why do people insist on writing an entire message in the email subject line?

A reader writes:

I have a low stakes question, but it irritates me to no end. I have three colleagues who all insist on writing the body of their email in the subject line (unless it doesn’t fit, in which case it will be half in the subject and half in the body of the email).

The subject line will be something like, “Hi Barry, I need to process a purchase order ASAP for pink elephants and we only have a product code for blue elephants. Can you set up a code for pink elephants today and let me know when done”

Body of email: screenshot of the blue elephant code, or left blank with only their email signature.

I find this horribly unprofessional, rude, and difficult to read! Am I being a stick in the mud? Can I say something without coming across as the etiquette police? Is email etiquette training a thing I can request for these people? For info, these people are difficult to deal with anyway — slow to respond unless it aids them in some way, everything is urgent, if they do write a proper email it is spelled wrong and often ends halfway through a sentence, nothing follows process, etc. — and to me this just screams “EXCUSE ME I AM IMPORTANT AND BUSY THEREFORE I CANNOT WRITE AN EMAIL LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.” For context, I’m a 20something woman and they are all middle-aged men.

I don’t think it’s unprofessional, per se, but I agree it’s annoying and difficult to read.

Why do people do this? I have no idea. It’s not a big deal if the entire email is very short — like if they stick “got the draft, thanks!” in the subject line and there’s nothing in the body, fine. I still don’t love it because you’ve got to open the email to see if there’s more inside that you need to read and it still raises the question of why they feel the need to do it that way but fine, it’s a known emailing style some people use. But when it’s lengthy or multiple sentences, WHY?

But unless you’re their boss, you should let it go. It doesn’t rise to the level of something you should try to address — unless it’s truly making your job harder (not just slightly more annoying), in which case you could say, “Could you put long messages in the body of the email, not the subject line? The email program on my phone cuts off half your message when you do it this way.” But otherwise, you should file this under the umbrella of “annoying coworker peccadilloes with no real solution.”

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. HailRobonia*

    Also: don’t email me with a message that consists entirely of “can we schedule a call?”

    1. EPLawyer*

      YES. Or call me I have a question.

      Well put the question in the email. You will get an answer faster than emailing back and forth about scheduling a call to ask it.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Or even if we do need a call, telling me the question helps me be better prepared for the call.

        1. ecnaseener*

          YES. If you want to explain the question entirely verbally, just call. Leave a voicemail if I don’t pick up, explaining your question verbally. If you’re going to the trouble of sending an email about it, give me a general topic or something – no one will be happy if our scheduled phone call ends up at “oh if I had known this was an alpaca question I would have made sure Jane was on the call, idk much about alpacas.”

          1. Calls are to Iron out Details*

            Or if you want to explain the question verbally – speech to text is now a thing.

            In my opinion, phone calls are for ironing out details/getting on the same page quickly. “I have a generic question with a lot of backstory you may or may not care about” can be an email or an IM.

        2. Tree Cat*

          OMG yes. So many people are cagey when they’re calling in for no discernable reason. I’m a tax preparer and very often a longtime client will leave a message for me that’s “very urgent” but they won’t even hint at what it is, even though the receptionist is instructed to always ask. So then I’m forced to call them back blind, and it’s something like “Can I swap my cattle barn for a house next year? What if I cashed out some of my IRA early to help sweeten the deal? How would that affect next year’s tax and my retirement in 5 years?”
          My brother in christ, that is a face-to-face meeting, if not multiple rounds of planning over several years. There’s so many variables that I haven’t researched ahead of time that I can barely even begin to give an answer. If you had just mentioned that to the receptionist, I could have at least maybe given you some ballpark figures. Now there’s nothing to say except I’ll have to call them back, therefore making the whole call a waste.

      2. VaguelySpecific*

        YES!!! I have a coworker who will always message me in Teams saying “call me when you get a chance” and then when I call they ask me a yes or no question that could have been done in the chat. It’s so inconsiderate of other peoples time.

        1. b-reezy*

          ME TOO. I have one specific lady I work with who refuses to do anything over chat except ask if I can call her or she can call me. And what should be a one sentence answer turns into a 20-30 minute call because she has to repeat everything she says 4 times and over explain things I don’t care about.

      3. L. Bennett*

        I get so irrationally annoyed when people ask me to call them (really, full stop, because I hate phone calls) but with no context makes me extra irate. Like, is this a thing I have to drop everything for? Or can you give me an idea so I can gather the info you need ahead of time? Give me SOMETHING here, people!

          1. allathian*

            Nah, it’s a problem when you have social anxiety or are otherwise afraid of the phone. I’m a chatty introvert and don’t mind the phone if it’s a social call where it doesn’t really matter if I remember anything of it afterwards. (My introversion means that I need time alone to recharge when I’ve been around a lot of people, say at a conference, or to a lesser extent even after a day at the office, but I rather enjoy talking to people, especially in low stakes situations.)

            But I’m a fast reader with great reading comprehension, and 99 times out of 100, I vastly prefer to get whatever you want to tell me in written form, especially if it’s a work request/order. I can refer back to it later if necessary, but usually I don’t have to, because I can remember things I read but my memory’s a lot less reliable for things I hear. Thankfully in my org work requests have to be submitted in writing unless it’s a short question I can answer off the cuff. That doesn’t happen so often anymore, because I continue to work in a hybrid setup, with more days at home than at the office. The vast majority of my coworkers do the same thing.

            The only exceptions happen when someone’s so bad at written communication that I have to call them for clarification. But since my work is largely written comms adjacent, this never, ever happens at work. All of my close coworkers write for a living and care about the impression they make in writing, even in relatively informal media, such as our watercooler Teams channel.

            When someone calls me out of the blue I find it very distracting, mainly because I have so few people in my contacts list on my work phone (large org) and unless I know someone well enough to recognize their voice, I have a really hard time remembering their name. Scheduled calls are fine, even if it’s nothing more than a heads-up on Teams like “Hi! I have a question about X, can I call you/you call me?”

            That said, I also dislike the “hey give me a call” messages.

        1. justanobody*

          Yes! I really dislike the ‘hey give me a call’ messages. Please tell me what you’re calling about so I can be prepared when i call you back.

          1. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

            I had a boss who would do this, except she’d shout from her office or have her assistant come get me. Then she’d want specific info on the Alpaca report when I was deep into the Elephant update and I’d end up having to email her the info anyways.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          Absolutely! I work in a financial office and one of the things I do is check the general voicemail. Clients who leave a message saying “hi this is my name. This is my number. Please call me.” go to the bottom of the list.
          If they said what they wanted I would know who to send the message to, or whether to return the call myself. I am too busy to play guessing games back-and-forth and they are put aside until I have a minute.
          And then when I do call, it turns out they have something they need to talk to someone else about and if they had said something, it would have saved both of us some time.

          1. Ultra Anon*

            I don’t reply to those at all, tbh. You called me, you tell me what the nature of your call is!

    2. LawBee*

      Oh, this feels like a good use of email if I need to talk to you but don’t know when a good time would be. I can’t put, or don’t always want to put, the context in an email for various job-specific reasons, so I’ve definitely done this.

      1. Cyndi*

        Agreed! I will always give some idea of the context, not just go “call me, the end,” but I hate being called without even a “hey is now a good time” IM, so I’m not going to do it to other people. Also, my personal experience at multiple jobs has been that the only time anyone calls me without warning, it’s because they’re (rightfully or not) upset with me about something.

      2. Ashley*

        There are definitely times where you don’t want the paper trail so vague call me email and texts do have their place. Though I do try to call first unless I know they are tied up for the day and will follow up if they don’t answer this way.

      3. azvlr*

        I recently went back and forth over email six times to get some information I needed from an internal client to move forward with my work on their program.
        1) Emailed my client if they could put me in touch with the original person who submitted the material. I explained I had questions that were nuanced and really better suited for a conversation. I provided enough context for the client to know how much time was involved.
        2) Was told they (the client) were the point of contact. I checked their schedule and all I saw as “Busy” blocked out in varying increments for the next eight days.
        3) Emailed back to ask about their availability, since their calendar was all booked up and hinted to just check mine since I keep mine up to date.
        4) The reply was, “Check my calendar and schedule some time (Although I “serve” them by doing certain work for their programs, I’m not their assistant in any way.)
        5) Me, getting impatient to get the work to them when promised, put all my questions in a document with comments and recommendations.
        6) Got a very nasty reply (on the level of hostile workplace) that I shouldn’t be questioning the work others submit, since they are the experts on the topic. And do I do this to other clients, or just to them?

        Turns out, they were feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of stuff and ended up taking my comments very, very personally. I am pretty proud of how I handled it, but jeez I’m not your secretary.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          It sounds like their calendar was also up to date, though, and was reflecting what you ultimately found out: they are incredibly busy right now. Maybe this is just my industry, but if Anne tells Diana “I think we should have a meeting to discuss” the ball is in Anne’s court to actually schedule the meeting.

      4. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        My thought exactly. You don’t want to or cannot always state the reason for the call.

        1. Orora*

          As HR, people get nervous when I say, “Can we have a phone call?” because they think they might be in trouble. But if I can give them even a little context, it can be helpful to them. I try to use “It’s a sensitive employee matter that is best discussed on a phone call” or “It’s an employee relations matter I need your assistance with”

      5. Mantic Re*

        Yes definitely! It really does depend on your office culture I think. Folks tend to be very direct in my office so vague meeting invitations and/or requests for calls with no context is universally understood to mean I need to talk to you about something sensitive enough that I don’t want to create a paper trail yet.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Unless it’s an outside entity or you’re trying to create a *paper* trail for some reason, that’s what IM is for!!

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I have one in my inbox right now asking me to call to discuss a matter that was settled a week ago. The answer last week was No. The answer this week is still No, as I do not make the policy, but I can look it up for those who can’t or won’t look it up themselves.

    5. pepe le moku*

      to be fair, i will do that if the question is something i do not want to have in any kind of written record…. and i know that sounds bad but sometimes there are legitimate reasons/ cya stuff that i need to just ask a “hypothetical question” .

      1. MidWasabiPeas*

        This is the norm in my work world. Many things start out with the presumption of not having an audit trail until you have more information. I’ve noticed that when we get people from outside the industry, this is a thing they have bumps in the road while adjusting to.

    6. Koala Tea*

      Agreed. I prefer to respond with “My calendar is up to date, please feel free to send me an invite”. Ehem, there are helpful tools available to cut down on the back and forth and time is money for both of us….

    7. Eater of Hotdish*

      Oh, anxiety time!!

      “Can we talk?” = something dire has happened. I have failed gravely and must now live with the shame the rest of my life. The zombie hordes are at the door. Old Yeller’s got the hydrophoby and it’s my fault. Shaka, when the walls fell.

      …Or at least that’s where my mind always goes.

    8. Rosie*

      I get it. However, perhaps industry dependent. Where I am, it seems to to the following: 1. Email: urgency depends on content of email. Sometimes I need to answer within half an hour. Sometimes I can take days to reply. Call: likely very time sensitive, or something no one wants to have in writing. Scheduled call: big group to coordinate, or stand calls, or just not especially urgent. The “hey can you call me” email; I don’t mind, as of usually from someone I work with frequently. In my industry, it’s widely understood to say “I need to talk to you today, but nothing is on fire or an emergency. So call me between your packed schedule.” If you think of it like that, it seems even more respectful. They’re saying it’s time sensitive, but they’re not going to blow up your whole day over it. That’s my 2 cents, but I’m not willing to get worked up over communication styles.

  2. Sloanicota*

    I was very confused the first time I encountered Subject line: Got the draft thanks I did not know what EOM meant. It meant “end of message” meaning, no reason to check the body of the email.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Sorry, the “greater than / less than” marks were erased from my comment, which are around the subject line ending “EOM” – So SUBJECT: “Got the draft thanks EOM” with EOM surrounded by the symbols that can’t be used in comment.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Testing to see if the html entities work for the greater than / less than marks:


      2. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Yep, they work. So what you want to do is use the sequences of characters below, but delete the spaces (hopefully these show up right):

        & lt ;
        & gt ;

        Then you can get your less than /greater than marks to show up!

