What is the Worst Email Subject Line You have Ever Gotten?

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This topic contains 51 replies, has 26 voices, and was last updated by  Shannon Kennedy 8 years ago.

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  • #144762

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    Mine was a forward from my mother who had received an email from her older brother about my grandmother – “Mom – Final Arrangements”

    I had to open up the email and scan to be sure that my grandmother had A.) not died or B.) was not close to dying. Tomorrow is her birthday and though she will be 99 years old, she is not on her deathbed. My uncle simply wanted to let us know what Grandma had decided she wanted to do when that day came. How about “What Mom Would Like to Do When She Passes On” or “Mom – She Wants to Plan Her Funeral Now”

    “The Subject Line is the most important most neglected line in your email” – from the book SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better by David Shipley and Will Schwable.

    What is the worst email subject line you have ever received?

  • #144864

    Shannon Kennedy
    Participant

    My worst was from a boyfriend who sent “We Need to Talk” in the subject line.

    …the email was a link to an article about college football. His response? “Well you never read anything I send you so I knew that would get your attention!”

  • #144862

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    You should have responded – “Send me something worth reading”

  • #144860

    Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: MUST READ!

  • #144858

    Melba Davison
    Participant

    “Possible RIF” from a former boss

  • #144856

    Elliot Volkman
    Participant

    I got that at least once a day from my mom.

  • #144854

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    What is RIF?

  • #144852

    Melba Davison
    Participant

    “Reduction in Force” – eliminating number of employees

  • #144850

    Deena Larsen
    Participant

    Sad News

    ___ (no subject at all)

  • #144848

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    ouch!

  • #144846

    Stefany M. Mercer
    Participant

    I’ve received “PLEASE COME SEE ME NOW” from a former boss. [Insert heart attack, right?] Except – she would send these notes ALL the time & over the most frivolous matters… O.o

    I eventually learned to calm down when I saw her e-mails, but that kind of subject line should be saved for emergencies!?! :-S

    ~Stefany

  • #144844

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    Hilarious! All Caps is always a bad way to go in emails I think

  • #144842

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    That’s a bad one

  • #144840

    Stefany M. Mercer
    Participant

    Always…Then again, I’m always surprised to hear that people do not know that ALL CAPS=SHOUTING.

    Mind the Gap! ;-P

    ~Stefany

  • #144838

    Jack Shipley
    Participant

    I worked with proposal managers who have to burn the midnight oil. Well for one manager, either the oil ran out or her brain did. She wrote an entire message to the team in the subject line. So it came to us in something like 8pt type and was truncated. Haha. Crazy.

  • #144836

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    Wow! Do you mind if I use this for our Email Guide?

  • #144834

    Jack Shipley
    Participant

    Sure thing. Just take my name out and have at it.

  • #144832

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    I hated those! Glad you are on GovLoop! I saw that you are a new member!

  • #144830

    Carol Davison
    Participant

    Scientific proof requested: apparently you are still alive. Did you pass it on?

  • #144828

    Anonymous

    @Paul, To write emails in all capital letters is tantamount to shouting. Not appropriate.

  • #144826

    Camille Roberts
    Participant

    The one with a question that goes on forever. This is one that went out to an elist I belong to:

    Who has knowledge of the latest trends in PowerPoint presentations that summarizes the trends currently among millennials graduating college? I’m looking for percentages, stats, and resources for information for an article I am doing. Please reply offline.

    Then the message is rewritten in the body of the email.

    It is a bit confusing because it leads one to believe the subject is PowerPoint, but it is really about graduating millennials.

    And while we are discussing… “please reply offline.” Does that mean I should call to reply? Offline and off list are two different things. Instead, one should write, “Please reply privately.” However, what’s the point of that though if the forum is to exchange information? #sometimesIwonder lol

    <smile>

    Camille

  • #144824

    Denise Petet
    Participant

    I have a person that consistently uses nothing for the subject. Empty space. And doesn’t seem to get that, when trying to find answers, it’s helpful to know which of several e-mails are important.

  • #144822

    Will Saunders
    Participant

    The worse one’s I get are the ones that say something like, “Do Not Delete” or “Please Read ASAP” and that’s the most surefire way to get me to delete without reading it. Usually it’s just nonsense anyway.

  • #144820

    Tina Boehle
    Participant

    I wrote a couple people that did that consistently and said I would delete those emails without response as the emails might have a virus.

  • #144818

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    The “No Subject” Email just seems bad form.

  • #144816

    Patrick Fiorenza
    Participant

    Interesting discussion…This hasn’t happen to me in awhile, but emails that are sent marked as urgent or important are a little bit of a pet peeve for me. No matter what you do, the email is not going to arrive any faster. If anything is that urgent, a phone call would likely be more appropriate. You have to be careful, because a bad subject line could indicate that you don’t value the recipients time. Questions in the subject, marked as urgent, very forward language, could absolutely send the wrong message – likely you don’t mean to come off that way, so you need to be sure you are contacting someone through the right channels and using a proper tone. With communication moving so fast, it’s easy to make a mistake, so taking a few extra minutes to proofread and think through your tone/voice could save you from a much larger and uncomfortable situation.

  • #144814

    Patrick Fiorenza
    Participant

    Yeah, on the flip side – just a subject line strikes me as odd, not really good way to communicate.

  • #144812

    Anonymous

    I especially dislike emails that are marked with a red exclamation point to denote “high importance”. I know what is urgent and what is not.

