I recently made a decision to delete, without opening, all e-mail messages with a blank subject line. It became apparent that this type of message was an unsolicited advertisement. So, if you send me an e-mail with no subject and I don’t recognize your name or e-mail address, I will not be reading, let alone be responding to, your e-mail.
As with each backstep I’m forced to make because of spam, I feel a little sadness.
I’ve long argued that good e-mail practice requires good subject lines, but writing good subject lines has become imperative in today’s world of spam and spam filters.
Usability guru Jakob Nielsen makes a very similar point in his weekly column, “Automated Email From Websites to Customers,” in which he says:
“Transactional email can be a website’s customer service ambassador, but messages must first survive a ruthless selection process in the user’s in-box. Differentiating your message from spam is thus the first duty of email design.”
I’d only add that the same principles now apply to all e-mail as the combination of spammers and spam filtering have made the simple act of e-mailing much more complex.