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Email subject lines should be written:

by chacham (Priest)
on Sep 01, 2012 at 13:20 UTC ( #991155=poll: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

vote on Email subject lines should be written:

Before writing the body: it's a lead in
[bar] 285/54%
After writing the body: it's a summary
[bar] 148/28%
Never: it's redundant
[bar] 12/2%
In uppercase: it might be ignored otherwise
[bar] 15/3%
As the entire message: I'm a PHB
[bar] 19/4%
Other
[bar] 46/9%
525 total votes
Comment on Email subject lines should be written:
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by swampyankee (Parson) on Sep 01, 2012 at 15:12 UTC

    Never in all uppercase -- it's rude. I usually use conventional US title-case.


    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting. — emc

      It is funny how people, including myself, thinks of uppercase e-mail subject as being rude! When I read a subject in uppercase, in my head, I hear the person shouting! WHY IS THAT??? ... how can we interpret a text, according to the case?

      What about the font? A person who wrote in Courier New would speak like a robot, right? In Comic Sans, that would be a little girl? A text written in Helvetica would be from a Swiss Banker?

      And, a, text, with, too many, comma, would be, from, William, Shatner?

      There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots.

      All UPPERCASE is easy: it was used for emphasis in written English from before computers. I'm old enough to remember platforms that had no lowercase -- Univac 1108s, for example, used a 6-bit character set and had no lowercase letters -- but those systems predated email, and weren't used for actually communicating with people except in very constrained ways. BTW, Swiss bankers don't use Helvitica. They use Fraktur.


      Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting. — emc

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by hossman (Prior) on Sep 01, 2012 at 18:24 UTC

    "In Esperanto."

      Good choice, though I prefer a hell-broth of Pig Latin and the London dialect of Middle English. On national holidays, I like to add just the tiniest dash of Inuit for that little something extra.

      Kurt
      Jes, mi tute konsentas, per la vojo.
      Mi fari ne sxati la ideo. (or some such nonsense)
        seems like google translate - nonsensical garbage as usual.

        JFYI, esperanto grammar is so simple that almost any sane individual can understand it and use it in about 2 weeks. You need to spend just one hour per day for 2 weeks +- 7 days. The real trouble though comes when you trying to fill in your vocabulary above most frequent 20 words. It needs much more time =)

      Klaatu barada nikto.

      What?

      Esperanto? Bah! Real women (and men) use Lojban:
      URGENT: Le mi varkiclaflo'i cu culno lo angila!!
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by philiprbrenan (Monk) on Sep 01, 2012 at 18:26 UTC

    Before you write the body, then write the body, then rewrite the title to match.

      ditto

      Subject lines are necessary for initial screening, but are useful mainly in retrospective. They help make the useful information jump out after the search query has given you the first 150 closest matches.

      How many times have I finished writing an email only to think the initial subject line was utterly worthless, or worse, something to trigger the weakest spam filter? Oodles. ("Just wanted to say hi.")

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by vitoco (Friar) on Sep 01, 2012 at 22:28 UTC

    Before writing the body: it's a lead in
    After writing the body:
    it's a summary

      Writing a summary before the body is written is a good theory, but, so were TPS cover sheets.

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by mbethke (Hermit) on Sep 02, 2012 at 03:08 UTC

    Other: ^H.

    Yes, they should be written. As in "typed in". As long as they are, for all I care people can type them backwards with their nose while on the loo, I'll receive it all in one piece a millisecond or so before the body anyway. Only thing I hate is when they expect me to find stuff they sent me in some attachment months ago without a subject line or, worse, the moronic autogenerated Outlook-style "Ready to send $FILENAME".

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by CountZero (Bishop) on Sep 02, 2012 at 08:54 UTC
    According to MILSPEC FM003-15.3/(provisional)/Email/Subject Lines/, which however is so highly classified you are not allowed to have a look at it.

    Please send a properly formatted email message to apply for clearance.

    CountZero

    A program should be light and agile, its subroutines connected like a string of pearls. The spirit and intent of the program should be retained throughout. There should be neither too little or too much, neither needless loops nor useless variables, neither lack of structure nor overwhelming rigidity." - The Tao of Programming, 4.1 - Geoffrey James

    My blog: Imperial Deltronics
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by chacham (Priest) on Sep 02, 2012 at 11:51 UTC

    After writing the body: it's a summary

    I tend to think if subject lines appears on bottom of the messages, people would use them as such. Who decided to put them on top anyway?