  • #144810

    Anne Hasselbrack
    Participant

    I work with someone who, for a long time (till I told her she needed to stop because it wasn’t professional or easy to track), was putting parts of her message in the subject line and finishing in the body of the message. For instance, subject “is it okay” and body “for me to send the attached?”

  • #144808

    Ashley Fuchs
    Participant

    me too.

  • #144806

    Will Saunders
    Participant

    Hi Anne, I completely agree. Not only is it not professional, but it’s annoying. People apparently do not realize that the point of a subject line is to give the recipient an idea what the message will be regarding. I just got one like that this morning. The subject had, “hey, did you know” and the person continued with the body. I don’t usually give those types of messages very much priority.

  • #144804

    Jack Shipley
    Participant

    I did read a blog about how we can improve our email use (read ‘speed’ here), and it included just using the subject line for short messages.You have to end the line with something that says, that is all or there is no message below.

    But I think that will take some time to get accepted.

  • #144802

    Anonymous

    I favor that and some people use it effectively.

  • #144800

    Subject: Need your ass

    (for real, at work, not a personal email/address, to multiple addressees)

    Offering the benefit of the doubt, I have to assume this sender got interrupted while attempting to type “assistance,” but what you see above is what went out.

  • #144798

    Colleen Ayers
    Participant

    In State Department, it’s a serious cultural gap between the cables-generation and the email-generation. Cables were sent in all caps ALL THE TIME, and so many still do it that way, but those of us raised on email just cringe when we see it!

  • #144796

    Anonymous

    @colleen, I hear you. Capital letters are rude, unless it is a matter of life or death.

  • #144794

    Colleen Ayers
    Participant

    This one definitely deserves some kind of award!

  • #144792

    Colleen Ayers
    Participant

    What drives me nuts is when someone will find an old email (presumably to get the address) and just reply to that and leave the old “Re: (subject)” even if the new email has NOTHING to do with the old one.

    I also make it a habit to change the subject line when I’m replying if the dialogue has taken a significant turn, or at least add something to the end of the old subject line to show it’s picking up on a new topic.

  • #144790

    Anonymous

    @colleen, I agree. Email has made many people sloppy and careless. I have received messages as you describe and it is horrible. The ability to write well is a lost art for some.

  • #144788

    Anonymous

    @ Chrtistopher, That is priceless.

  • #144786

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    oh my

  • #144784

    Keena Cauthen
    Participant

    Question?

    That’s it… nothing more. Ummm… hello… I work in an environment where I handle questions all day. Would it be that difficult to write what the question is about? ie: Question re: Drill Pay Waivers This would do two things, let me know what the topic, but when I respond, you have a way of knowing what the question was about and which folder it should be in so you don’t have to ask me that same question again in 2, 3, or even 8+ weeks. Trainees are full of questions, and now so is my in-box.

  • #144782

    Anonymous

    Even more, I hate the phrase or title “quick question”. I feel your pain to have to answer all those emails that look the same.

  • #144780

    Raymond Clark
    Participant

    A line from a former boss “Today is not going to be your day”

    A line from a former girlfriend “I’ve been having second thoughts” Turned out to be about dinner.

    A line from my college-age son “Remember that money you sent…”

    A line from my younger son “Girlfriend pregnant” Turns out to be his friends girlfriend, whew!

  • #144778

    Paul Homan
    Participant

    Those are amazing!

  • #144776

    Jack Shipley
    Participant

    Well that’s good to know : )

    Hurray for progress.

  • #144774

    Jack Shipley
    Participant

    Haha. I think you get the prize!

  • #144772

    I haven’t read all the comments to this forum, so maybe someone has made this point…but I was just over at the Newseum in DC on Wednesday and what strikes me is that good subject lines are a lot like great headlines….and the Newseum has a bunch of botched headlines…pretty funny…and illustrative. Here are some I found:

    Exhibit A (recent): http://dcist.com/2011/10/this_seems_like_a_bigger_story.php

    Exhibit B – Z: http://www.innocentenglish.com/funny-bloopers-mistakes-quotes/funny-newspaper-headlines.html

    I guess we could learn from church marquees, too:

    http://wilk4.com/humor/humorc13.htm

  • #144770

    Ross Travis
    Participant

    Brilliant! I wish I could do that with a couple of my customers. I have asked them to include a subject line which they don’t do. Their excuse is that they are too busy to do that. These are the same people who also don’t cc the people that I constantly ask them to cc in all correspondence.

  • #144768

    Ali
    Participant

    Any message not utilizing a sufficiently descriptive or identifying subject line.

    As an agency-level budget analyst, I get literally hundreds of e-mails every day (and that’s just e-mail, not even counting ongoing work and projects, daily responsibilities, and things that come up from phone calls or people dropping into my office). I often don’t have time to go through them the moment they arrive, so being able to discern from the subject line whether or not something is critical and time-sensitive / politically sensitive or not is essential and efficient, in order to allow me to prioritize my reading and handling of my e-mails. (And someone putting “urgent” in the subject line is not a substitute for having a sufficiently identifying subject line; as what the sender considers urgent may not actually be urgent in the overall, agency-wide scheme of things…or even if it is urgent, something else may be more urgent, and I need to be able to quickly “triage” my e-mail and tasks.)

  • #144766

    Anne Hasselbrack
    Participant

    YES!!! I get those too. Maybe if I don’t open, they will stop? Person who sends also tracks whether her emails were opened or not 🙂

  • #144764

    Gov Girl
    Participant

    Agreed! This one drives me nuts. If you can email me, you can figure out SOMETHING to put in the subject line. Plus, when you get upwards of 50+ emails a day, I need something to go off of to sort these suckers. Ugh.

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