4 Email Subject Lines You Should Stop Using (Because You're Annoying People)

You know that first impressions are important, and that same rule holds true for email. Your

subject line

is the very first impression that your message makes. So, naturally, you want it to be a good one.

Crafting an effective

subject line

can’t be hard, right? After all, it’s only a few small words. However, you probably know all too well that it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

We’ve all come across our fair share of awful, no-good, cringe-worthy subject lines—and, unfortunately, we’ve also probably used a few of them ourselves.

But, if you want to increase the chances of getting your email actually read and responded to, there are a few common subject lines you’ll want to stay far, far away from. Here are four to stop using—immediately, please.


Try This Simple Tactic to Spark a Sense of Urgency in Your Next Cold Email

1. “Following Up”

I’m guilty of using this subject line—or a very similar “Checking In!”—myself. It’s an easy one to rely on when you’re just popping into somebody’s inbox for an update.

The problem? It’s incredibly vague. While your subject line doesn’t need to be written with painstaking detail (you don’t want it to be too long), you do want your recipient to be able to immediately glean what your message pertains.

The less work you can make for him or her, the more likely you are to get a response.

Use This Instead

“Your Thoughts Still Needed on Sales Presentation”

Regardless of your specific circumstances, aim for something more descriptive. It’ll help both you and your recipient, as your email will be that much easier for both of you to find by searching for the subject at a later date.


Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Never Reaching ‘Inbox Zero’


Sigh. The capital letters and the overused exclamation points. It’s as if you intend for your message to be read in a loud, angry yell.

If you’re sending an email, it’s pretty much assumed that you’d like it to be read—which means your desperate plea is totally unnecessary.

And, if your message really is that time-pressing? Flag it as such. That will get your point across with no obnoxious symbols required.

Use This Instead

“Sales Presentation Notes Needed by EOD Tomorrow”

Again, you want to be specific. Include what you need, as well as when you need it by. Including a hard deadline will strike a chord much better than a generic term like “URGENT” will.


Are Your Cold Emails Going Unread? Your Subject Lines Are Probably to Blame

3. (no subject)

As bad as some subject lines can be, it’s still always better to have a subject than none at all.

Would you want to read a book with no cover or title? Would you start a presentation without an introductory title slide? Probably not.

For that reason, your email absolutely needs a subject to allow your recipient to scan through his or her own inbox and instantly get a feel of what you’re looking for.

Use This Instead

Anything—yes, literally anything (except, ideally, one of the other phrases on this list). But, as long as you have some sort of subject there, you’re a step ahead of many people.

4. “Re:”

This is one I see many sales and PR people use in attempts to get my attention. Before their subject, they include a “Re:”—which I suppose is some sneaky way to trick me into thinking that they’re responding back to me.

I’ll admit, when I’m quickly scrolling through my unread emails, I’ve fallen for this one a few times. But, when I actually click open the message and see it’s not truly a reply? I’m immediately annoyed—and that email quickly finds its way to my trash bin.

Use This Instead

Just skip the “Re:” and use only your original subject. Email should be straightforward and convenient. If you need to use this sort of trickery to get someone to respond to you, you might not actually deserve a response.

At first glance, writing the perfect email subject shouldn’t be difficult. Compared to the body of your message, it’s only a few words, right?

However, finding the best way to concisely capture the essence of your email can be tricky. And, that challenge can result in plenty of cringe-worthy subjects.

Don’t want to immediately find your way into your recipient’s trash bin? Stay away from these four common mistakes, and you’re well on your way.

This article was originally published on


It has been republished here with permission.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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