Can AI Write? Firm Uses Technology To Create Email Subject Lines

Here’s a tip for struggling businesses: Get rid of those expensive email copywriters.

That’s the thesis of AI Writes A Pitch, a study by BuzzStream.  

The study posits that artificial intelligence can come up with email subject lines that are just as compelling as those written by humans.  

To prove it, BuzzStream and Fractl surveyed 500 public relations specialists, journalists and other media professionals. It asked them to rate a series of subject lines, not disclosing that they were generated with OpenAI’s GPT-3 text generator. 

Here is what the technology came up with: 

  • Study reveals the negative impacts of social media on young adults’ health. 
  • Millennials and science: A survey of millennials shows lagging interest compared to old generations. 
  • How you can make your resume stand out to employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  



Of the respondents, 62% said the subject lines are better than the last ones they received or wrote themselves.  

In addition, 79% say they would open the email based on those subject lines. Moreover, 21% of the professionals polled said the subject lines were of very high quality.  

Another 50% found them to be of high quality and 21% found them to be of average merit. Only 8% gave them a low grade, and 2% very low.  

Nobody bothered to poll me, but as one who has long made a living slinging words around, I object to the study on principle.  

And I don’t like these subject lines. They’re long, clunky and in one case repetitive. Writing is about syllables, and these subject lines have too many. 

I agree with Harvey Kurtzman, the cartoonist who created Mad magazine. He said: “I don’t write, I do movement.” 

Not that it’s important what I think. Like any other kind of direct response writing, the quality of subject lines cannot be determined by some inner aesthetic sense. 

Rather, it can only be judged by results. You can program a machine to be grammatical. But you can’t teach it how to reach out, person to person, as the late Bill Jayme did in his direct mail copy, and as Duke Habernickel did in his ungrammatical ads for Haband’s that pulled and pulled. 

Here’s the answer. Stop focusing on the ABC’s, and instead look at the simple A/B’s — as in A/B testing.

You’ll never know if subject lines work unless you test them. 



2 comments about "Can AI Write? Firm Uses Technology To Create Email Subject Lines".
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  1. Bart Foreman from EndGame Marketing Solutions, November 25, 2020 at 3:58 p.m.

    I agree with Ray. We've always been told to keep subject lins short and to the point while creating an emotional tug to open. I am not yet a fan of AI driving the creative side of marketing. We humans need to do something besides write algorithms. 

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, November 28, 2020 at 1:46 a.m.

    Phew.   For a minute there, I thought Ray's article may have been written by some sort of AI software.

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