplete sentance at the end of a page, it makes the reader turn the page to finish the sentance.

    The same could be true about the ‘from’, make it incomplete but leading to something the reader might want to know about. That way a decision to bin the email might not be made until the email is opened.

    Just a thought.

    10/15/2009 9:56 am
  12. Allan

    Justin

    Great point and article! We have been trying to alert Aweber higher ups of this for over a year.

    Here’s an example of how all Aweber emails are sent and received. I will use your blog email on this exact topic:

    aweberblog@aweber.com; on behalf of; AWeber Blog [help@aweber.com]

    Would be nice if we could get this resolved and practice what we preach.

    10/15/2009 10:01 am
  13. Thank you… good info I had not given it any thought but can see the point of structuring my from format!

    10/15/2009 10:02 am
  14. Its a seemingly trivial issue but it does make a lot of sense.

    10/15/2009 10:32 am
  15. Great information and very useful indeed.

    I like the part about “Getting to the point” given the limited space.
    Makes me think what I most want to convey to my readers.

    Thanks for the post!

    10/15/2009 11:08 am
  16. Sal

    Great observation, Justin, and very thought provoking. I’d like to see some real data though – like the open rates for emails based on the length of the "From" – and the length of the "subject" would be interesting too ;-)

    This is the type of data you could generate across all your customers – but would be prohibitively expensive to test for an individual marketer, or even most large businesses, as they would not want to lose the "recognition" value of their existing From name – as in Judy’s "Rev.Ike" example above.

    Would you consider providing a follow up post with a little chart – (number of characters in "From" field vs "% opened"). A bit more work than this post – or maybe about the same? Assuming all the other variables (recognition of the name, number of emails with that length sent, etc) are adjusted for or cancel each other out across a large enough sample, that would be far more useful information than what the minimum or average length of "From:" field viewable in different browsers.

    10/15/2009 11:30 am
  17. Thanks for this info. The kind of testing you did is very valuable and something we should all do but often fail to do.

    I usually just use my name as the From line but now I can see that this may be a mistake as users may not know who I am yet.

    However you may want to test John Sweet’s idea above. Does having a long From line actually make more people read the message to find out who it is or do fewer people click?

    In testing title tags for the search engines we know that Titles that are so long they end in elipsis (…) get fewer clicks than Titles that are complete. So longer from and subject lines that can’t be fully read may lead to fewer clicks.

    Still I’d like to see tests to see if this is the case.

    10/15/2009 11:46 am
  18. Anecdotally, most of the high-quality email publishers from whom I receive newsletters go with short From lines.

    10/15/2009 1:12 pm
  19. Great information … thanks for doing all that research!!

    Just a personal reaction to Travis’s question: I never open an email with a name (I don’t recognize) in the From line.

    10/15/2009 1:13 pm
  20. Hey all,

    Thanks so much for the ideas and feedback shared so far!

    Travis,

    I don’t see the name having much effect on modern email filtering systems.

    As for what gets opened/read, I really think it’s about recognition; what will subscribers immediately associate with your business, their decision to sign up in the first place and/or the actions they’ve taken with previous emails you’ve sent?

    For some cases, it’s a company name, or a variation of it (example: the email newsletter for this blog uses the from name "AWeber Blog"). For other cases, it might be the name of a prominent/branded person at the company (examples: attorneys, real estate agents).

    Lorna,

    No one right answer to that. One question to ask yourself when thinking about this: "how long will it take me to get the message across to my subscribers and make it both useful and compelling?"

    Judy,

    You bring up a great point: you want subscribers to recognize you so that they make associations with past POSITIVE interactions with your brand.

    It’s important to deliver valuable emails and great subscriber experiences; otherwise that recognition can backfire on you (i.e. people get used to not caring about your emails, and simply delete future ones without so much as reading the subject line).

    Jerry,

    The subject line definitely plays into the equation as well:

    Good from line + good subject line = more opens, reads, clicks (all else being equal)

    Bad from line + bad subject line = likely to delete and/or "spam" button the email

    Bad from line + good subject line = ?

    Good from line + bad subject line = ?

    John and Rodney,

    Interesting thought, although in my personal opinion I think the subject line is a better place to do that.