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by jonix (Friar) on Sep 03, 2012 at 14:24 UTC

    It is not a lead in: hello and greetings should rather be part of the body

    It is not a summary: else the body would probably be redundant and the subject rather too long

    I just write it before sending it, whenever it fits, or Re:cycle it from the mail I reply to

    ;-)

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by rpnoble419 (Pilgrim) on Sep 04, 2012 at 22:51 UTC
    Before, so I can decide if I want to continue writing to the idiot I'm writing to in the first place or just give up and bang my head against a wall...

      I know that feeling too well.

      Maybe i should add a new mail plugin automatically closes my "New mail" window if i type more then three exclamation marks in the subject line?

      "I know what i'm doing! Look, what could possibly go wrong? All i have to pull this lever like so, and then press this button here like ArghhhhhaaAaAAAaaagraaaAAaa!!!"
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by mertserger (Curate) on Sep 05, 2012 at 07:27 UTC

    Recently at work someone higher up the food chain decided that we all needed to be told how to compose effective emails and so sent out a detailed list of how she felt this should be done. Gee, I've only been sending emails for hmmmmmm more years than I care to remember - how ever did I manage?

      Does she have pointy hair?
      It was probably in response to those morons that do things like send emails to everyone in the organization with only "See attachment" in the body. Of course the attachment is a formatted Word doc (or heaven-forbid the Word doc printed onto paper and scanned as a pdf *shudder*) reminiscent of old-school memos that would have been much more effective as the actual body of the email instead of a separate attachment. Not only does each recipient have to download & open said attachment, but now instead of having a simple 5-50KB message, the email is now 10x that. ...And a separate copy is in every user's mailbox on the mail server. Morons.

      ...Not like that actually happens or anything...

        As well as replying to all with the only addition being "Stop Sending These!" or "Take me off this mailing list".

        I think it was meant as a useful reminder but the tone was very much pointy-haired boss: I felt that one of my parent's female parent was being instructed in how to extract nutrient from the oval reproductive products of chickens.

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by FloydATC (Chaplain) on Sep 07, 2012 at 10:33 UTC
    Other: "unsubscribe" ;-)

    Seriously though, I write the subject first, then the body, then I rewrite the subject for clarity if I see that it doesn't include the necessary info to classify the message at a glance.

    Good: "(server name) downtime next friday (date)".
    Bad: "(server name)", "Server downtime", "Friday".
    Worthless: "hi".
    Unforgivable: "IMPORTANT!!!!".

    -- Time flies when you don't know what you're doing
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by girarde (Friar) on Sep 07, 2012 at 21:38 UTC
    Omnia dici possunt Latine.
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by blue_cowdawg (Monsignor) on Sep 10, 2012 at 15:32 UTC

    I'd say that normally (99% of the time) I write the subject line first before writing the body. I consider email the equivalent of writing a memo or (I'm about to date myself) a paper letter. Usually when I write a letter to someone (like a vendor or client) I have a subject line right up there with the address portion of the letter such as:

                                             Shark River Technical Solutions
                                             123 Mystreet St.
                                             City, State   00000-0000
                                             (555) 555-1212
                                              September 10, 2012
    
    Client Name
    321 TheirStreet St.
    City, State    11111-1234
    
    Subject:  Account 123456-07 in arrears
    
    And in fact I have my own templates for LibreOffice already built for both personal letters and business letters that plug the information in for me (since I'm lazy.)

    I have, however, been known to go back and change the subject line based on the content of an email if the direction of that email changed since I first thought of writing it.

    I've also been known to change a subject line for a reply to an email. For instance someone has written me an email with the subject line "Hi There!" I'll change the subject line to something like "RE: Dinner plans for Saturday (was RE: Hi There!)" so that looking at the thread later on makes sense to me.


    Peter L. Berghold -- Unix Professional
    Peter -at- Berghold -dot- Net; AOL IM redcowdawg Yahoo IM: blue_cowdawg
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by ww (Bishop) on Sep 10, 2012 at 16:22 UTC
    ALWAYS.

    No subject; delete w/o reading!

      APPARENTLY IT HAS TO BE IN CAPS AND BOLD TOO

      The rest of the message is just an explanation, and can be ignored.

