There are plenty of ways to write a bad email subject line at work.
For instance, you can be too wordy, vague, or eager — or it can be filled with typos, unnecessary punctuation, and filler words.
But one of the worst mistakes of all is writing an anxiety-inducing subject line.
Here are three email subject lines you should never use — especially at work:
Jon Steinberg, the former CEO of the Daily Mail, North America, who now runs Cheddar Inc., wrote a LinkedIn post in 2014 in which he explains why 'Please call me' is the most frustrating, annoying, and disruptive type of email a person can send.
'They put the recipient into a state of wonder at the very least and some level of anxiety at the other end of the spectrum,' he writes. 'The news to be delivered is no doubt bad, the only question is how bad?'
Steinberg says the recipient can (and will) assume the 'call' is likely to result in finding out a major piece of business has been lost, a key employee has resigned, they're in trouble for something, or some other bad news.
So instead of, 'Please call me!' you could get a bit more specific and write, 'Please call me. We have an issue with our client XYZ,' or 'Please call me -- HR issue involving retaining an employee,' he says.
And if you're requesting that an employee or colleague call you so you can share positive information with them, say so. For instance, 'Good news! Call me.'
'We need to talk'
You know things are bad when your boyfriend or girlfriend utters the phrase: 'We need to talk' -- so it makes sense that you'd panic when your boss says it.
When people see this subject line in their inbox, they may immediately assume the worst. So, if you're the boss, stop using it! Instead, go with something like: 'Let's check in to discuss your progress on the X project.'
Another option would be to walk up to the employee in person and say, 'Hey John -- have a minute to chat in my office?'
If you're about to deliver bad news, use a neutral tone. Don't be overly upbeat (this will give them a false sense of hope) but don't sound too solemn, either.
OK, maybe this email really is urgent -- but even if that's the case, you may want to tone it down a bit. (Also, if the situation is really that much of an emergency, email may not be the best way to communicate it.)
It's ok to occasionally use the word 'urgent' in a subject line, but it shouldn't stand alone ... in ALL CAPS ... with multiple exclamation points. Instead, try something like: 'Urgent: This contract must be signed by noon today.'
Tell the reader what the email is about, and why it's so important.
Also: Skip any all-caps subject lines ... even if it's announcing good news. It will make the recipient feel as though you're shouting at them, and it looks unprofessional.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.