        1. bamcheeks*

          Oh my GOSH I’d never realised those literall stand for greater than / less than. I’ve always just seen them as random text code.

          1. LawBee*

            You didn’t have that in math class? 2<5, the crocodile jaws eat the big number?

            1. zaracat*

              I think they mean using the text gt and lt, not that they don’t know the concept or the signs

            2. Miette*

              I like crocodile jaws! I was taught that the bigger number is always pointing at the smaller one lol

      3. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        A common style I’ve seen is

        Subject: Got your message
        Body: n/t

        Where n/t means “no text”

        That way it shows in the preview and the recipient knows there’s no body text

        1. JSPA*

          yes, I use “no text.”

          Any program that lets you hover over the subject line and see the whole subject (including the “no text”) saves you a couple of clicks; Depending how you manage your email this can actually be a shortcut (and you’d be amazed how repetitive screen injuries encourage one to save clicks (or to not fix / edit text-to-speech, so long as the meaning is clear).

          1. Miette*

            I use EOM in the subject line, in case the person’s like me and not using preview text in their inbox.

        2. Lime green Pacer*

          Also, when the message (or reply) is very short, I will put my signature on the same line as the body, like this:

          Thanks for your prompt response, I will do that. —LG Pacer

          Again, the idea is that the whole brief message will show in the preview, with the signature to indicate that there is nothing more.

    2. Corporate Lawyer*

      Me too! I had to ask someone what “EOM” meant, but now that I know, it’s very useful.

      1. CatHerder*

        We used EOM all the time at the last firm I was at. No one does at my current firm. I did once and caused so much confusion! I miss it. LOL.

    3. Caramel and Cheddar*

      I actually don’t mind short emails like that being in the subject line, but you have to decide as a company that a) this is okay, and b) ensure everyone knows what EOM means. That said, I feel like that kind of email can probably be replaced by a Teams/Slack message by now if you have a messaging service at work.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My workplace has a TP2 form that needs to be submitted some months but not others, and the way my manager keeps track of this is to have us email them monthly either “TP2 for July attached (EOM)” or “TP2 not needed for July (EOM)”, which I always put in the subject line so they can see it at a glance.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Yep, we use this convention for one-way status update type things – situations the recipients need the info but they will have no need to respond:

          “Leftover food in the kitchen EOM”
          “Quarterly expense reports deadline is COB Wednesday EOM”
          “Sylvia out sick today EOM”
          “running 5 minutes late – start without me EOM”

      2. Anonymous*

        Yes, I used to get emails with the subject line “[short sentence] EOM” all the time, but it’s been almost a decade now. Why? That’s what Teams is for!

    4. Green great dragon*

      We use for no text (ie no text in the body of the email). It would be more helpful if we all used the same.

      But only for a brief reminder or confirmation that’s short enough to be seen all at once.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Oh, I misunderstood what Theon was saying – that’s nt for no text, in the greater/lesser than signs.

        1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

          All I was doing was seeing if there was a way to represent the signs in the comment section! Once I confirmed it was working, I typed up an explanation of what I did to make it work, but I suspect my comment used too many weird characters and got flagged, since it’s not showing up for me. It might be waiting on moderation.

          Anyway, if you want to type those characters in the comments here, google “html entities greater less than” and it should show you the strings of characters you have to type to get those to show up in the comments. That will work on a lot of social media sites, not just AAM.

    5. Helpdesk worker*

      I’m waiting for the moment when we’ll start to e-mail like we’re sending telegrams again.

      “Got the teapot reports. Stop.

      Gonna see if we can optimise the spout design. Stop.

      Ask Taylor for the chocolate molds. Stop.

      End of Message”

      1. FrogEngineer*


      2. Pippa K*

        “You’ve been sending me emails with the whole message in the subject line. Stop.”

    6. Momma Bear*

      Assuming people know what things mean is annoying but at least they tried to be clear and the message was short.

      If breaking up the text from subject line to body causes confusion or problems, I think it’s reasonable to point this out and I’d probably do so in person. Maybe following up on an info request. “By the way, sometimes your emails get lost on my phone because the subject line text is so long and it cuts off. Could you put the bulk of the message in the body? It will help me see what you need and respond more timely. Thanks!”

      Most people understand that the subject line is not a body field, but it’s like typing in all caps or with a weirdly fancy font. Doesn’t help get the job done if no one can read it or people think they’re being shouted at.

      It may not change, but pointing out the problem re: work may get better traction than just “I don’t like it.”

    7. Jessica*

      I’ve seen NFM used in this way. Stands for “no further message” (that is, no further message is to be found in the body of the email).

      1. Sloanicota*

        Fascinating that there’s so many variations of the same thing, none of them very intuitive the first time you encounter them!!

        1. Veronica*

          I’ve seen (and use) a simple “END” at the end – essentially the same as EOM but without the confusing acronym. “Barry is out today today (end).” Folks on the team use EOM or end.

    8. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      At my current job, when people will be out for the day, their supervisor will send an email saying “Eulalie out EOM.” I thought EOM meant “End of Monday” and would wonder why so many people would be coming back from their sick leave or vacation on a Tuesday… I figured it out. Eventually.

    9. Jezebella*

      In the before times, when the internet was new and fresh and bits were used only sparingly, we used “tsia” in various contexts (BBS, early social media) – as in “Title says it all”. Apparently no one remembers this any more. So anyway if you are a young and an old you know uses “tsia,” now you know.

    10. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

      I worked at a job where the convention was to say “Got your message nt” – nt meant no text so no need to open it.

    11. COHikerGirl*

      In accounting, EOM is end of month. Someone putting that in an email would thoroughly confuse me.

    12. learnedthehardway*

      Oh – that’s fabulous. I wish MORE people would condense their message to the subject line.

  3. AnotherOne*

    I haven’t gotten a lot of these but I’ve definitely written emails, looked back at them and thought wtf- the subject line is 10 words long and is basically the email is less words.

    I think sometimes I suffer from subject line-itis. I don’t know what to put in the subject line so I almost panic.

    I wonder if that’s some of these people’s issue.

    (Personally I end up with a lot of “Question” and “”)

    1. Owlet101*

      My work uses Gmail. I also suck at coming up with subject lines. So I just write the body of the email first and hope that Gmail’s predictive text can come up with a nice subject or something that I can at least work with.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I wouldn’t overthink it. If I need action from someone I will specify – “March Teapot Report – Request Review and Approval”. Or “Supply Status Inquiry”. A lot of my inbox is just project title but then I know at least what kind of pottery it’s about.

        1. Owlet101*

          I didn’t overthink it until I got the position I have now. A lot of times the subject I send out are just something like “[Name] Travel Paperwork.” My current position is a college secretary and I work closely with a Dean. So I’m probably just letting nerves get the best of me.

      2. Tupac Coachella*

        I make the subject line based on what I think will make the message most searchable plus what I think will help the person prioritize it, i.e., “Spout Committee design project-inlay FYI.” I love people who send me these types of subjects. Of course, by doing it this way I assume that I can predict how other people’s brains work, which is the point in the strategy where it all falls apart.

    2. t-vex*

      Help your recipients out and add a couple words about what the question is. Like, “Visit Wednesday?” or “job description?”

    3. Jojo*

      My goal when I do a subject line is to make it easy for the receiver to find the email at some point in the future if they need to search for it. Like Meeting minutes from 5/22/23 teapot design meeting.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        We use a program for recording keeping that automatically adds tags to each email, after the subject, for searchablity within the archive (project number, task type, etc). Everyone is supposed to use this system for liability reasons, yet half the people don’t know what’s going on and will ask me what the tags are on my emails (I’m in a support role and repeatedly have to show folks how to use the program, even though it’s not difficult).

        If someone were to write a 10 word subject line and then all the tags were added after, it would be insane. I would be tempted to send them envelopes of glitter in the post.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I don’t generally have too much trouble with it but I was amused recently when I was searching my gmail for an email from my brother and I noticed that we use “hey” as a subject for our emails like ALL THE TIME.

    5. Double A*

      I tend to put fairly detailed subjects because I send a lot of messages to people I know aren’t opening the messages. Even though it’s just key points, it can get a bit long but at least there’s a chance the main points have been in front of their eyeballs at some point.

    6. Khatul Madame*

      I work in a function that is important, but is often deferred or ignored (think compliance), so my communications run a high risk of going unnoticed. It doesn’t help that my correspondents are very busy and/or high up in the organization.
      To let the people know exactly what I need from them, I have to devise email subjects that combine topic and kind of email, for example:
      REQUEST FOR INFO – Buckwheat Flour backorder
      MINUTES – Quinoa Monthly Governance Meeting
      FOLLOW-UP – Grain of the Month Article Review

    7. Nina*

      At my last job the norm was to basically make the subject line a keyword field for searching later.
      So if I was emailing someone about whether the new teapot filler for a specific kind of tea needed to be made of a specific grade of stainless steel, the subject line might be ‘teapot filler oolong vent spout – 316/304?’ with more detail in the body.

    8. HoHumDrum*

      I dunno, I always err towards putting as much relevant info as possible in the subject line so the recipient can see how urgent it is and decide from there when to open and respond.

      Ex: “Scheduling question re: May 3rd workshop hours” and then the body would be more detailed like “Hi, I was wondering if the may 3rd workshop was going to be in the morning or the afternoon, I’m trying to schedule another meeting around it. thanks!” . I just think that is the most polite.

      But also I really hate receiving/reading/responding to emails and tend to triage my own inbox that way, so perhaps that’s just me because that’s my preference since I often don’t read non-urgent emails right away and hate when I’ve accidentally delayed looking at something that actually did need quick attention because the subject line wasn’t clear enough for me to prioritize properly.

    9. Bridget*

      Ooohhhhh the “Question” subject line is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I get so many emails and if I have to go back and reference yours there’s no good way for me to search for it. At least put “Question about llama grooming standards” or something in the title. Or, in my particular case, use the email thread *I specifically set up for this purpose* so I wouldn’t have to comb through my whole inbox looking for our conversations.

      Whew okay, sorry, rant over.

    10. Ellie*

      I do this all the time… my subject will be ‘X will be in late today’, or, ‘Meeting tomorrow is cancelled’, then the body of the email just says, ‘thanks’… I thought I was saving people time, you don’t have to open the email since you already know what it is about.

      We get hundreds of emails a day, unfortunately.

    11. Miette*

      It happens to me when I’m not using systems I’m used to. I have clients that prefer i use their systems sometimes, and as an independent contractor, I have no choice. It’s either use Outlook Online, Gmail, and other things concurrently at all times, or risk missing a communication.

      I find when I’ve typed out my entire message in the subject line, it’s typically a TAB button fail. In other words, I miscounted the number of times to hit the tab button to get to the body of the email and just started typing without looking. I’m not much of a touch typist, so i’m normally looking at my keyboard, not the screen.

      This may be what OP is encountering–or else these guys made the mistake once, didn’t notice/get any pushback, and just kept going with it. FWIW, if they’re “middle-aged” they’re my age, so they absolutely know how to do it properly. They just aren’t.

  4. bubbled*

    I have the opposite pet peeve. When someone put no useful information in the subject line, like “Hello” or “Question”, as opposed to “Question about the prod agmts”.

    1. DancinProf*

      When I teach professional/workplace writing (to U.S. university undergrads) I always recommend (i.e., go on a rant about) using an informative and specific subject line. Even if the subject line makes the message seem a little redundant I’d rather see “I will be absent Friday” in the subject line than just “Absence” (or, heaven forbid, “Hey”).

      1. evil bunny too*

        I also teach undgrads, I love the “Hey” emails that then contain no info of which class they’re in. I have to email back saying “which class are you in?” because I teach several large classes and it’s a pain to log into the LMS on a mobile device and search the class roster.