    To me, the from line is about building recognition ("who is this person?") while the subject line is about building urgency/interest ("what’s so great about this particular email from this person that I need to open it right now?").

    The kind of data I’d need to be able to get at to provide stats on this is similar to what I’d need to run the test Sal suggested… and I’m not sure how available it is in our system. I’ll take a look, because if I can get it, that would certainly be a cool follow up post to this one.

    Allan,

    What you’re referring to has to do with how some email programs display from lines. It’s not specific to emails from AWeber, and to be perfectly honest it’s not something we’re likely to influence.

    Sal,

    I agree that would be interesting, but I’m not sure how readily available that specific data will be. I’ll look into it but no promises :)

    Thanks again everyone… keep your thoughts coming! Love the discussion :D

    10/15/2009 2:48 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  21. Justin, just another note to thank you for the valuable information
    in this discussion and in all your blog postings. I ALWAYS open open
    my emails with the from line: AWeber Blog :-)

    10/15/2009 2:55 pm
  22. John Jacob Jingleheimer

    hey, that?s my name?..

    This is way funny. There is a John Jacob Jingleheimer after all.
    I’m sure Kristina must have known.
    Thanks for all the research, and JOHN, thanks for the belly laugh.!

    :)

    Ali R. Rodriguez

    also NOT kown as John Jacob Jingleheimer.

    10/15/2009 7:13 pm
  23. I daresay that was a good piece of research. It was good to check whether the from line length it made a difference. Maybe it did not make a really massive difference but it is always good to know than to work by guess.

    Thanks for thye info.

    10/15/2009 11:49 pm
  24. Insightful post. Definitely one of the things to be aware of — sometimes we get so busy that we don’t put enough time into these little things that could make the difference between a conversion and a deletion.

    10/16/2009 4:50 pm
  25. Thank you for sharing that. I always that shorter and to the point will always win out, but thank you for putting a number on what limit work across different platforms.

    10/17/2009 12:08 am
  26. With regards to the from line, it’s better to use your real name than a company brand, no? (Because it’s more personal…)

    Exceptions may be the "aweber blog" brand name i guess… haha

    10/18/2009 12:49 am
  27. C

    Very interesting article, thanks for sharing. I realize this may be difficult, but I think its important to keep your from line concise. Let the receiver know who you are in as few characters as possible.

    10/19/2009 12:10 am
  28. Thanks for the research! I’m a beginner, how do I track how many of my list open the email?

    10/20/2009 11:07 pm
  29. Yee,

    I typically recommend that you use whatever your subscribers are most likely to recognize – could be your name, could be your company name, could be your newsletter name, could be something else. Whatever people will associate with the value they get from your emails.

    Leslie,

    Check out our Knowledge Base for more on tracking email opens.

    10/22/2009 1:21 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  30. Hi Justin,

    thanks for the checking.

    What do you think about starting the from: with some graphical letters like

    * John Jacob Jingle?
    or
    + John Jacob Jingle

    The idea is that these show up on top of the other emails if the recipient is using alphabetical ordering or grouping.

    By that these emails would be perceived earlier and thereby get more attention. And the fromline would stand out anyway, even if there is no grouping/ordering.

    Are there any testresults available or known?

    10/24/2009 4:41 am
  31. Wow! That is a great entry! I will have to give these email titles much more thought in the future……….good items to think about as well.

    10/25/2009 7:05 pm
  32. Dieter Nuebel

    Hi Justin,

    Your use of the word “client” at best is confusing.

    Check any dictionary and you will find that “client” means customer, patron or patient.

    In other words it is an individual you are waiting on, doing business with or dealing with in similar ways.

    A problem with the use of computers and the web is that many words are applied in ways that conflict with their common, traditional meaning or definition.

    Please lets not make it worse.

    10/26/2009 6:16 am
  33. Great info. I’ve found shorter is better, like a first name only,
    as the recipients who really want and expect your email will know who you are anyway and it makes itmuch more personal.

    Plus, shorter means more white space after your From name, which in a sea of other long From lines in a crowded Inbox, actually grabs more attention.

    Keep up the great posts!

    11/4/2009 2:45 pm
  34. I wish I could test sender in aweber but as far as I know, you can’t.