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by Anonymous Monk on Sep 17, 2012 at 13:33 UTC
    I prefer to let my subject lines grow organically:
    RE:[Re: FWD:[RE: RE:[Fwd: RE: FWD:[Fwd: RE: Re: RE: RE: [FWD: RE:Let me know what you think]]]]
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by raybies (Chaplain) on Sep 18, 2012 at 12:26 UTC
    The best email subject lines are enticing, coercing the readers to click on the single link you provided in the body of your email... usually with a mispelled word or a grammatical error... because that way it has real class, it communicates that you (the sender) are not trying to exploit them, but that you're a human being with flaws and vulnerabilities, and gives your email the exotic look that perhaps you're not a master of the language you wrote the email in... If you do provide a message in your email, it should be filled with promises about increasing libido, or the promise that if one clicks on that link they're going to laugh some part of their anatomy completely off their body.
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by grg (Initiate) on Sep 18, 2012 at 14:59 UTC

    Other: Write it before the body: it's a headline.

    Your message may be important, but the Subject will determine when (and sometimes if) I read it. I always work with the preview pane off, so the Sender, Subject and Date may be the only part of your message I ever see. Of those, the Subject is the one you control for any given message, so make it count.

    Once I've opened the message, the Subject doesn't really matter, other than to track and group the conversation, depending on the mail reader.

Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by temporal (Pilgrim) on Sep 20, 2012 at 15:21 UTC

    Am I the only one that agonizes over subject line wording and content long after having finished writing the e-mail itself?

    Especially when you're sending to a diverse group of recipients. You've got to make sure that everyone grasps the gist of the mail no matter their perspective or role.

    On a related note, I've seen some just blindingly awful post titles in Seekers of Perl Wisdom. I'm thinking that writing those uses a similar set of rules =P

    Composing good subject lines is an art, imo.

    Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.

      Same here. I work in an environment where I often have to reply to technical questions with lots of internal and external people already cc'ed, people often possessing... uhm... different skill sets. (Those skill sets may in certain cases overlap very poorly with what that person might have found useful in his or her work)

      You don't want to be too technical but you don't want to skip over important details and you certainly don't want to come off as patronizing even though everyone knows atleast one person on the cc list won't even understand what the email is about in the first place.

      -- Time flies when you don't know what you're doing
Re: Email subject lines should be written:
by talexb (Canon) on Sep 21, 2012 at 16:16 UTC

    And can we all please agree that the entire message shouldn't live in the title? I've seen messages like this:

    From: VIP To: Hoi Polloi Subject: Going to be late today because of dentist (eom) Message:
    Do they think that people only ever read the subject lines of E-Mail messages? Really?

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

    "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

      Welcome to the twitter era.

    Re: Email subject lines should be written:
    by petdance (Parson) on Sep 22, 2012 at 02:06 UTC

      The correct answer is a combination of the first two: Before writing the body, it's a summary, so you should have an idea what you're going to say before you start typing. Think of it as a requirements document for the rest of the email.

      A good subject line also gives the reader a reason to read it. Don't assume that your email is going to get read just because you send it.

      xoxo,
      Andy

        Before writing the body, it's a summary, so you should have an idea what you're going to say before you start typing. Think of it as a requirements document for the rest of the email.

        But what if the the idea changes, as it so often does? I can't tell you how many times i did exactly this, and then had to change it later. You may call me fickle, though i think it has to do with "getting into it" and allowing things to change.

        After the intent to write, and the writing itself, a summary would be accurate. As the ideas are already worked through, i think it a much better time to write a summary.

        A good subject line also gives the reader a reason to read it.

        The subject line gives a good reason to read it, but so does the sender. Indeed, i bet i read more email based on sender than subject line. Further, i find the subject line is much better to review when looking at old email, not new email.

        That is, when i receive an email, i will most likely read it if it is from family or friends, regardless of subject line. I'm reading it--please excuse my disagreement with you--simply because they sent it. However, when i need to find an old email from said persons, who sent it is simply not enough (any more), a summary is, however. And not an intent of what they wanted to write, rather, what they actually did write.

        If, though, the sender is unknown, the subject line is an indicator as to my want to read it. Perhaps then, the intent to write is better than the summary, as the function is now one of advertisement instead of summary for later review. Indeed, as these emails are not from family, friends, or soon to be friends, i am unlikely to be looking back to even require a summary.

        I want to thank you for your message, it is well thought out. I happen to disagree, but i enjoyed reading and responding to it.

          But what if the the idea changes, as it so often does?

          Then you go back and change the subject. Surely that's not too daunting a task.

          xoxo,
          Andy

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