        I do tell them to start the subject line with the class number, but if they’re emailing me “Hey” I can guess they didn’t read or pay attention to the instructions on how to contact me

        Off topic but I teach freshman, so I get a lot of “I’m gonna be absent because my parents…” messages and then I get to inform them, this is not HS, and your parents can’t write you an absent note excusing you from 2 weeks of class, and that they were supposed to email the TA (not me) about absences.

        1. DancinProf*

          Bless them. While they’re at it, they can learn to put their names in their assignments’ file names so I don’t get 20 documents all named “Persuasive Essay.”

          But we will be here all day if we continue with examples of goofy student behavior!

        2. Samwise*

          I let my students know that I have to triage my email. The better the subject header, the more likely I am to open it in a timely manner. “Hey” or an empty subject header? Bottom of the pile.

          If it’s urgent, I tell them to make that clear in the subject header: Urgent, important, due soon, help help (they laugh about help help, but they do sometimes use it)

        3. Sophia*

          I show my age because I do a presentation for new students (they are also non traditional students, but have not worked office jobs) about obtaining IT help. I am IT help. I use Jerry McGuire “Help me help you. “. Please include the Course name/number, the assignment name, where it is located in the Course and the error message. The number of emails I get that have the subject “Help” and the text “It won’t let me upload/download X” with no other context is unbelievable. I support 100 courses my dudes. Give me something to work with!

        4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Go figure that the students who subject an email “hey” are the same students who don’t read the directions.

    2. Chrisssss*

      This is a skill I had to learn early in my career! Luckily I had someone explain to me, how to write proper subjects, and why it’s important.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      YES! Please put a subject line to let me know what project/event I can file this in! I have 20+ projects going on at any given time, and sometimes the people involved overlap, so I can’t even filter by sender.

      Another pet peeve is someone who responds to an email with an entirely new email instead of replying to the chain.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I deeply hate this. no, don’t send me an email with the subject line “hi.” If you’re emailing me about Llama v. Bananapants, PUT THAT IN THE SUBJECT LINE.

        1. Jaydee*

          Llama may win, but they’ll have hella attorney fees because there’s an 80% chance Bananapants is self-represented and a 20% chance Bananapants has an attorney who is completely inept and naively thinks they’re going to make big bucks because Banapanta has given them a very skewed version of the facts which they have not put in any effort to independently verify.

      1. LawBee*

        This also applies to online dating. If all you’ve got for me is “hey” then I’m not wasting my time.

    5. N*

      My boss uses “query” as the subject for EVERY EMAIL. Some queries are “Can you send me document X before my meeting in 20 minutes?” and some queries are “where did you get the shoes you are wearing today?”

      Those are not the same thing!

      1. Mackenna*

        I used to work with someone who did that. EVERY. SINGLE. EMAIL. I got from her had the subject line ‘Query’.

        Well obviously you have a query – you wouldn’t be emailing me if you didn’t! But what is your query ABOUT? And by when do you need an answer?

        Repeated requests for her to put keywords indicating subject matter and required response time in the subject line, then further detail in the body of the email, went in one ear and out the other. I would amend the subject lines in my replies so she would have an example of what a useful subject line was, but I don’t think she even noticed those.

        After several months I couldn’t take it any more and told her that I was going to set up a rule to automatically delete any emails that only had the word ‘Query’ in the subject line. That got a bit more content added to the subject lines, but still not enough to prevent me from needing to open the email to figure out what it was about.

    6. Samwise*

      OR when they reply to a previous message of mine, without changing the subject header, but their message has nothing to do with my previous message.

    7. Modesty Poncho*

      ok I just woke up from a nap and I’d like you to know I misread this as “prog ants” and thought it was about rock and roll insects

    8. Ellen*

      There’s a person I work with who drives me nutty with uninformative subject lines. Let’s say this person’s name is Jane Smith; the subject line of EVERY EMAIL is “From Jane Smith – janesmith.com.” I know it’s from you!! Your email is in the “FROM: ” box of the email!!

    9. Miette*

      OMG same. I have SO MANY “Notes from our call” emails in my inbox right now! Would it kill someone to include the date of said call?

      ALSO, in case anyone needs this information, if an email thread’s topic changes midstream, you CAN change it so that it’s more on-point.

    10. Cee Cee*

      I’ve this pet peeve, too. I know someone who just say “Hello” on the subject line and wrote specifics in the body. It came across to me that someone failed to focus on the subject matter of the message. (Yeah, this person hated his courses with essay components with passion and hired someone to do his homework!)

      Even in chat or any asynchronous communication, don’t just say hello. This leaves the recipient wondering what you want. See nohello dot com or nohello dot net for details.

  5. Fuel Injector*


    That is a story you are telling yourself about the sender. It might be true. It might not be true. It is definitely contributing to your irritation. They are not doing anything actually wrong, so the best path forward for you might be to change the story you tell yourself.

    1. Detective Rosa Diaz*

      + 1. While I don’t do long subject lines, I will put shorter messages in the subject (such as “Do you want to call the teapot vendor today?”).

      It’s not because I’m busy and important, but because I want the sender to quickly know the details without having to constantly be going into the full email body – especially given email volume these days, and how it can distract from focused work.

      I personally get email anxiety from time to time about opening emails (usually if I’m behind on work; or just anxious about a specific project), so having specificity in the subject line helps me a lot to take action where I need to, instead of letting an email sit unopened bc I’m feeling discomfort.

    2. Rat Racer*

      I actually thought that putting the entirety of the email in the subject line was a designed to save the reader time because then they don’t have to open the message – they can just read the headline in their inbox. Maybe if the email subject is a 5-para essay, however, it defeats the purpose.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Yeah, they’re doing the EOM thing badly. The idea of putting the whole message in the subject line is definitely meant to save the recipient time/effort. But that doesn’t work if it’s a paragraph, or if the recipient isn’t told clearly that it’s the whole message (with an EOM tag).

        The EOM convention had its moment but never really did take off, and I am guessing that’s where these guys got it.

        1. Not my real name*

          Exactly. Our receptionist was testing out the paging setup on our new phone system so I sent her an email had the subject “Heard the page. EOM.”

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I will try to put the whole question in the subject line if I can do it it in about 5 words. It sounds like the OP is annoyed when people actually max out the subject line and then continue in the main body, which I agree is annoying.

        1. Random Bystander*

          Ooh, that is hard to read (and I have been on the receiving end of a few of those), when you have to go back up to the subject line to get the first half of a sentence.

          A five word subject line, though, seems pretty normal. Of course, the email at my work forces text (signature doesn’t substitute), but I favor writing out a “no text” or some such variant unless sender and I have been back and forth long enough that the abbreviation is clear enough on its own.

    1. t-vex*

      I always picture a little pig wearing armor, a cross between a peccary and an armadillo.

      1. Beth*

        *fruity British announcer accent*

        And here we see the common striped peccadillo in its native habitat, burrowed deep in the mannerisms of middle-aged middle managers. We’re not sure how this little fellow manages to breed in such a sterile environment, but you can see that the species is thriving.

  6. Snow Globe*

    I have never known anyone who does this, so weird that you have more than one in your office! My first thought is that these are people who do NOT open emails to read the whole message, so they put everything in the subject line because they think others (like themselves) won’t see the whole message otherwise.

    1. new year, new name*

      I have also never encountered this! I’m weirdly fascinated by it. If I saw it once, I’d probably assume it was a mistake.

      The occasional “Sorry, be there in five EOM” seems totally fine to me, especially if the person only has your email address so they can’t text you or send you a Slack message or whatever (also now that I know what EOM means, which I definitely did not the first time I saw it). But this seems like a whole ‘nother ball game!

    2. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I’ve never seen this either but would lean toward the “computer illiterate” theory, although the doesn’t open their email would be a close second.

      I’d probably make it a huge problem for them. Ex. email back with “sorry, I’m confused, there is no message.”, “sorry, I’m confused, subject line cut off.”, “sorry again, I’m still unclear.” over and over again until they learn it is a lot more work to email me in the subject line than just send a proper email.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        I was going to comment with the same proposal. You might be able to train them out of this by continuously replying that your phone cuts off subject lines and they need to email again with the message in the body for you to read it. It sounds like these emails are requests to LW, so there’s a bit of a carrot/stick that could be employed regarding the timeliness of her response/action.

      2. Buffy Rosenberg*

        My Useless 2 Cents, I agree with the more generous interpretation, but couldn’t that approach land as a little passive aggressive?

      3. Trillian*

        Or it’s a whole-office defensive response to a past exec who never actually opened and read their email.

    3. OrdinaryJoe*

      That’s my boss! If you don’t put your question/issue/action needed in the subject line or first maybe 5 words of the email, good luck to you!

      With them, I’ve gotten into the habit of just writing Please Reply All – Approve and that’s it. They don’t care what they are approving, why, how much, etc. they just care about what they need to do ie, hit Reply All and type Approved.

    4. ButtonUp*

      Never seen it before either! I think my mind would jump to the person being incompetent with technology before self-important.

    5. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      My thought was Is this something that people actually do?” because I have never seen this in my professional or personal life. And I’ve worked with many types of people, from all ages and backgrounds.

    6. Lozi*

      My first guess was I wonder if it could be that they also communicate a lot by text message, and are treating the subject line like a text? The way they appear on your phone would make it similar. I could imagine this would be more likely if it was younger people, so the middle-age makes less sense, except that there definitely are some industries that rely way more on text message than email. If anyone is out on a job site away from an office, that might make sense?

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who has never encountered this. It would likely annoy the hell out of me.

      There is someone in another department, who used to be in my department, who will make a subject line and then with every single reply, tack on some action she took in connection with the email. It will start out as, “John Smith Case Due 05/01/23, Reviewed” and eventually become, “John Smith Case Due 05/01/23, Reviewed *Case Exp. Date Changed to 05/15/23* Case Reviewed by Sally Doe* Case Closed 05/14/23* Email Saved to (folder name).” It drives most of us nuts. It also causes issues when we need to save those emails and then upload them to a portal as part of an audit. Her new manager, as well as multiple requests from IT, finally got her to stop.

  7. Southern Soul*

    When I’ve experienced this, it’s either because the person is emailing from a device they don’t normally use (like they’re using their phone in the field rather than a desktop), or because the person is just extremely computer illiterate.

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      Yes, this. My stepdad also writes entire emails in the subject line, and I think both explanations fit: He’s definitely computer illiterate, and he also has a greater tendency to do this when he’s using his tablet (which is most of the time) than when he’s using an actual computer.

      OP, linking Southern Soul’s comment and Fuel Injector’s comment further above about the story you tell yourself, it might be helpful to change the story to: “Wow, this person is really bad at email” (accompanied by a shrug or an eye roll), instead of “this person is a self-important jerk.” It’s unlikely you’ll be able to change the emailer’s behavior, and probably the best you can do is to take steps to lower the intensity of your reaction to that behavior from enraged to mildly annoyed or, better yet if you can manage it, mildly amused.

      1. Not like a regular teacher*

        Yes, this. I work with low-digital-literacy adults and “entire message in the subject line” is in the top 3 most common subject lines I receive, along with no subject line and “from [name]”.

        1. Jane Brain*

          Same here, we have a number of clients who do this and my impression is it is people who are unfamiliar with how subject lines and emails work.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      I have never experienced it professionally, but in the tennis league I am in the two women most unfamiliar with tech have done this multiple times and every time I’m confused. My favorite part is that they both refuse text messaging, like get into fights with the rest of the team about not wanting to be texted for any reason about anything, and yet one of them sent me an email with subject line “got your Venmo, thanks” and no body and I wanted to scream at her “THIS IS A TEXT!”

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        side note for the person who doesn’t want to text:
        I wonder if they remember when texting was super expensive and you were charged a lot for texts. It could be residual from that and they think that is how it still works.

