blank Subject:

Subject: line occurrences

The graph above (click it to see the full image) displays the occurrences of Subject: lines within a week, for emails that went through an auxiliary outgoing / filtering mail server, set up specifically to deal with a spam outbreak that affected our customers. They were all about pain-killers and other “enhancements”, making it easy to write quick filters on the spot, with the exception of #66, the blank Subject: line.

[ Update: The above means that for that week the most common non-spam outgoing email subject was the blank subject. Some more numbers: 196493 messages passed through that system. The most common spam subject appeared 3588 times. 679 messages had blank subjects. 5 had “(no subject)” as subject. 6707 messages had subjects that appeared less than 100 times each. 5628 of them I would not classify as spam based on the subject line. So 10.7% of the messages that could not be considered as spam based on their subject’s content had empty subject lines. ]

It seems that people are still sending emails without a Subject: line. Although this seems weird to me, to a lot of others it is perfectly natural. Am I alone in believing that one should not send subject-less emails?

10 thoughts on “blank Subject:

  1. Whenever i talk to email to 1rst year student I always say to them:
    Subject is one of the most important parts. Sometimes it judges whether the recipient will read the email of hit the delete button faster than the speed of light. This holds true mostly from people that they don’t really know you.

    However most of the time people just leave the subject empty, and then they get angry when i tell them that i didn’t see anything and probably just deleted for spam.

    1. Quite simple. E-mail is still one of those things that we use for *mostly work*, appreciating a high SNR ratio. One can hardly say that for SMS, Facebook msgs and MSN [or twitter for that matter ;)]

  2. I believe that a separate subject line and body text are no longer needed. Email clients should be smart enough to display excerpts from the email body in the message listing. Look at how gmail presents your inbox for example. Would it be that much different if the subject lines were missing?

  3. Your answer’s in the stats, surely? If half your emails arrive without a subject, that’s roughly half the internet population who don’t feel that subjects are compulsory (very roughly – add a few because newsletters/notifications/etc always have one; take a few away because some people will add one when it’s fitting, but not otherwise; tweak for proportions, etc).

    I suspect a fair few of them have reached the same conclusion as I have – that titles are there because they always were, not because they always should be. I don’t care about subjects, and will rarely use one. I use Gmail though, which will give me a snippet of body text instead, so that’s probably a factor in my preference.

    It’s the same with email addresses in comment forms being compulsory. If I see no reason to give one or don’t want the ‘benefits’ of doing so, as in this case, my email address is given as gibberish containing an ‘@’ and ‘.com’. Mail it all you like, and don’t complain about bounces etc – while you have the ability to make it optional, your objections don’t even register ;)

    If email subject was compulsory, you’d just get gibberish from me most of the time. If you don’t want to read the email because of that, fine. If you want to read it, you’ll know what it’s about soon enough.

  4. I’ve updated the blog post with some more numbers. Only 10.7% of the messages that could not be considered as spam based on their subject’s content had empty subject lines.

  5. A new version of the internal mail / workgroup server at work here came along and it has some kind of setting to reject outgoing mails without a subject line. So far I’ve told them I don’t know how this setting came along or how to change it and that they should simply add a subject to the mails that they write. It might not be the nicest way to change behaviour, but it seems to work. Now if it only would reject all the mails with a meaningless subject too.

  6. You are a dinosaur. Nowadays, people in the internet are moved by what is easy and trendy, not by what actually makes sense. I tried to convince my no-so-computer-literate friends to put a subject in the emails, but they fail to understand the necessity of it, and probably they never will.

    BTW, I have not read your blog for a while, and noticed that now there is threading! WOW! It took a few years for the blogs, but finally they reached the same level of technology the usenet had 30 year ago :-PPP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s