Subject Line Messages Lead to Ineffective Communication

One of my pet peeves in the professional world is when people send emails with the body empty and the entire message in the subject line. In my experience, I have isolated a few different characteristics of many (not all) people who exhibit this behavior.

  • Technologically Antiquated
  • Arogant
  • Narcissistic

Undoubtedly, there are more than just these three characteristics, but these capture my experiences.  A very well-intentioned, educated, good mannered person might have a very good reason for sending such a succinct notice. These three categories simply represent the majority of people who I have encountered over the years who exhibit this behavior. Not everyone. But most.

If we have the luxury of time and the subject matter is not of urgent nature – that is when I cringe upon reading one of these specially crafted messages. The truth is that the all star over-achieving employees do always take the time to share enough words to properly convey their thoughts and use technology as it was intended to be used. A subject is a subject of a body, not the body itself.

But why does something so simple bother me enough to write about it?   Well, when I am busy and I receive a hastily written message that is neither urgent nor meaningful, it sends an unwritten message to me.   The message is that the writer believed so much that his/her time was so much more important than mine that he/she expects me to waste my time while attempting to decipher their incomplete and poorly written thoughts.  Now, nobody really thinks that way, so I would expect no malintent.  But the absence of respectful, thoughtful, and succinct writing is nearly as bad as malintent.  It leads to ineffective communication, which then creates inefficiencies that cost additional time and therefore money.   It is always better to take the extra few seconds to type the few additional words than to leave the person on the other end scratching their head, wasting time.