Which Email Subject Lines Get Your Back Up?

Which Email Subject Lines Get Your Back Up?

We’ve had a bit to say recently on the subject of email auto-signatures and bad email etiquette, but some emails don’t need to be opened for you to know that they’re wasting your time.

My own pet email peeve is emails with a subject line of ‘link exchange request’ or the like. They’re spam, but spam that’s often just individually customised enough to not always fall into the automatic spam filter alongside the Nigerian scams, genital enlargements and promises of a fabulous new career.

I mentioned this on Twitter and got a couple of other suggestions, including “Catchup for coffee” and “Moving forward” (ahem). But I figure Lifehacker readers will have other ideas. So which email subject lines act like a red rag for a bull, or send you racing to the delete key? Tell us in the comments.


  • Anything that has FW: ahead of it generally gets the delete button to it, unless what follow it actually looks important or it is information someone has forwarded me about an event or a meeting.

    • Yeah blank subjects are my most hated – my wife always sends me emails like that.

      Nearly as bad are those messages that start in the subject line and continue through to the body.

    • I tend to reply to these with the subject line:
      “RE:your email with nothing in the subject line which is almost as annoying as having to many words in the subject line”
      Gets a message, gets a few laughs, don’t think it has offended anyone too much..

  • assuming we’re talking about legit emails, not spam –
    Definitely a blank subject is annoying
    or something useless like “Question” or “Please Help”,

  • When it’s just something like “Hello” in the subject line. I’ll still read it, but it puts me on the defensive straight away thinking it could be spam/virus.

  • I agree with Jimmy on number one. Blank subject lines.

    Not always with number two though. Sometimes if the email is a simple request that I’ve fulfilled I’ll just reply and just prepend “Done EOM” to the subject, if that’s all the information that I need to convey.

    The “EOM” is critical here though. It tells the recipient, “All there information you need is here, you don’t even need to open the email.”

    e.g. “Done EOM Re: Could you restart the server for me.”

    Succinct and saves everybody’s time.


  • I have to say that in my case, there is a high correlation between the subject line and the sender line – so much so that certain senders get my back up even before I’ve glanced at the subject line.

    Why is that, I wonder 😉

  • Annoying work email subject lines:

    – ‘hey’ / blank. Gives absolutely no indication as to content of email.

    – ‘URGENT URGENT DO THIS NOW!!!!!!’ and then body is something like ‘I lost my favourite pen! Everybody help me look for it!!!’

    – ‘Meeting’. Who with? When? Where? Should be ‘Meeting – 4pm Rm 6 all employees’ and then further explanation / agenda in the body.

    – ‘Thanks! :o)’ When you have completed a task for somebody and they reply with that subject line and a blank body. Just a waste of time.

    – ‘hi can you please make sure you get that report in by 5pm today as it is really really important and if we dont get it in we will be in deep…’ Ad infinitum

    – And lastly, subject lines that sound important, and then when you read the body there is maybe one line regarding some insignificant aspect, and then a huge paragraph about the sender’s weekend/the weather/the last episode of lost.

    Yes, there are a lot of things that annoy me about work communications! In my last role I was given the project of educating the office about better emailing. Would love to do it as a job; nothing ruins a good office environment more easily than bad communication.

  • When it’s just something like “Hello” in the subject line. I’ll still read it, but it puts me on the defensive straight away thinking it could be spam/virus.

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