Email Subject Line

email-subject-line-screenshotEmail Subject Line: a reader asks…

Hi Chris, I’ve got a question for you. I get a lot of email, and notice that some people are still sending email with a blank subject line. Also, I get emails with the subject line of “Hi”, or other subject lines that really mean nothing. Isn’t having a good and descriptive subject line in email important these days?

Absolutely it’s important for several reasons. First, spam catchers will often flag emails with crappy subject lines as spam. Second, everybody gets too much email, and rather than read every message, most of us scan the subject lines and ignore the 80-90% of emails that have spam-like subject lines. And third, if you don’t take the time and thought to craft a good descriptive subject line for your email, why would anyone want to spend any time reading your email?

So everyone please, please take a moment to put in a good, descriptive subject line that tells what the email is about. Don’t be cute or cryptic, be obvious. I can tell you that as a computer guru with a long-standing public email address, I get upwards of 1,500 email messages a day, and at least 1,400 of them are spam. I have 3 layers of spam-catching going on:

  1. Barracuda_anti-Spam-server-image-from-barracudadotcomMy email service provider has Spam Experts anti-spam filtering going on, which catches perhaps a thousand junk emails daily
  2. I use hosted Exchange services, and my service provider has Barracuda anti-spam and anti-virus, which catches another couple hundred junk emails daily.
  3. The rest get into my email program, which has a junk email filter turned on and catches another hundred or so.

Even with all this, I still see dozens of junk email messages in my inbox daily. So to keep my sanity, I don’t bother to open anything that doesn’t look worthwhile. I look at the From address as well as the subject line. And just because the email comes from an address I know, I don’t automatically assume it’s legit. Email From lines are faked so often that it’s best to just skip over to the subject line. There, I look for indications that the email is spam. Here’s just a sampling of junk email subject lines that are easy to delete sight unseen:

Advertisement
  • spam-experts-list-of-spam-screenshotImportant Message
  • From: [any name]
  • Re:… or Fwd:…
  • Read this…
  • Join us…
  • Advice…
  • Warning…
  • Get a Free…
  • Help…
  • Earn…
  • Please reply…

Not to mention the obvious advertising, from male enhancement, online pharmacies, and every single business I’ve ever dealt with. You might have your own method for dealing with spam, so recognize that pretty much everyone is inundated with junk email, and no one has the time or patience to read every email that appears. Your name in the subject line (or anyone you know) isn’t a good indicator of a legit message, spammers have harvested tons of information about individuals and their relationships (from facebook and other social networking as well as hacked computers – yours or someone you know). Take the time to craft your subject line with these tips:

  1. woman-holding-a-checklist-image-from-shutterstockWhat is the message about? Don’t assume the recipient knows what you’re talking about, even if you’re replying to a message from them – add enough information so they know what’s coming in the body of the message.
  2. Are you passing along information, asking or answering a question, or in some way trying to get a reply? If so, say so.
  3. Do you have any nugget of information that you and the recipient both know that you can include so they know you’re really you? Include it in the subject line if you can work it in.

If you can make a really good subject line, your email has a much better chance of getting read. Ignore this advice and I guarantee your email messages will often be ignored. And lastly, be very wary of opening emails – just opening them can infect your computer, not to mention clicking on any hyperlink or file attachment. I have advice on recognizing fake emails in this article: How to recognize a fake email.

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