Effective Email: It Starts With a Good Subject

We get a lot of email. A lot of email. And sadly, a lot of them come in without useful subject lines.Here are some examples of less-than-useful email subjects we’ve gotten in the past month:

  • Hello
  • Help!
  • Computer issue
  • <company name>
  • “” (no subject at all)

What’s wrong with these? Let’s go through them one at a time.


Are you really writing just to say “hello?” If so, great. As the recipient, I’m glad to hear from you. And, because I’m so busy, I can just delete that message, because it’s obviously not important.


Okay, this is slightly more useful, in that at least I have an idea that the sender was writing to ask for help. But… as someone who manages a helpdesk, every email we get is asking for help.

“Computer issue”

Really? You emailed a computer helpdesk with a “computer issue?”

“<company name>”

Telling me the name of your company does not help. We know who you are based on the email address.

“” (no subject)

No subject, no help.

So what are useful subjects? Describe, in ten words or fewer, the problem that you are reporting. Here are some examples:

  • Website blocked by content filter
  • Virus alert on station 22
  • Cannot print to printer 12 from station 14
  • Accounting package crashes while running reports
  • Burlington office is offline
  • JSmith cannot receive email

By taking literally a few seconds to put a descriptive subject into your email, you are giving the recipient immediate insight into your problem, which helps them understand and respond to your issue more quickly and efficiently, saving you time and money.

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