Section 2.2

Email Subject Lines

The subject line of an email should be brief yet descriptive. After all, it is by scanning subject lines that many people will find your message among a slew of other incoming messages competing for their attention.

Suppose you send two colleagues an email with an attached copy of a report about technology expenses for the second quarter of 20013. Simply writing Technology Report in the subject line is not enough to tell them what the topic of your message is. And Report on technology expenses for the second quarter of 20013 attached is long and meandering. If your subject contains too many words, it will be more difficult for recipients to read it quickly, and it is also possible that their email software will truncate the subject so that they can’t see all the information.

Consider the following alternative:

Subject: Technology Expense Report Q2 2013

This version is superior to the previous two options because it is both concise and precise. The reader will quickly understand exactly what he or she is receiving.

Regarding capitalization of your subject line, you have multiple choices. Naturally you should always capitalize proper nouns such as Joan or Empire State Building, but for the rest of the words in your subject you can choose between the following options:

  • Capitalize the subject line as you would a title, beginning everything except minor words with capital letters.
  • Capitalize the first word of the subject, as well as any proper nouns, but begin any other words with lower-case letters.

The decision is a stylistic and aesthetic one, based on your own preferences and the context. Capitalizing the subject line like a title often gives it a more polished, professional appearance. For long subject lines, however, initial capital letters throughout can at times be a bit overwhelming; in such cases, sometimes a better choice is to use initial caps for just the first word and any proper nouns.

Subjects with no capital letters at all generally don’t look as polished as the two options described above.