    We can of course spit test subject lines, but because the sender field is part of global info per each list, you can’t test sender field on aweber.

    If there’s a way to do this please share!

    If not…Justin, can you make this a feature? :-)

    11/6/2009 6:30 am
  35. Justin,
    Thank you again for a great post. I was just about to send out a newsletter and now I will make a change for the better in the ‘from’ line. Simple ideas are always great. Something I focus my work in stress management on.

    P.S. to add my opinion a personal name always seem better in the ‘from’ line rather than a company name. With the exception if you can fit both in 20 or so characters.

    11/10/2009 6:28 am
  36. I usually start with **Love notes from Dashama** (then put the title after that..) and I wonder if its better to start with that or put the title first? What do you guys think? Thanks!

    11/10/2009 2:32 pm
  37. Great article!

    I think important point here is that we have to be able to separate ourselves from our competitors and if "From" field can be used to accomplish that goal by making a nicer and more precise presentation to get MY email open and not someone else – I get that advantage!

    Thanks for sharing.

    11/11/2009 6:46 am
  38. Poppie

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks for that!

    Very good info.

    Regarding the use of the word “CLIENT” that was referred to above.

    The word also means…”one who depends on another…sloping towards, leaning upon, dependent upon”

    OMG…how good is my AWeber client…and my Filezilla client…my Gmail client!

    Thanks Justin,
    Your’e doin’ good.

    11/11/2009 11:43 pm
  39. I tend to ignore emails that are from someone other than an individual. I think a lot of people develop this habit. Not only is it good marketing to brand yourself (your own name) as the center of your business, I think it helps get your emails opened.

    i.e. the next time you are cleaning out your inbox notice how your eyes tend to skim right past anything that isn’t a persons real name.

    11/14/2009 3:20 pm
  40. First of all, great article! Appreciate the research and thought that went into this. I usually add "**" or "-" in front and behind of my name in the from field so it looks like ** Dylan Loh **, I’ve tried experimenting with the fancy symbols and w/o the fancy symbol and found changes to be incremental. The most important, thing it seems to me, is still the subject line in getting subscribers to open up.

    11/16/2009 12:39 am
  41. re: putting * etc at the beginning of a name to get listed first.

    I hate this practice and I’m sure others do too. I receive emails from a small number of marketers that not only do this but continually change it.

    It makes setting up email filters and rules much harder.

    It’s as annoying as using re: in the subject line.

    Personally I like to use [sitename] as the first characters of all my subject lines because I feel that’s helpful to the recipient. Hopefully, between that and using my name in the from, they will at least know who the email is from.

    It does give me even less letters to tempt them to open though but I wouldn’t give up the instant recognition from the subject line that it’s at least a trusted email.

    11/18/2009 4:32 am
  42. P

    Simply put, you need to get your point across in a concise matter, and it helps to not sound like you are trying to sell them something they don’t need.

    11/27/2009 1:23 am
  43. I think it should be no longer than the cutoff…the only reason to allow it to be longer is to create curiosity to get them to click…but this may not work.

    2/27/2010 4:24 am
  44. I appreciate the research that went into this post. It sounds like 20 characters or less should be our goal and best practice. In the Personal/Company name debate I suggest using your personal name in the ‘From’ line. ‘Personal Branding’ has always been important, we just called it ‘ Personal Reputation’ in the past. If you use your personal name then your ‘brand’, or ‘reputation’ is on the line as it should be. I look forward to more great information in the future.

    7/24/2010 6:59 pm
  45. Justin:

    Thanks for the valuable insights.

    My interpretation of your data is that it is vitally important
    to BRAND yourself or your list in some way.

    The from line of my opt-in list reads:
    WeeklyTrafficSecrets

    Probably, it’s a good idea to think about the “from”
    limitations when you choose a blog title.

    Thanks, again for a valuable post.

    12/29/2010 4:17 am
  46. PP

    I have just started using aweber and i’m glad i did. The benefits of using this system is it just free up so much of your time.

    5/19/2011 9:54 am

Leave a Comment

Need an avatar?



Follow Comments
Send me notifications of new comments
rss Follow comments via RSS