Why you have to write informative email subject lines

image of an example of a bad email subject lineI work online for a living, consulting with small businesses on how to better market and brand themselves online. So of course I get more email than a small country like Luxembourg.

While 2/3 is spam, the other 1/3 are legitimate emails from clients and business contacts. So a large part of my day is scanning, reading, processing, hundreds and hundreds of emails as quick as I can, otherwise I’d never eat – much less catch Sportscenter.  But here’s the problem: email subject lines.

The email subject line (or so I’d believed) was intended to give the user an inkling as to what the email was about so he/she could decide if they wanted to open it and spend time reading through it.  But the problem is people don’t write informative subject lines and you have no idea as to the content of the email.  So you have to open it only to figure out you could have just hit delete or put it in the “not mission critical now, get to it later” pile.  This is such a time waster.

Here’s some typical mystery subject lines from actual clients that I know and work with that drive me nuts:


“read this”



“where is it?”




“need help”

Come on folks. Those subjects give the recipient nothing to go on. Work with me here.

Even worse, is when people continue an email thread, never changing the subject, BUT changing the topic of the email half way through.

Example. I’ll get the 9th email reply from someone with a subject of “Re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: Moving the server to the new hosting company” but the client decided to stop talking about the server move (which we’d already settled) and started asking questions about using a new QR code.  So now I’ve got to dig through this email chain, wondering why they are bringing up a closed topic, and hopefully stumble across their new question.

And they wonder why I miss half the emails they send.

It’s a simple solution really.  If you don’t want to take the time to hit the “compose new email” button and start from scratch, and its easier to just reply to another email from me – at least edit the subject line and give me something to go on.  It will make us all more productive and eventually happier.  And happier is where you want me to be.



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