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What about ALL CAPS in the Subject: Field?

Email Subject Field and All Caps

When it comes to email, using all upper case/caps is frowned upon. The reason is two fold.

  1. Using all caps gives the impression that you are shouting or possibly making a demand. This goes back to visually trying to determine intent in written communications.
  2. Caps are harder to read. We have been taught to subconsciously look for structure in text. Primarily the capitalization at the beginning of sentences that provides a logical flow of one thought to the next.

Does this apply to the Subject: field?

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, however in general, we want to avoid using caps. Doing so can be risky because we have no control over the perceived level of that implied emphasis. Better to chose your words carefully to reflect your tone.

When caps are used in the Subject: field it is construed as amplifying your message’s urgency. But, urgent to who? You or the recipient? Two difference perspectives.

Another concern with all caps in the Subject: field is that your email could be labeled as spam. We all know that spammers clearly do not concern themselves with the nuances of case. Particularly since they want to get your attention at all costs.

Look in your inbox and you’ll most likely notice that there are no emails using all caps in the Subject: field. Especially marketing emails. This is because they don’t want to cheapen their message.

Time and a Place for All Caps?

There are times where selectively integrating caps (not all caps) in your Subject: field can be helpful. If you want to bring attention to your email, it would probably be better to structure your Subject: field to include both caps and lower case such as:

Subject: FOLLOW UP: Previous E-mail Subject

Subject: REMINDER: Tomorrow’s Lunch Date

Of course, the verbiage used in conjunction with all capital letters makes a huge impact as well. In comparison, one could assume you were yelling/shouting/adding unnecessarily strong emphasis if you used caps in the Subject: field in the following manner:

Subject: WHEN AM I GOING TO HEAR FROM YOU?

Subject: RESPOND TO MY E-MAIL!!!!!

Can you see the difference and feel the emotion behind these Subject: fields? Yep, it’s all in the words you choose and how you use them. Make the wrong choices and it can cause you to be seen as yelling or having an overly aggressive tone.

Then, add those extra exclamation points and there will be no doubt by the other side that you are in fact making a demand for their response. Always keep in the back of your mind that it is out of your control to actually control the level of emphasis perceived by the other side.

Just Be Cautious with Caps

Obviously by the first examples you can see how you can effectively use caps to draw attention via the Subject: field. This approach allows you to do so without providing a negative perception which could cause your email to not be opened.

Just make sure that you relay the intended level of concern and emphasis that you want directed at the recipient. You do this by being selective with your capping and choosing your words carefully.

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