Who writes no subject-emails?

I guess you, as well as I, get a lot of e-mails, and when getting without any text in the subject field, especially in a business context , it makes me wonder a bit.

I mean, e-mail has been around quite some time, right? And it’s not that difficult to write one either. You enter one or several recipients, hopefully a subject line and then the actual message. So how come I get a number of e-mails with no subject whatsoever?

I’m fairly convinced that every e-mail that’s being sent has some sort of subject and context which can be summarized in one or a few words. My questions here are:

  • Who, in your experience, are the ones most prone to writing a no-subject e-mail?
  • Why would anyone send an e-mail without a subject?

27 Comments

  • In my experience people who tend to write no-subject emails are those who think that there are not enough hours in the day and don't realise the value of a subject line (to both the sender and to them where there is a reply).

    Generally I class these people as idiots!

  • I do! But only to 1 specific person. My other half and I email each other throughout the day and never have subject lines (it's just like v. slow IM). We just don't need subjects. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, for personal email I use gmail and I rely more on filters/labels and searching to find things these days over subject lines.

    I've not really seen it in work situations though, especially where multiple TOs or CCs are involved. It makes emails too unmanageable, so it is pretty silly.

    At my last job, I used to get no subject emails from people sending very last-minute-thoughty emails (usually of just a line or a few words). Or, alternatively, I'd get emails that are equally as short, but the whole contents would be put into the subject and the body left blank (which actually works better). Oh, and I tended to get these emails from other developers.

  • Jules says:

    Frances wrote:

    <blockquote cite="http://www.robertnyman.com/2007/10/16/who-writes-no-subject-emails/#comment-121966">My other half and I email each other throughout the day and never have subject lines (it’s just like v. slow IM). We just don’t need subjects.

    My relationship is better than your relationship!!!

    LOL ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sorry Frances, this is what I heard when I read what you wrote.

    Robert, my pet-peeve about emails does include the no subject emails but what gets my goat more is when my father changes the subject line when he replies. A message to him with the subject line Thanksgiving Visit comes back to me with Re: Arrival time so Gmail can't fit the message into its thread.

  • My business emails always contain subject lines, and my no-subject emails are always emails like this:

    Hey dude,

    wanna go outside to grab a smoke?

    Stuff that's not even worth searching through your inbox for ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Ced-le-pingouin says:

    I know at least two people who don't write subjects. One is because he's always doing several things at once, has too little time between two meetings, and he's often not very careful about such things. The other is because she really don't care, I guess ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Olle says:

    subjects in emails are just so overflow. I hate those people who write their one-liner emails in the subject.

  • I have one particular client who always sends me no-subject emails – and even when I amend the subject line to something appropriate in my reply, he always just starts a new email to reply to that… with no subject included.

  • Deborah says:

    Several of my clients send messages with no subject line. It's very frustrating, and like Matthew, I always add a subject when I reply back to their messages.

    A few times, I've mentioned in a friendly manner I hope, that I've added info in the subject line, hoping it will encourage my clients to change their ways. So far, no luck.

  • Binny V A says:

    I rarely get email without subject – but I get meaning less subjects all the time. Subjects like 'hi' 'hello' 'please help'.

  • Mei says:

    This is also a pet hate of mine. It's usually the same people.

    I've often "politely suggested" to use a subject, and sometimes deliberately reply late and blaming it on the non-subject email being sent to the spam folder.

    One person also doesn't use a subject and uses CAPS LOCK TO ASK EVERYTHING.

  • Jeff says:

    I get these all the time and it irks me something fierce. I also get HTML email that makes use of bright blue colors and larger-than-necessary fonts. Ugh.

    To be honest, though, I have sent subject-less emails once or twice but I immediately felt bad afterwards. Sometimes, if what you have to say is really short, it could very well be the subject line. It kind of comes down to either having no subject line or having it completely mimic the actual body of the email. I hate redundancy and I hate subject-less emails. Woe is me!

  • Anders M.J. says:

    If I can't find an appropriate subject line for an e-mail, I'll write keywords, just like tags. This makes it easier for the recipient to find the mail later, e.g. if he search for it.

  • Maarten says:

    I occassionally get an email without a subject. I guess some people just can't be bothered to think of one. Sometimes i can't find a good subject, because there are too many different things going on in the mail, personal mail though, but i always write a subject. Even if it is just a stupid one… I have used "applepie" for a subject a few times ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Goulven says:

    Sometimes I confess I forget to fill in the subject. It on ly happens when I'm unsure of the scope of the email as I start writing it.

    Otherwise, yeah, I hate it when people send no-subject emails -or worse: reply and remove the subject. Makes gmail freak out and me too!

  • Steven Clark says:

    As usual I'm the partly guilty party. I've probably sent off three or four emails this year where I've left the email subject until last and then forgotten to put it in – much like forgetting an attachment…

    if someone kept systemically doing this to me though it might be time to say something. If they're businesses soliciting then just put them on the banned list perhaps. Too harsh?

    To the 2 professors who have received such subjectless emails this semester I flail at your feet in subjucation and knowing wrongness (NOT)… ๐Ÿ™‚

    edith piaff had no regrets either.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    My dad often uses a null subject, for some reason. A few people at the office, too; mainly those who are not so computer literate.

    I'm more annoyed by those at the office who sends empty emails with the whole message in the subject line. We're using Outlook, and it's sometimes almost impossible to see the last part of the 'message'.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Yeah, I thought I wasn't alone with this. And yes, I agree that people who stubbornly write complete messages in the subject field are as much trouble.

  • Tercume says:

    Also another big problem is that spam mails came with no subject.

  • micke says:

    Olle: "I hate those people who write their one-liner emails in the subject."

    Yes! I hate that too. Just because the sender runs outlook in a maximized window doesn't mean that I can see that extremely long subject line in my email client of choice (which I don't run in a maximized window). Keep subjects short (but not empty). The subject line is for the subject, how hard can it be?

  • Birgit says:

    I often get e-mail with subject "hello" from people who don't use computers a lot, and don't feel confident for some reason how to deal with the subject field.

    Others simply forget or maybe don't like spending time on finding the right subject… hm, maybe hte mail itself is too unimportant to spend that much time on it?!?

  • Others simply forget or maybe donโ€™t like spending time on finding the right subjectโ€ฆ hm, maybe hte mail itself is too unimportant to spend that much time on it?!?

  • Christina says:

    Recently I am getting lots of spam- weird addresses, no subject. I delete them before opening and was hoping to find a way to send them directly to my spam box.( Any ideas?)
    By the way, if the subject-less message is from some one I know, then I assume it was an oversight.
    An email wthout a subject is like a book without a title. Would you pick it up in a book store?

  • Demian says:

    I wish I could write emails without subjects. Someone in one of the last posts said : “but i always write a subject. Even if it is just a stupid one”

    Why have a subject if it’s going to be stupid? Simpler, would be if email didn’t *need* to have subjects at all. Think of meeting someone on the street and communicating something quickly to them… do you preface your communication with a subject? No. Also, texting… if every text had a subject it would get *very* annoying.

    I’m thinking have the email client pick out some keywords and create a subject out of them, if none is present. That way my emails wouldn’t always have the subject “update” or “hi there”.

    Just thinking…

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Demian,

    For me it’s also about findability. When you get lots of e-mails, you want to have a good subject to be able to easily find the right one. And if you get lots of e-mails, it’s good to be able to skim all of them without having to open each and everyone individually.

  • mir abolfazl says:

    no subject

  • Tom says:

    I never put a subject…you will know the subject once you open it what’s the rush.

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