        OR they think texting is bad. One of those language purists who think text messaging is damaging language and that kids don’t know how to talk anymore and are dumb because of text message usage. and so they don’t want to contribute to societies downfall by text messaging.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Then they go “this meeting could’ve been an email!” Then insinuate your four-bullet-point email was too long to read. An endless cycle.

      To answer the question, I do longer detailed headers because I regularly need to dig them out years later and having those headers say certain things seems to make them easier to dig out

    2. Just a girl*

      Came here to say this! When I’ve encountered this (or been directed to do it myself) it has always been an email to someone who is super busy and email overwhelmed. They usually don’t open any emails unless they can tell it’s something high priority.

      It’s a whole other problem in and of itself; they need a person or system to better filter them for them. But – it is the one and only reason I’ve done it myself.

    3. Princess Deviant*

      Also, it helps the reader prioritise whether or not to open the email now or later…

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      That may be the issue in your organization, but it was definitely not why my former coworker did this.

    5. Ally McBeal*

      I genuinely don’t understand this. Maybe it’s because I’m in a communications field and therefore put TOO much emphasis on great email skills… but I work with a social media freelancer who once told me to my face that she doesn’t check email. She works in SOCIAL MEDIA and doesn’t even check her emails unless I text her “hey just sent you details about the XYZ project which is due next week.” (She’s apparently a nepo hire, which explains some of it, but still.)

      1. Lisa Simpson*

        I scheduled a lot of young staff in a coverage position, and any time we needed to contact the whole group, we’d have to send a business email and then a summary text telling people to check their email. If it was something important (ex: Amber woke up with llamapox we need emergency coverage for tonight) we’d also have to call each person multiple times because none of them had their voice mailboxes set up.

        I get that people are busy and have lots of other stuff to do besides work, but you can just text back “sorry I can’t” about urgent coverage. And if you did the basic tasks you were asked to, like approve your timecard or do your training webinar in a timely fashion, we wouldn’t have to harass you in the first place.

    6. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I had a grandmanager who did not open emails unless the subject said MILES READ ME READ ME READ ME or similar.

      (He was the same one where my direct manager’s first instruction to me was “If Miles makes a suggestion that sounds off-the-wall or extremely impractical, you should…” “Get a grown-up?” “… Well, I wasn’t going to say that, but yes, ask me or Elli or Elena or Baz.”)

  8. birdup*

    in my experience older people do this. I asked one and they said it was to help the message stick out so you can see the request or whatever right away

    1. mcm*

      I think this is also usually the reason in my experience — which also bugs me tbh because they can’t prioritize my inbox for me!

    2. HigherEdEscapee*

      Ah, therein is a problem. I worked with a person who, using the same logic, titled all of their emails with FROM JANE: Changes in Teapot Department or FROM JANE: Teapot Department Head Promotion. Every single email started with FROM JANE: on the assumption that it meant that people would notice it and stop what they were doing to read it.

      It not only backfired spectacularly, as all of the email felt like noise, it made the rest of the staff come to loathe emails from Jane as they were self important, usually full of jargon, often factually incorrect, and could have been an instant message. I’ve never been a fan of email message in the subject line as I think it makes the same mistake- assuming importance or the needs/time/patience of the recipient. Convention exists for a reason in this case.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I will do entire message in the subject line if it’s 6 words or less. “TP2 report attached” or “Running late, will join at 10:05” seems fine to me.

        “Hello Jon, I wanted to touch base about the TP2 report, I don’t think it’s necessary before meeting with the contractors on Tuesday, Thanks”, on the other hand, does seem odd to me. I’d still ascribe it to ignorance rather than malice.

      2. The Rural Juror*

        My boss and I laughed that his inbox was so full every day that I needed to get his attention (I had to copy him on a lot of my communication to others). Our fake plan was for me to type his name before the subject –
        BOSS = you actually need to read this
        BOSS BOSS = this is pretty important/time-sensitive
        BOSS BOSS BOSS = the building is on fire!!!

        Of course we never actually did this because all other recipients would be confused.

    3. evil bunny too*

      I have the opposite issue – I deal with college students who seem to want everything in the subject line so they don’t have to open the message

    4. I Wish My Job Was Tables*

      Yeah, when I’ve seen this, it’s from people who are either older than 40 or are intensely computer illiterate. They have a different idea of what would flag an email as “needs to be read” and thus put all the info where people could see it. Works for them, drives me up the wall.

      1. Enai*

        I’m confused. I’m over 40, fast nearing 50. And when I went to university/college, the first thing given to students was an account in their department complete with an email address in the form of “studentid at university.country” . I used it, as did every student and professor I knew.
        Point being, 40 is plenty young enough to know one’s way around e-mail. Like, when you’re 40 you finished school in 2001-2002? Mobile phones had internet then!

        Late Generation X / early Millenials, what is going on with our cohort here? A severe case of the “Whatever…”s? Power move?

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          I think there’s some regional and financial differences, though. On the one hand, I had internet at home from the mid 90s, but I had friends who didn’t set up their first personal email address until the 2010s. My university had internet, but only accepted assignments by hand, and though I knew one person with an iphone the signal was so patchy and weak that he wouldn’t have dreamt of trying to download a whole email to read when he could just wow us with the tilt-phone-to-pour-a-pint game (and it’s easy to forget how rare wifi was in the 00s, even in people’s homes!).

          A lot of elder millennials will have first encountered email in a professional context, and it took a while for norms to settle around email as a business communication – if your first office was all about the subject lines with no body (maybe they, too, were trying to read emails on a 3inch phone with 2G connectivity that would disappear if you turned around too fast), then that’s a habit you’ve internalised as a professional norm ever since.

          1. PlainJane*

            Mid Gen-Xer here (b.1970): We were starting to get emails at college in the early ’90s. Most cities had a “freenet”–a dial-up connection with no fee that would get you email and Usenet access. I was not rich, but all of that was accessible and “netiquette” was a major topic of conversation in email conversation groups and Usenet forums. I’m not saying everyone was *on*–they weren’t–but it was certainly not a foreign concept and I wouldn’t expect anyone from Gen X or below to behave like this is a novelty act.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, this. I’m a couple years younger than you and I got my first email address when I started college. I’ve used email all my adult life. I guess I missed out on Usenet, but I joined my first online forum in 1994 or thereabouts.

              My son has a school-issued email address that he got in third grade when they started using computers for schoolwork and that he can keep until he finishes K-12 education. But it’s basically needed for logging into his school Chromebook, he hasn’t learned the art of writing emails yet. His preferred means of communication is WhatsApp…

              A former manager used to write the whole message on the subject line, and it annoyed me because our former email system broke email threading when you changed the subject line. Now it isn’t such a problem because Outlook seems to keep the threading intact even if you change the subject line. Although it has to be said that our email usage has dropped a lot when we started using Teams and our email conversations have almost disappeared.

    5. Tiresome*

      “Older” person here, definitely don’t do this except to sign in, “9:00 to 5:00 today”.

  9. Rick Tq*

    A message in the Subject line is bad (unless it is a short acknowledgement like Sloanicota’s)

    Having a dozen nested RE: [Enternal] tags then finally a subject text that has nothing to do with the topic of the email is IMO worse. That usually means a 5 page concatenated mess with no way to identify what might be important with any speed or accuracy.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      My mom used to do this all the time! She would include the time I was supposed to meet her at the airport in the fourth paragraph of an email about someone at our church being hospitalized with the subject line “Re: Re: Re: Re: Christmas Wishlist”.

      I tried to convince her to text me for time-sensitive topics, so she started texting me “Check your email.”

      1. Texan In Exile*

        May I warn you about encouraging your mom to text?

        If you go down that road, someone (looking at you, brother in law who refuses to consider paper maps even for remote mountain areas and then gets really really mad when Siri doesn’t know where we’re going and I can’t even say I TOLD YOU SO because I love my sister) will teach her how to use voice to text and she will switch from emailing you long paragraphs to texting you long paragraphs.

      2. Raspin*

        I once got a text from my uncle asking me to tell my mom to check her email. The email was that my grandma was in the hospital. Sooooo close, you guys.

  10. BellyButton*

    I have read here that people do this. In 20 yrs of emailing I have never encountered this! I find it so bizarre and would have to say something. I don’t even know how you can read the whole thing.

  11. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Is it happening in an office that doesn’t have an IM service? Because that’s just people using email when they should have used an IM, right?

    For short stuff it doesn’t bother me. But the example LW used is long enough that it won’t fit in a single line in my inbox. Don’t do that. Just put it in the body. Grump.

    1. rosieko*

      This is my current pet peeve – email isn’t chat! It’s a replacement for MAIL, for documented communication; it is not the right replacement for everyday conversation, that’s text or chat. People wonder why they can’t get through their million emails but also can’t wrap their minds around using it more like snail mail rather than all-purpose communication for anything and everything. Email isn’t chat, email isn’t text, and email isn’t for immediate responses. If you need something now, text or chat me. EOR (end of rant!)

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        My chat peeve is the people who message “Hi”, and don’t ask an actual question until you respond. The main culprits are my immediate manager and the company owner, though, so I can’t push back much. Online chat is asynchronous, people!

    2. Ally McBeal*

      It astonishes me that I’ve worked at literally dozens of office jobs, from nonprofits to ad agencies to Wall Street, since graduating college in the late 2000s and only in 2021 got a job that uses a chat program. IMing your colleagues is so essential and convenient!

  12. New Here*

    I’d much rather have the message in the subject line than to have someone “reply” to a message and completely change the subject — which is often important— without revising the subject line. Then they wonder why I didn’t respond

    1. KatieP*

      Such a pet peeve! Especially if you’re using a group email to track small projects (think purchases or order fulfillment, etc). Start a new email! Your old one was assigned to Jeff, and Jeff retired a month ago. When your new one came in, Outlook automatically assigned it to Jeff because you just replied to an email from five months ago! Now we’re three days behind because it took us that long to realize, “Hey, this thing was flagged for Jeff after he retired.”

    2. sagewhiz*

      Or worse, leaving the old subject line but changing the message to a totally new/unrelated topic/issue. Drives me batty!

    3. Buffy Rosenberg*

      Yes! After writing a relevant para or so, adding in “oh, by the way, [completely different issue]?”

      It makes it hard for me to organise and sort my messages.

  13. Tinkerbell*

    I wonder whether they’ve had managers/coworkers before who do the “I never actually open emails, I just browse the inbox without touching anything” dance…

    1. evil bunny too*

      In my case, college students. Pretty much all the faculty I know wish students would open up the emails we send and read them, but they don’t. So we put as much as we can in the subject line because that’s all the students will read. Or else we beg them in the subject line to open the email and read it.

      1. they will learn*

        if students are not paying attention to faculty communications.. i guess fail them. quit catering. just fail them.

        1. they will learn*

          if i didn’t read my bosses emails, i bet that would go over really well. s/

            1. Long Time Fan, First Time Caller*

              I wish this were true. Most faculty work on a contract basis, which means that their annual or bi-annual re-hiring– and thus their job stability– is based in strong, positive student evaluations at the end of the semester. So unfortunately, for most college professors, students do feel like one of our (many) bosses. :(

              1. They will learn*

                I actually meant the faculty were the bosses of the class, but I guess not. I did attend when tenure was more of a thing. Never felt like I had the power to get teachers fired because I didn’t like their rules.

  14. Delphine*

    My boss used to do this before we got Slack. We relied entirely on email communication and he’d either pop a short question in an email subject line or he’d call our phones from his office (five feet away). So I wonder if other people use subject lines as a stand-in for “chat-like” communication?

  15. Haha*

    My old boss encouraged the entire email in the subject and emphasized “Add a period to the end so no one opens it.”

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m psychologically incapable of leaving an email marked unread. Even if I don’t read it, it has to be marked as read.

        1. mondaysamiright*

          Same, I can’t imagine deleting something without at least marking it as read. Feels wrong!

