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Choose a Good Email Subject

April 2022 – by Per Christensson

While the past few decades have provided us with dozens of new ways to communicate, email has stuck around like a bad habit. Since this ancient form of digital communication doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, it's important to know how to formulate a good email — and that begins with writing a suitable subject.

Besides the "from" address, the email subject is the first thing people see when receiving an email. It provides a helpful indicator of what the message contains and may even determine if the recipient decides to open the email. When choosing an email subject, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Keep it short. Email subjects should only be a few words long. They don't need to be a full sentence and shouldn't end with a period.
  2. Don't make it too short. A subject like "Question" is too broad to be helpful, especially in a work context. It makes it difficult to reference later since it isn't so general. A more specific message like "Question about tax filing" is better.
  3. Consider future reference. — If you're discussing a topic that you or others may want to revisit in the future, use a unique subject that will make the email easy to find. For example, "2022 Q1 financial results" is more useful than "Financial results."
  4. Use sentence case. — While an email subject is similar to a title, you don't need to use title case (capitalizing nouns and verbs) in the subject line. It's a standard convention to use sentence case — capitalizing the first letter of the first word and using lowercase text for the rest of the subject.
  5. Avoid all caps and exclamation points. Even if you're super excited about an email, refrain from using ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation points!!! Besides appearing unprofessional, your email is more likely to get caught in a spam filter.

One extra tip: If an email thread goes off-topic, don't be afraid to rename the subject or start a new email thread completely. It's usually best to create a new thread after 10+ emails since the appended replies become so long.

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