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

  • In most webmail programs, it didn’t matter what operating system you were on. Hotmail was the exception in that it cuts off the “from” line a couple characters earlier if you’re on a Mac.
  • All my tests were in Firefox, so I can’t say whether the various browsers (IE, Chrome, Safari, Opera) would affect these figures.
  • Where the width of the “Sender” column could be adjusted (notably Mozilla Thunderbird), I used the default width.

    Users can obviously change this and so there’s no way to guarantee that the results of this test will hold true for every user.

  • These email clients don’t all necessarily look at character counts for the cutoff; some may cut off after a certain number of pixels.

    Individual recipients may set different settings that cause more or fewer characters to appear in the space provided (example: whether a recipient uses fixed-width or variable-width fonts can affect how many characters display).

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.

  • Recognition is a determining factor here. If a long “from” line makes it harder to recognize who you are, then shorten it.
  • Position is another factor. If your “from” line is going to run long, get the most important and recognizable parts at the beginning.For example, MarketingProfs’ small business newsletter is called Get to the Point. Their “from” line is really long, but they make sure I see the branded part even when Gmail cuts off the rest – “Get to the Point: Small .”

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!