  16. Pink Candyfloss*

    This is partially the email culture in my office, which we have all agreed to abide by. Short emails like “can you call me” or “received, thanks” or “understood” are written into the subject line with “EOM” for End of Message. That way you can see at-a-glance the reason for the email, and can delete/file/whatever without needing to open and read a three word email. It saves us a lot of time so it’s well liked here. I wouldn’t use it for a 30 word or multi-sentence message. Are people typing from a phone or other device and mistakenly not realizing they’re in the subject line instead of the body?

    1. A person in retail*

      I’ve done that once or twice. I think once I even sent it before I realized. It was fairly short, though – I think I would have noticed with a long message.

  17. Anon for This*

    Where I work most people have their e-mail set to spreview the first three lines. A number of colleagues aim to get the message into that amount of space so no one has to click on/open the e-mail. It’s not about their importance/schedule – it’s trying to save time. And if you respond in kind with one line: “pink elephant code is xyz” no one has to actually open the e-mail. And the info is in your e-mail so it is searchable later.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      This. I can see everything I need to see for 90% of my messages without opening the email.

  18. Helpdesk worker*

    Oooh, yeah, people who write the entire e-mail in the subject line are definitely a thing we encounter regularly. Which is annoying because our ticket system takes the subject as the title of the ticket and so we have to scroll through that long as title or copy paste it into a notepad.

    There’s even a variant of these people who write the entire message in the subject line and then the EXACT SAME MESSAGE in the body of the mail. I sincerely hope this is something some mail program does automatically when either subject or body is empty because otherwise I have so many questions.

  19. Zzz*

    “I don’t think it’s unprofessional, per se, but I agree it’s annoying and difficult to read.”

    I think deliberately communicating in such a way that it’s difficult to read, is unprofessional.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think there’s anything to imply they’re being deliberately obtuse.

      I get a lot of things from coworkers that are difficult to read for one reason or another – something got messed up in the formatting, they set it up on a computer and I’m looking at it on my phone, they used 30000 acronyms in what they wrote that the last person they were emailing understand but I’m not in that loop, etc.

      It doesn’t sound like OP has said anything to them about this, and that there’s a culture of it being somewhat normal, so there’s no reason for them to think they’re doing something difficult.

      1. Zzz*

        I agree with you! (Though I’d missed the part where this was normal of that office’s culture.)
        I didn’t mean “deliberately” in a “deliberately obtuse/stubborn/doing it just to be annoying” kind of way, more deliberately as opposed to “dyslexic/non-native coworker mixes up words” or “newbie rambles because they don’t yet know what’s relevant” (which makes emails accidentally difficult to read). Your examples would also fit in that category, I think.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      Accidentally communicating in such a way that it’s difficult to read, is also unprofessional.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That’s a really uncharitable and unrealistic way to approach working with other people.

      2. Buffy Rosenberg*

        But “difficult to read” can be quite subjective. Some people might find this approach easier or faster. They’re probably doing it precisely because, for some reason, it *is* easier for them.

  20. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    A tip for those who do put extremely short messages in the subject line: Finish the line with or some other convention to indicate that really is the entire message.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I think maybe your post dropped something that you put between angle brackets? That’s why I use parens when I do this. Subject: I got the milk we needed (EOM).

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        **facepalm** yes

        This was on a military facility, and angle brackets are the go-to formatting tool there.

  21. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I have encountered such a range of annoying email habits. It feels like a can’t-please-everyone situation, I think.

    I had someone get annoyed with me earlier because I sent her “obvious” instructions on something. Which was apparently a waste of her time. But they were the solution to the problem she asked me to resolve, so….

    Communication with other humans is hell, basically lol

    1. Samwise*

      OMG, it would be so hard not to reply — if it was so obvious, why did you ask me?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That uh – feedback – was given to me in person and I gave a cheerful “it’s often the obvious thing!” But as you can see from me recounting it here in a perhaps too identifiable forum…..I am not cheerful about it hahaha

  22. BluntBunny*

    I would have said can you send me this again I can’t read it the formatting is messed up. Then don’t do anything until they resend it in an appropriate format. It’s a pretty basic requirement that they should have down in the first place. Especially if you have multiple projects with this person you need an approximate subject line to be able to file and are refer to.
    You could even exaggerate and state that you have to print the emails out just to be able to read them properly.

    1. BubbleTea*

      But that isn’t true, and will make it sound like you’re the one who can’t use email properly.

      1. Shynosaur*

        Disagree. It absolutely can be true. The “entire email in the subject line” emails that I’ve received created tons of avoidable confusion and extra work for me: first, I have to wonder where the rest of the email is, and then I have to realize it’s in the Subject line, and then because it’s so long, I have to copy and paste it into Notepad in order to make it readable.

        Putting the onus on the sender to actually follow convention to be understood is far better than making the receiver do extra work to get at the message.

    2. metadata minion*

      Unless you actually tell people what you want them to do differently, they are not going to get the hint, especially if up until now you’ve been responding normally to email like this. This method seems guaranteed to annoy everyone, including the LW.

  23. Becky*

    My boss often does this and my best guess is that she doesn’t realize the cursor is in the Subject field when she’s typing on her phone. When the email text does actually make it to the body of the email rather than the subject, it’s often in a faux-haiku format because her thumb keeps hitting the return part of the keyboard when she wanted the space key.

    It’s hella annoying.

  24. Just a Manager*


    I manage an IT help desk with a ticketing system, when people do this, it gums up the ticketing process.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Our ticket system has a maximum number of words in the subject line (I think it’s 7) and a minimum number of words in the message body. There have been times where I have to add unnecessary adjectives and filler words to get the the min in the message! They finally reduced it down and we’re able to be much more concise.

  25. Boolie*

    I’m wondering if these people, particularly older folks, are unaware that email client search bars nowadays also check the content of the email, not just the subject line like back in the day. So they might be cramming everything into the subject line so that they can find it while searching later. Not a great system to begin with but some folks get lazy in some aspects as they get comfortable in their career.

      1. Boolie*

        I’m sorry some older folks give the competent ones a bad name as far as technology goes, just like some younger folks do to their cohorts for certain things. Every generation has their own particularities for better or worse.

      2. JB*

        You, individually, are not representative of all older folks. The majority of humans of any age have never been involved with IT and certainly not involved in creating it.

  26. The Wizard Rincewind*

    At my job, we send a lot of “received, thanks!” emails so we signify “no message in the body” by putting some ## before the relevant text in the subject line. It works well for me because the messages really are that short and I can see it in my inbox, go “cool, yep” and delete it/archive it from my inbox.

  27. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Is it a one-off thing or every single email from a particular person. I ask because my eldery, very non-techy mom would do this every couple of months, by mistake. She would not realize that she did this, even when I pointed it out.

    1. Sharkey*

      My MIL does this with texts. She enters the person’s name in the number/contact space at the top, and then doesn’t tap the message field before she starts typing. Then she contacts me when her texts don’t go through. She is 87 though, so kudos to her for even texting in the first place!

  28. Reality Check*

    I do this sometimes, and I’ll tell you why. I have a few coworkers who routinely ignore emails. They don’t answer the phone much, either. (and no, I don’t do frivolous communication) I work remotely and can’t flag them down in the break room or anything. So this becomes literally the ONLY way I can get their attention. They brought it on themselves.

    1. I Wish My Job Was Tables*

      Tangential to this, where do people go to learn “good” email rules? Are there classes out there or some kind of single source for the standard of what counts as good email etiquette?

      I remember learning email etiquette from my parents, but that was back the mid-2000s and my parents were both working from their experience working in finance industries. I haven’t bothered brushing up or changing my standards since then, nor do I know where I’d go to learn such a thing anymore. I assume it’d be a thing you’d pick up on from watching other coworkers, but there’s a wide variety of styles out there, based on the responses in this thread!

      1. Rick Tq*

        I’d say good is what matches how your coworkers expect to see in their email as a good place to start. Talk to them (and of course your boss/supervisor) and see what they prefer.

  29. evil bunny too*

    As someone who teaches at a university – I have been doing something akin to this when I communicate with students because I (and others) have found they do not open the email message. This has actually been going on for a while. So I’m guilty of sending an email with the same message in the subject line as in the body of the email because my students will not open the email (to the point that if there is important info in the body I will have to put that they really need to open the email or that the link for something is in the email in the subject line).

    My completely unsupported hypothesis is that my students are treating the emails like text messages.

    As Ms. Ann Thropy noted, I have also found that a lot of non-students don’t open their emails either, so if you don’t have important info in the subject line (eg the time/date/place/topic/what to bring to a meeting), info will get missed.

    1. Helpdesk worker*

      The funny thing is the reverse also exists – people who use the chat function of socials in the same way one would usually write an e-mail.

    2. Anon, because everyone I work with has heard me say it*

      I work at a university too. Mentor our new staff too.

      I tell students: the university will communicate with you via email. *I* will communicate with you via email. Check your email for messages from the university, from your profs, and from me and then READ them and then RESPOND. If you don’t, you are going to miss important information and then you will be SOL. You are responsible for reading your email and no one will cut you slack if you miss an important deadline because you didn’t read your email.

      It’s not my job to make sure other adults are reading their email. Read it, don’t read it — that’s on the student, as are the consequences.

      Save yourself time and aggravation, evil bunny too. That’s what I tell our new staff — if it makes them uncomfortable, I tell them that they’re doing students no favors otherwise, because eventually they’re going to run up against a message that is really costly to ignore. Better to train students now.

  30. giraffecat*

    This was common in my old workplace as a stand-in before we had instant messaging. An email submit line would start with NM: then include a brief message. The NM stood for “No message” It was a way to convey brief info quickly without the recipient having to open the message (plus, with the influx of emails, if you didn’t know what the message was about, you may not see it soon enough, including the message in the subject line insure the recipient saw it more quickly). Today, that has likely mostly been replaced with Slack/instant messaging. This may just be a holdover from before instant messaging, Slack, etc. were readily accessible. It’s not that the person doing this thinks they’re “too important or busy” more likely they either just think they’re saving YOU time.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      This kind of reminds me of those old 1-800-ATT commercials where they called someone collect and said the call was from “WeHadABabyIt’sABoy” so that the recipient didn’t have to answer the phone to get the message lol.

      (And my dad actually used to have me do that when I was a kid at the neighborhood pool, I would call him collect and say the call was from “ComePickMeUpPlease” when I was ready to go home)

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Ugh this didn’t work where I grew up because the operators were always live and they’d get all huffy when we did this.

      2. Happily Retired*

        Aww, this makes me happy!

        Back in the day, I used to call home person-to-person when I got back to college and ask for myself. They’d answer, “She’s not here.”

        No long-distance charges, message transmitted and received, time to pop open a beer from the six-pack I’d bought as I got into town.

        Simpler times, I guess.

  31. curly sue*

    My mother had worked with computers since the late 1960s, when she was a co-op student working with punch cards, and she does this constantly. I asked her why once, and while I don’t remember the technical details, her answer was basically that it was best practice in her department at IBM back in the early days of email, when downloading /opening an email took a lot more time and effort than it does now. And now it’s very ingrained habit.

    For anyone younger than, say, 60, I’d assume it has something to do with cursors and sending emails from phones, but I did find it interesting to know that at one point in the tech cycle it was considered the most appropriate way to send short messages.

  32. Madmin*

    Oh, our corporate email effectiveness training annoyingly suggests to do this. My colleague got their report to do the training to stop them from putting the whole email in the subject line and they came back doing it more enthusiastically.

  33. Anonymous Aardvark*

    I have multiple people who do this at my site. It’s so frustrating – I can’t look at the message and prioritize whether it can wait for me to get to a stopping point or if it is urgent. I can’t even just open the email to view the long ass subject – I have to reply to the email to see it in the body. I feel so frustrated when that happens.

  34. mcm*

    This bugs me a ton too, and I have the same experience that it almost always comes from folks who otherwise also act like their time is too important for any niceties/politeness/basic respect of other people. Very annoying! Just write a normal email!

  35. Adultier Adult*

    I am a teacher so I am used to a LOT of weirdness- this one, I will NOT let go. I just respond “No message in the email?” I am GOING to break them of this habit LOL (I am very kind and supportive… I just cannot let them graduate while thinking a huge paragraph with no punctuation is acceptable in the subject line.)

