Email tip: Don't use a rude subject line just to make your message easier to spot

Raymond Chen

Here are some subject lines I’ve seen over the past few years (suitably redacted):

  • ___] Kernel objects naming convention [___
  • [QQ] – Question about job objects

Sure, using exclamation points, all capital letters, or strange eye-catching punctuation marks makes it easier for you to spot replies to your message in your inbox, but it’s also rude to your readers, who almost certainly do not consider your message as important as you do. Imagine if everybody did this. If it’s that important that it easy for you to spot replies to your message, set up a mail filter rule that highlights them.

And, just because I collect these things, here are some unhelpful subject lines that I’ve seen in the past six months:

  • need help
  • Need help!
  • customer question
  • customer question –
  • customer questions
  • Need help on two questions
  • SR# 1 – 61803399
  • RE: [RESENDING] [QUERY] RE: SR# 1 – 61803399
  • Windows 2003 IIS issue
  • MSCS
  • Looking for a way to do this
  • Is this a bug?
  • Microsoft question
  • Vista question
  • Questions about using Vista
  • Quick Question!
  • Customer Question
  • here’s my question for the XYZ team

Sometimes, the people who commit the sin of the useless subject line also follow up with the second sin of repeating their question verbatim because nobody answered it. Nobody answered it because the subject line was not obviously in anybody’s specific area of expertise.


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