A Rant on Email Subject Line Etiquette

Make sure your subject line actually has something to say

Well, my home computer gave up the ghost (loudly) yesterday, sounding amazingly like a leaf blower before heading to PC heaven. With several laptops, two more desktops, and an iPad around the house, getting most of my work done isn’t much of an issue.

No big deal, save one exception. I currently can’t screen my work emails from home. This means that I came into work this morning to face well over 100 emails in my inbox.

I thought I’d use this opportunity as a chance to rant about one of my many pet peeves, email subject lines.

Glancing through my current glut of emails, it amazing me how a group of professional, white collar workers can be so clueless when it comes to something so simple.

Below are some of the more common issues that make my head spin, see if you can recognize any of these. Feel free to comment and add your own.

Useless, say-nothing subjects

What if your email list had a 100 of these variations:

“Hi, What’s Up “


“Got a problem”

“Info Request”

“Status Update”

“What are you, a moron!?!”

Chances are, these will be placed at the bottom of the pile until I sift through the titles that actually mean something.

 “Quick question”

If it’s quick, put it in the subject line. How about:

“Quick question on this morning’s meeting on thingamabobs.”

In this case, I’ll read it immediately.

“Quick question on next month’s meeting on thingamabobs.”

I can wait on this one for awhile.

“FYA,” “FYI,” “FYSA”

Having spent 20 years in the Air Force, acronyms aren’t all that intimidating, and these actually work for me if used correctly.

Keep in mind, however, if not used correctly, I’ll probably read the ‘For Your Action (FYA)’ emails first, and move the others down the list.

Though I still haven’t figured out the difference between ‘For Your Information (FYI)’ and ‘For Your Situational Awareness (FYSA).’

High Importance, Priority Tags, CAPS!

I have known several people over the years so full of themselves that they felt every one of their emails should be at the top of my list each morning. They always tagged it with ‘High Importance,’ and TYPED THE ENTIRE EMAIL IN CAPS.

Take a guess on where these wound up on my priority list.

Remember the boy who cried ‘wolf.’ Sorry Mr. Narcissist, everything you say is not a priority!

“Re:Re:Re:Re: Thingamabobs”

Can someone please stop the madness!  Let’s condense these into “Ref: Thinamabobs.”


Yes, what meeting do you mean? I’m brain dead a minimum of 10-15 hours each week due to these things (see future rant).

Variations on “Meeting”

Today’s staff meeting

Today’s meeting is cancelled

Today’s staff meeting moved to Room 127

At least these put the subject into some context.

No subject at all

Hello, spam filter…


Bottom line; email subject lines should be short, well thought out, and meaningful. Be sure to take a little more time to ensure your subject actually adds to your email.



  • Bernice

    Love the blog

    • Rick

      Thanks Bernice!

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