    1. Lavender*

      I taught middle school during the pandemic school closures (so I exchanged a lot more e-mails with students than I would have in normal times). At the beginning of the year I gave them a lesson in simple email etiquette: start with a greeting, use proper spelling and grammar, and so on. The kids were pretty good about following the “rules,” but after the lesson I realized I never explained the difference between the subject line and the body text. We had to have a whole other lesson to break them of that habit. Whoops!

  36. NMFTG*

    They are – in my experience – writing the email on their phone, where the subject can look very similar to the email body.

    On apple devices the subject line will break text and expand into several lines while writing, making the space look normal.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Me neither, and I’m glad because I would find it extremely annoying!

  37. Ginger Cat Lady*

    I hate this.
    I also have three people I need to email regularly who use the subject line to say things like “It’s Polly messaging you” or “Question from Nate” or “It’s Becky, hope you can help!” as if there was no other way for me to know who it was from.

    1. SGPB*

      It’s like when my grandma calls me and the first thing she says is “it’s grandma” because she’s still so used to the days of rotary phone.

      1. Random Bystander*

        I think when caller ID was first becoming more common, someone who had it (I did not, it cost extra back then for land lines), the person answered, “Hi, Random” and I just stuttered and finally managed “You just stole my line” before I was able to get on with the reason for the call.

  38. A person*

    The only people I’ve ever seen do this were people that legit didn’t know how to use email (like the 60 year old – yes I know agist – crotchety maintenance guy that hasn’t caught up to any current IT tech even stuff as basic as email).

    Since it’s been super rare for me and from people that rarely send emails I guess it doesn’t irk me as much but it would if I saw it all the time.

    Maybe try asking them why they do it. Just asking may be enough for them to get that it’s weird and stop doing it.

  39. TootsNYC*

    I would simply reply to them every single time:
    “Can you resend this? I can’t read more than about 6 words in the title.
    You need to put the info in the body of the message.”

    Are you sure they understand what all the boxes on their email screen mean?

  40. H.Regalis*

    I do this XD

    Only if it’s a single sentence or less though! For example, “I will be in at 10am today.” Now other people on my team do it too. Hopefully everyone else isn’t seething at us because of it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Ten words or less is definitely different than writing a whole paragraph in the subject line you’re probably fine!

  41. Action! Image! Exchange!*

    On the flipside, I have a friend (in his 50s, so he’s been using email since the ’90s, just as long as I have) whose email subject line is always exactly the same: MESSAGE FROM JOHN. Hundreds of emails over the years, in all caps, a single description: MESSAGE FROM JOHN. Like, yes John, I see that it’s a message from you, because it’s sitting there in my inbox with your name listed as the sender. This is indeed how email works! But give me a hint: did you see an amusing dog video that you want to share? Has there been a sudden death in the family? Something in-between? GIVE ME A HINT.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, my mum used to do this – thankfully not with all caps. Every single email from her was called “Message from Mum”.

    2. Tiresome*

      My workplace uses “Sad News” as the tile of messages announcing deaths of employees and their family members. You have to read the message to see who it is about, and this is anxiety inducing. I hate it.

      1. Rick Tq*

        The only ray of sunshine is you can set up email rules to push those messages to a separate folder to be processed when you are ready.

        I’ve got a bunch of Outlook rules to handle most of the routine notification messages I get at my email-centric job. My goal is my Inbox is for things I need to do or are a main participant.

  42. nonprofit writer*

    Wow, I have not seen this before but it would make me crazy.

    My husband and I were working with a financial advisor for a period of time, and she has this terrible email habit of changing the subject line every time she replies or sends a new message. It’s in a similar vein to this–I think she wanted to be sure I knew what the message would be about–but it meant that her messages didn’t stay in the same thread and it was impossible to follow the chain. There was also an undercurrent of anxiety about it that triggered my own anxiety. I know some people don’t read/reply to emails but I’m not one of them (which she should have known after multiple communications with me).

  43. Meghan*

    On a tangentially related note: My low stakes pet peeve is when folks send an IM that just says “Hi [name].” Then they wait for you to respond to their slack to tell you why they’re messaging you, and they send all their messages as 8 different short pings instead of 1 or 2 concise messages.

    But I know that’s a me thing. I had someone tell me I was “abrupt”, and “impatient”, because my slack is always “Hi [name], we need to do xyz and don’t know if we should include abc and def. Please let me know, thank you” (basically, both greeting AND message).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      As someone with ADHD I do often do the eight messages in a row because IMing is fast and my brain doesn’t always take the time to write a concise message (it takes me a lot longer to write a short email than a long one). However if you just send me “hi”, I’m leaving you on read until you send a real message haha

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Haha. Same though, like it’s nice that you said “Hi” so now I’ll just move on with my life until you tell me what you want.

    2. L. Bennett*

      I HATE THIS TOO!!! A greeting to start things off is fine, but tell me what you need instead of sitting there waiting for me to respond.

    3. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

      What I hate is a corollary to this: They will reply to an email and then send out two to five more replies via email as if email was Teams/Slack/Chat. I hate hate hate this and instead of one chat to read in Teams, I know have five email notifications, five things to file and I have to read them all to make sure there’s nothing I missed as there’s no guarantee that there was any logic on how those five emails were sent out.

      1. LCH*

        guilty of this. i reply too fast sometimes! i should write the reply, then wait in case i think of more stuff.

    4. DD*

      Our old message system was set up when you send your first message it pops up on your screen. You can minimize it after the first pop-up. I would use a starter message like Hello when sending information I wouldn’t want popping up if the recipient was sharing their screen with someone. Nothing worse than venting about Tom’s ridiculous request to Jerry while Jerry and Tom were working together on Jerry’s computer.

    5. Random Bystander*

      I share your peeve. I likewise will put my greeting and message into the chat before I send, and if someone just sends me a “Hi” or “Hi [name]” I don’t respond until they send something to let me know what the whole thing is about … with the exception of my supervisor who drives me batty with a “Hi, [name], how are you today?” as the greeting. I mean, yes, if you were standing at my actual desk, I would expect a pause for me to acknowledge your greeting before the question comes at me, but … we’re not face to face, so I don’t find it necessary to do the social dance greeting/response/filler question/response/actual question.

    6. Mornington Cresent*

      We use Teams at work, so when I get a “Hi!” message with nothing else after it, I just respond or react with the waving emoji to acknowledge that I’ve seen it, but that I expect something else before I give a full reply. Seems to work pretty well!

  44. AreYouBeingServed?*

    It’s not rude or unprofessional in the least. It makes perfect sense. Emails live for much longer than many people expect them to, and when searching through email, what you often see first is the subject line. In 10 months? After thousands of emails on every subject imaginable?

    When you are looking for the agenda and contact information from the meeting with the Smith Finance Team on the Lawson project? Which subject line will be more helpful:

    “Smith Finance team agenda and updated meeting location – Lawson Project”


    “Meeting update for tomorrow”?

    1. Exme*

      I think your first example is informative and correct, but probably not what the letter writer was complaining about. Their coworkers are sending subject lines like:

      Subj: did you want me to bring cookies to the meeting tomorrow or are you going to do it? don’t forget that we need to talk about project Y also the location moved to upstairs

  45. JelloStapler*

    I think people do it because they think you will see what they need in the subject line and take care of them first. It’s annoying… I get t from students (college) all the time.

  46. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Once I got a whole message in the subject line and it was from someone desperately trying to cover their butts. Generally, I don’t see these kinds of messages often.

    However, I rely on subject lines to be able to find and file them once the crisis of the moment is over. A subject-less email in Outlook is the worst for this.

    I’ve also found that if the subject line is too long, Outlook is unhappy and refuses to search for related conversations sometimes.

    I was very surprised to find myself coaching a 50+ old secretary who was new to our company (but had worked in school boards before coming to us) who didn’t know how to use a descriptive subject line. “Hello and happy Monday!” is the worst subject line when I’m trying to look in the recent-not-yet-filed emails about llama grooming reports sent out to an external vendor for design. And if I were the vendor, I might think it’s spam! I really struggled with the fact that I had to tell her to please put in what we were sending in the subject line.

  47. SometimesMaybe*

    This maybe annoying, but I think the outrage and assigning moral failings by commenters at those who email this way is a little over the top. There are too many rules that change too often about proper communication methods. Here are things I have seen commenters complain about on this site over the past few months – its rude to use capital letters, call without texting, using email rather than slack/text, using voicemail, subject lines with not enough info, subject lines with too much info. emailing after hours, calling on the phone, replying all, not replying all, having signature lines that do not include pronouns, asking someone to call, emails that are too long, following up on an email in person, replying to an email with a voicemail, receiving an email received confirmation, chats that are too long during Zoom/Team meetings, etc. I understand these things can be annoying, but not adapting or just simple mistakes do not equate to intentional selfishness or self importance.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree, and when I read it (like how this OP assigned really specific thinking to these coworkers and pointed out their different demographics) it says to me that you’re unhappy about something else going on and this is sort of grating on you in a BEC way.

      All the things you listed can be genuinely annoying, especially if they’re out of sync with your general culture and expectations. But they’re also not someone walking up and punching you in the face, and I think sometimes people lose the distinction of scale in their reactions to things.

    2. L. Bennett*

      I think the underlying issue is that we spend 40+ hours per week with people who annoy us, doing things we wouldn’t necessarily choose to be doing, and when we get an unexpected phone call disrupting what we’re doing, or other intrusions on our personal boundaries, we get annoyed. A lot of what you’re seeing is probably exaggerated expressions of annoyance because it’s a way to get it out of the system.

      Plus, one of the things about a society is we always are needing to come up with rules for engagement (etiquette). As you pointed out, the rules of communication change as rapidly as the technology and that is really fast in the past couple decades. That means that as a society we’re needing to very quickly adjust to new forms of communication and the etiquette surrounding them. Everyone is annoyed because everyone just wants to get on the same page to where they don’t feel like boundaries are being violated all day every day.

        1. L. Bennett*

          I said “unexpected phone calls or other intrusions”. I realize that “other” was probably misplaced but the phone can cause a lot of anxiety for some people.

      1. SometimesMaybe*

        I Bennet – What I find interesting about your comment is you referenced “personal boundaries”. Someone interrupting your work with a genuine work related inquiry or comment, or communicating in a way that you do not find as productive, should not create a personal boundary violation response. I think more recently, especially now when people are blurring the lines of work and personal life in ways like working from home, checking work communications on personal devices, more casual atmospheres and less hierarchy (whether you think these things are good or bad is irrelevant) we are expecting our communication preferences to be more personal too and for others to adapt quicker thus fostering a more extreme reaction to otherwise minor professional annoyances.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I think this is exactly right – and I think we need to check ourselves on some of those gut reactions. I have them too! Cold video calls, so many cold video calls, so much anxiety. But I dread them way more when I’m working from home (hybrid environment) because like – that’s my house. The psychology is just not transferable and blurring those lines is making a lot of things like this more difficult for us to cope with.

          That’s not an anti-wfh stance, just an acknowledgement that we should be conscious of the tradeoffs and try to temper our feelings a little.

    3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I completely agree, some of these are annoying to me, but life is short, work is long, I only have so much energy, and I really want to think as well of my coworkers as possible because I’m going to have to be around them.

      I really, really try to let go of any sense that these things matter at all, and let go of any instinctive reaction or temptation to project negative intentions on to them.

  48. Snarky McSnarkerson*

    I had a colleague at a former work place who would do this and it irked me to no end. When I would reply back to her, I would erase the subject line and write my response to her in it.

  49. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Wow. I have been lucky an never have received such an e-mail!

    OP, you have my commiserations.

    Otoh, I am old enough to recall when, to save packet bandwidth when batch mailing, we would put short messages entirely in Subject line and end with (eom) meaning “end of message” so the recipient didn’t have to bother opening the e-mail. Those also didn’t usually contain a signature.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ve definitely worked places where that style of email was common, but I didn’t know that was the origin! I learned something today.

    2. Rick Tq*

      Oh, and your sig block was kept small and simple for the same reason: less modem time at 14.4 Kbaud or connect time on the ISDN line.

      Some of my coworkers include image links to *all* their social media accounts plus the company accounts plus other random links. It used to make me a bit crazy to see a >50kb email message with two or three actual sentences but now bandwidth is essentially unlimited.

  50. Purple Cat*

    Whoa, can’t believe I disagree with Alison.
    It is WHOLLY unprofessional. As in, would you ever instruct somebody new to the job that you SHOULD be putting as much as possible in the subject of an email? No, of course not. A subject is just that – the TOPIC of the email.
    I wish I knew what the OP considered “middle-aged”. I’m solid Gen X and only people much older than me do this.

    1. discontinuity*

      I completely agree with you. It feels so wildly out of step and indicative that the person doesn’t understand technology or professional norms that I would put it in the same camp as someone who wanted to work in the office from a pillow fort. Except working from a pillow fort doesn’t inconvenience your colleagues.

  51. nobadcats*

    This is weird to me. In most of the offices I’ve worked in, if it’s just a “thanks!” or “status on the Emma Peel contract?” it’s put in the subject line with [n/t] after it, meaning “no further text in email.” Apparently, this is not common. Maybe it’s specific to my field.

  52. Just me, Vee*

    I’ll use (EOM) at the end of the brief subject line if there is nothing in the body of the email:
    Subject : Got the draft, thanks. (EOM)

  53. JR*

    This has always been a style with its proponents. The logic is that people can learn everything they need from their inbox without needing to click into the email body (especially in very old email systems that never had message previews, such as Pine and Mutt). I personally never liked it, but it was a deliberate style choice at its core, not just a weird quirk like signing your name on Facebook comments.

  54. Axes to grind*

    For context, I’m a 20something woman and they are all middle-aged men.

    This was relevant

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It may be relevant to explain generational differences between email conventions (OlympiasEpiriot* upthread mentioned where the custom originated, which was news to me!) but I don’t know that I’d agree it’s relevant in the way OP frames it. A difference in conventions isn’t automatically disrespectful.

    2. Tiresome*

      Not really. It’s more company culture relevant that they do this. I work with many oldsters like myselfe and NONE of us do this. What it is is ageism, of which there is too much on this site. Ugh.

      1. Olivia*

        There might be less ageism if you stopped calling yourself “oldsters” or “olds”.

        I think the above poster was being sarcastic?

  55. Tirv*

    Reading the comments on this and other questions about emails vs phone , they come across as a “ can’t win for losing” topic. There are those who insist they will only do business by email, others who insist you call and leave a voicemail -but then you have the camp who say they refuse to deal with voicemail. And you have the “ just text me” group. All this insistence on only doing things my way just gets in the way of smoothly doing business.
    I’m guessing the colleague in question has found that some people seem to forgo actually opening and reading an email so they are trying to get their message across by cramming into the subject line. I had a co-worker who’s email showed 15,000 unread messages. She never deleted anything and only read the previews.

  56. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    To me, message in the subject line was like a “chat” message prior to Teams/Slack. Now it would be really annoying…just sent me a chat in Teams/Slack for those short conversations…but before it really didn’t bother me that much for short messages “lunch at 1:00?” or “order 500 flyers;” a whole sentence, including salutation and signature is absurd.

  57. Dan*

    I started doing the thing the letter write doesn’t like (though not as long as the examples) at work because half the people in our office don’t read or reply to email messages. The subject line shows up in their inbox without having to read the email so it’s a way to get information to these people when they look at their inbox.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Seriously? You got a talking to for not putting the entire email in the subject line?

  58. Miss Fisher*

    This is one pet peeve of mine along with Attorneys that I work with naming loan documentation something entirely too long. I have to save these emails and attorney docs into folders on our servers and they can only be so many characters. If it is something simple, I can drag and drop. Too long and i have to spend time opening each one and saving with a new name.

  59. Thunder Kitten*

    I worked with someone who would edit a report, put it in a folder on the shared drive. She would then write an entire multisentence paragraph describing the changes in the folder name. “Hi thunder kitten, your report is good but you need to add more detail in the first section and the second part was wrong because you missed this I liked the conclusion keep up the good work”.

    It drove me NUTS so I acrually did email her back asking her to put the comments in a separate file or email or literally anywhere else (except the filename)…and eventually she learned

      1. Thunder Kitten*

        Does it scare you that she was a license physician ? Lovely woman but NOT tech savvy in the least.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Microsoft has a maximum character length for a file path. Doing that will quickly make the file unretrievable.

      (Don’t ask me to tell you about the time I had to repair a database because people had been saving photos with filenames instead of embedded captions.)

    2. Rick Tq*

      I wonder if she knew (or cared) what that does to data backups? The backup copy of the file will be in a different place every time she changes the folder name, much less change the file contents.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      I had a boss who would rename the monthly board of directors financial reports I shared with him. The reports lived in a shared drive with a structure something like this: Board of Directors reports/Financial/Month/January/[Board of Directors Financial Report January 2023]/February [Board of Directors Financial Report February 2023]/ [etc]

      He would rename the reports in this format – say I sent him the May draft today – “052223BODFinRpt” – and save them back to the shared drive.

      And I could never find them.

      And one time, he made changes. And saved the report. And I didn’t know he’d made changes. And when he was presenting to the board, he used what I thought was the final version because I didn’t know he had made changes and saved under a new name.

      (He thought it was my fault that he had screwed up.)(After that, before each board meeting, I triple checked with him on the version of the report.)

      (Also – it was not my job to do the financial reports – it was the job of the guy who had hired me and then quit two weeks after I started, so there was that. I’m still crabby about it.)

      1. Rick Tq*

        If you are going to put the date in the file name at least make it YY MM DD so the files sort correctly…. Geez.

  60. Pretend Scientist*

    I once worked with someone like this. I am in clinical research, and he felt the need to notify us of patient database queries being issued—despite us having an open query report. Now, if it was at the attached me of a project or something, ok, but nearly every freaking day there was an e-mail or five from Greg: PROJECT NAME XXX-XX SUBJECT XXX QUERY ISSUED FOR (redacted medical or data issue) CAN YOU RESOLVE TODAY. And then the entire request would be detailed in the email (even though it was in the database, verbatim. High importance, and of course you were supposed to send an email when the issue was resolved, because Greg couldn’t possibly be bothered by logging into the database. And not resolving today was not an option.

    People like this are exhausting.

  61. Samwise*

    Why do they do this?
    Because they are lazy SOBs who don’t care how much work they create for others.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      How do you know it’s laziness? That seems very uncharitable.

      1. Just working*

        In my office doing this is 100% a power move that is only done by certain higher ups and only to support staff or people they perceive to be support staff.

  62. Aubergine*

    …like if they stick “got the draft, thanks!” in the subject line and there’s nothing in the body, fine. I still don’t love it because you’ve got to open the email to see if there’s more inside that you need to read…

    I worked in the land of a million emails a day. Those quick responses were common, and the way around making the recipient open the email was to add “nm” (no more/no message) at the end of “got the draft, thanks”. But this was several years ago. Maybe using the subject line for a quick text-like message is outdated now with IM apps that most companies are using.

  63. John*

    FWIW, in 30 years of working in corporations, I haven’t experienced this behavior from colleagues more than once or twice. Maybe the OP just has particularly annoying co-workers.

  64. Berens*

    Just say you missed the email because you thought it was a phishing email. If they push back, tell them that badly constructed emails are the norm for phishing emails and they automatically get deleted by you if they don’t fall into the “normal” email format.

  65. RussianInTexas*

    OK, I don’t do super long subjects with all people. Even with the most. Even with the 99% of my work contacts.
    But I have couple people that if I don’t put URGENT, *****CUSTOMER IS MISSING THE SHIPPING FOR THE PO#8675309, NEED REPLY BY 5/22 3PM SHARP, URGENT I will not get a reply until 2 days later.

  66. Librarian Connector*

    This reminds me of the standard practice of placing the whole message (and using EOM) in the subject line when participating in Usenet (newsgroups) a long time ago in internet culture (pre-world wide web).

    I also remember doing this a lot with previous messaging at work when email was rudimentary and you only had a short message to send out.

    Why someone is doing it now, I don’t know but maybe no one has ever told them the culture around email has changed?

  67. Sophia*

    Umm. I do this. Not so much now that we have Teams/Slack etc. But not for long messages- more for “Running Late” or “Need help in Room 501-Stat”

    1. Ginger Baker*

      Same (and I strongly recommend to others I work with to do this, I have a much higher email response-rate than many in my very-high-email-volume office) – I 100% put the question I need an answer to in the subject line if at all possible BUT “possible” means “can I boil this down to 5-10 words?” Tbh if I can’t boil my ultimate question down, it usually means I’m not clear on what I am *asking for* in response. So if I am sending a rejected invoice email forward to the person responsible for that client, the *thing I actually need* is “What’s the 2023 budget for [___] matter?” or “$2k in time on X rejected – write off or resubmit?” The folks I e-mail are very very thankful they don’t need to read through five paragraphs to find my question in the third line from the bottom.

  68. Database Developer Dude*

    No. Just, no. The subject line of an email is just that: a subject line. Alison got this one wrong. Doing the crap these people are doing interferes with people being able to properly sort their emails for record keeping purposes.

    This is something really weird, and should not be tolerated. I don’t care if it’s the CEO. Use the email program as it’s intended.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Alison’s answer says if there’s a work related outcome that it impacts, then address that, but if there isn’t, the LW doesn’t have the standing to do so (and it simply isn’t worth it).

      What would the outcome impact be? Other than it is annoying. I find it hard to believe it seriously prevent people from filing their emails. You can’t expect the whole office to work to your email filing system.

      And it isn’t “weird” in LW’s office. They explicitly say it is common.

      “Shouldn’t be tolerated” makes no sense when the impact is low, the issue is normal and accepted in your context, and you don’t have authority over the offenders anyway.

  69. Miss Climpson*

    I work loosely alongside someone (imagine we are contractors doing a similar role but employed by different organisations) who for a while when I was new in post would send all their emails with the subject line ‘Email from John to Jane’ because they said it made it easier for them to find. It drove me mad, and I said so. I don’t think said colleague had properly understood what a ‘Sent’ folder was. Mind you they still can’t cope with Outlook meeting invitations as apparently they don’t work on their iPhone.

  70. dmicah*

    Pretty sure people do this because they know that most of us don’t read all our emails, but do read the titles.

  71. Buffy Rosenberg*

    What’s the age and general demographics your office? I rarely come across this, but in the past, when I have done, it has been older, less digital literate people.

    It certainly isn’t intended as “I’m so busy!” If anything, the intention is to save you time as the recipient, especially when people have been given advice like “put the most important bit of the message in the subject line” but don’t quite understand how to do that, or how it visually appears when it arrives.

    You say these coworkers frustrate you in other ways, so my guess is you’ve lost goodwill.

    My suggestion is try to ignore the email subject line issue and if there are other issues which directly impact work outcomes, shift your focus to that.

  72. SB*

    It is the boomers & only the boomers in my office who do this & I think it is because they still don’t understand email etiquette. They are big on all other aspects of office etiquette & will be very outspoken when they see what they consider unprofessionalism in the office (usually office attire complaints about people who they consider dressing too casually) but absolutely refuse to learn email etiquette. They also insist on using the reply all function on all users emails that absolutely do not require a reply all & they will reply to old emails about something completely different to begin a new discussions. It drives me up the wall but if you try to talk to them about it they play the “I’ve been with this company for 175 years, I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know”…infuriating.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This seems ageist. I’m an early Gen X but like boomers have been using email as long as it’s been in the mainstream (25-30 years). None of my co-workers/reports have major problems, but the minor problems tend to be among the group that are new to the professional world.

      1. SB*

        If you re-read you will see that I very specifically stated that this is IN MY OFFICE. I can’t speak for your office as I do not work there. I am merely giving my experience within my workspace. I am a senior Gen X BTW, so very close to being a boomer myself (missed it by a couple of years).

    2. allathian*

      Yes, in the sense that when those people first started using email, it was an effective and efficient way to communicate because the bandwidth was extremely limited and it took ages to download an email message from the server, even if it didn’t contain any graphics at all.

      Some of the pioneers never got out of the habit even when times moved on and bandwidth is no longer an issue.

      I got my first modem in 1995 or thereabouts and it was considered reasonably good for the time at 56.6 kilobits (not bytes!) per second.

  73. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    LW, I agree with you that it’s annoying, fully onboard with that. I’m wondering if the amount it seems to bother you is just venting because it seems like a lot/BEC level. Is there something else going on there?

  74. Safely Retired*

    This is one time when I have to disagree with our host. She said “I don’t think it’s unprofessional, per se…”. I think it is very unprofessional. Depending on the email interface the recipient uses it can be nigh on impossible to read such a long “subject”.
    I think that texting, where there is no explicit Subject, may be a contributing factor to this behavior.

  75. Casey*

    We deal with a government customer who “tags” all their emails so that you can’t even see the intended subject! It’s always like RE: FW: [External] [Urgent] [Mechanical Team] [Millennium Falcon] [Issue] we’re running out of engine fuel

    Like, maybe this helps you organize things internally but god if it’s actually urgent, either put it in the body of the message or just call me? Wild. I’ve tried to laugh about it.

  76. Pip*

    I may put all the key info or the question in the subject line if I’m writing to someone who gets a lot of emails and I want to make it clear what the issue or question is without them having to open the email. I’ll also do this if the person is not good about responding. I want them to see the important info right up front, especially if I need a response and it’s time-sensitive. (I’ll usually also put PLEASE READ NOW in that instance.)

  77. Bread*

    Maybe others have mentioned this, but I’m almost positive this was one of those early “email productivity hacks” that used to make the rounds in the 00s, very early 2010s. (Similar to “inbox zero” or that “reply/file/flag/delete” one.) I’m guessing these people just stuck with it, when it lasted two weeks for everybody else, without realizing how annoying it is.

  78. Gibbie*

    So you can read the email on your phone discreetly in meetings without having to open your phone. That way you can tell if it’s important enough to actually deal with or if it can wait.

  79. Knope Knope Knope*

    I’ve never encountered this and I think these people are completely unhinged.

  80. Bert*



    1. LetterWriter*

      Probably! But that is genuinely my internal thought, accompanied by an eye roll. I understand its effectively harmless but professionalism and email etiquette do exist for a reason and part of that is the way you come across to people – and this is the way it comes across to me. Do I tell them that? No, do I ignore the email? No. Its just something that I find incredibly off putting (And is reflective of their greater air of professionalism which I’m sure encourages my gut reaction to be this strong).

      1. Fuel Injector*

        and this is the way it comes across to me

        That is a choice that you are making. You can make a different choice.

  81. ThatDaneGirl*

    “Call me!”

    My internal response (usually only internal, but not always), “I’d rather not.”

  82. tw1968*

    I would be tempted to reply in the subject line, simply adding my response and cut off your message so they have to write another email. As in:

    Hi Barry, I need to process a purchase order ASAP for pink elephants and we only have a product code for blue elephants. Can you set up a code for pink elephants today and let me know when done. Hi Mike! To setup a purchase order code for pink elephants I need…”
    (spell EVERYTHING out and hopefully you’ll run out of space on the subject line BEFORE you are able to tell him exactly what you need to setup the code.

    People only understand when it affects them.

    1. The Latest and Greatest Kitsune*

      In my current department, if we are sending email-to-text, everything has to go in the subject line. However, my department is also a hospital PBX, which makes things a little different. For instance, emailing the rest of the department and schedulers about a change means you use the body of the email. Subject line: Endo Change. Body: Received a call from the Endo department, please remove Pengwing from the schedule, and add Ponyta instead.

      If we are sending email-to-text to a doctor? Subject line: ER Dr. Monarch 6666.

      If you are sending professional communication, as in the first? Please use the body of the email. And do not, DO NOT, send a subject, “I have a question, call me.” Include your question in the email, so the person can prepare an answer for you.

  83. LetterWriter*


    Letter writer here. Worth noting I was particularly frustrated when I wrote this question as I’d just had one come in (Asking me to do something totally against policy), haha, and my level of frustration is probably worse because they sometimes include external people on these emails, and the people that are guilty of it are generally a bit unprofessional anyway in other areas.

    To answer a few questions I’ve seen crop up;
    Yes we have IM – Everyone has a work phone and work laptop with Microsoft teams set up with the chat function.
    The email content in the subject line is always longer than the message preview you can see in your inbox so its actually really hard to read, even worse when it gets replied to multiple times.
    There is often multiple people in the email, so you don’t actually know who they are asking to do the work (and everyone is in the ‘to’ box, no CCs).
    Our entire workplace has a pretty consistent email culture; read and respond to all emails, we don’t often use the urgent function, a response within 24 business hours is expected/generally adhered to, and we don’t expect emails to be read/replied/actioned if someone is in a meeting.

    1. NotOP*

      Service announcement: this is the OP posting. Thank you for your updates, we all appreciate them!

  84. SpinsterNonsense*

    I’ve definitely been guilty of this. Usually it’s when I’ve composed a message elsewhere (like as a reply and then changed my mind) and then pasted it into a new message. If I get ahead of myself, it ends up pasting the whole message into the subject line and I look like a fool. It happened a lot at my last job when we changed email systems too.

  85. Eom*

    that’s why you’re supposed to use at the end if you put the entire msg in the subject line. and it shouldn’t be done if the msg is more than 5-6 words long.

  86. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I used to work in an EOM office, and I miss it. It’s so useful, especially if your org doesn’t use Teams, Slack, or an equivalent.

  87. Jamie Starr*

    While I don’t like this, I would find more tolerable than people who send emails with NO subject. I hate emails without subject lines! Especially if it’s from your boss…the email could be something benign, urgent, but who knows! When I reply to no subject emails, I always add a subject.

    As others mentioned up thread, I try to used subjects that are succinct and useful for future me to search for. I’ll do things like “For Approval: FY23 Llama Grooming Budget,” “For Review: Llama Grooming Course Descriptions,” or “Due 5/25: Llama TPS Reports” so that people on the receiving end know if action is required from them.

    1. Miette*

      No-subject emails are always suspect in my book. They are often used in phishing email attacks, and I never open them, even if they’re from an important person like my boss/clients. People’s names can be spoofed for these things. If your boss really does this often, you need to ask them to stop, because while you may be opening them, his colleagues may not–and should not IMO, because the risk of it being harmful is pretty high.

  88. ds*

    Late tot his party, but… we had someone who wrote their entire emails in the subject line. To make it worse there wasn’t really a good way to actually READ said subject line with the setups we have at work without opening the whole email, full screening it, and praying it didn’t lapse over into going off the screen from sheer length.

    This man, no joke, wrote novels in the subject line. Like he was entirely unaware what the body of the email was for other than his very long signature, including not one, not two, but THREE images. (He toted himself as some guru of 5 different things, none of which he had degrees or certs or job history in, and he slapped logos of random accreditation agencies that we suspect he may have had some ties with early in his career, some 20 years ago given the quality of those logos.)

    The amount of people who would whisper behind his back each time he did it, speculating this or that about it was absurd. One coworker even tried typing in the body of the email to explain where the body of the text goes. A manager tried sending a screencap to explain where to type. He ignored them all. (He was also generally unpleasant, not at all hard working – the feet on the desk during the day kind of guy who’d scramble to turn off his screens if you came in to ask a question, begging the question of what, exactly, he was up to (not porn, out company monitors for that), who also did things incorrectly about 40% of the time, usually because he disagreed with “how hard” some task was the way it had to be in order to be correct. So our extension of grace here was… limited.)

    Regardless, the guy finally retired and in the two or so years since then we haven’t seen a single thing beyond 10 words in a subject line. If someone does do it, it’s usually a manager on their phone and they put EOM (end of message) at the end so we know not to open it and they always limit it to what will show in the preview pane. (The only acceptable kind of whole message in subject line imo).

    Anyway, thought I’d tell my story of the most stubborn man to ever stubborn an email body/subject line issue.

    1. LetterWriter*

      Haha, thankyou for your comment, I feel this is very reflective of the situation I’m in!

      I don’t think I would mind at all if it really was just a short sentence/request, but its the massive long emails in a subject line that are impossible to read quickly anyway which grind my gears.

  89. Miyon Im*

    When we were dealing with a lawyer for our house purchase he would take aaaaaages to deal with our messages (clear subject line, clear ask, clear due date.). But one time my husband tried just putting the question in the subject line and bam, responded by end of day. So some people do “work” like this. But, I don’t think that means people should assume everyone works like this! It is very annoying.

  90. Emailing Woes*

    I’m amused to hear that people are experiencing the opposite of my own work-pet-peeve with emails: my coworkers leave the subject line blank a good 60% of the time, leading me to have no clue what I’ve got in my inbox some mornings!

    It makes it so hard to quickly find something in my inbox at a glance – which of the dozen of (no subject line) emails is the one I’m looking for? Yes, I could use Outlook’s search option, but sometimes the email content is a link to a news article, and I don’t always have helpful keywords. I imagine it’s just as bad trying to skim for something specific when half the subject is cut off as well!

  91. wtaf machine*

    oh GOD this is so triggering. Early on in my career I worked with an older woman who did this ALL THE TIME. It was so grating to me and you’re correct, difficult to read especially if you regularly read emails on your phone like I do/did. I cracked and said something to the woman of “hey, can you please try to put your message in the email body? it’s hard to read the way you’re doing it and I don’t want to miss anything”. she agreed and did it correctly a for a bit. I remember being all excited telling my supervisor that I solved the email problem and we were all set with Joan now. my supervisor laughed and laughed like “oh honey no we’ve all been trying for years”. and yup, within days it was back to the infuriating manner. I stopped reading and responding to her emails and instead would just have phone calls with her. eventually she retired but damn it was frustrating.

  92. Anonymous*

    I have an acquaintance that does this and it drives me bananas. It makes it impossible to keep email chains with them.

  93. PattM*

    I had a former coworker who was famous for putting her requests in the subject line. Everyone was afraid of her and never said anything. I would hit Reply and say that she had sent a blank email; was something wrong? I would also copy her boss and IT. Made her furious and she would call and demand to know what was wrong with me that I couldnt read the subject. Told her that I could only see a few characters–she was famous for writing long subject lines. Eventually, she caved and sent proper emails.

  94. FLuff*

    A few years ago there was an Email Bill of Rights. I cannot find it, and it gave me several “email gifts” which I try to spread like a good virus to lessen email.

    1. EOM in the subject line – end with ‘end of message’ EOM after a short comment here in subject line.

    2. NNTR – no need to reply. Now that is a gift. Often paired with its buddy: FYI.

    I love these so much I sometimes have them in my signature to encourage use.

  95. RavenForYou*

    Worked once at a place where the janky email system would allow you to send emails without a subject line, but the system would copy the body and insert it as the subject line.

    Normal fix: make subject line a requirement to send.
    Their fix: only copy the first sentence of the message body. Not helpful.

    Have also seen this nonsense with websites where you can submit customer service tickets.

  96. Berkeleyfarm*

    Oh bless. I had a few of those at my last job. One of them even mailed his password in the subject line when he wanted us to set up yet another new device for him. For kickers, he had a clearance.

  97. A.A. Godfrey*

    Just EOM at the end and it makes it so you DON’T have to open the email. I love a good subject heading message + EOM

  98. noname1234567*

    What countries are these coworkers from? It’s very common in some countries for people to put the entire email in just the subject line and leave the body of the email blank.

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