In a survey of 300,000 email subject lines (all available for public analysis), the company determined that using all caps is a sure way to get your message sent to the virtual circular bin (that is, the trash). Or...even worse. According to their research, using all caps can also get your message marked as spam. No one will ever see it.
In analyzing the subject lines, the response rate--or whether people open and read the message--dropped a full 15% compared to subject lines that use normal sentence case. It's one of the worst things you can do if you are trying to get the attention of an investor (or maybe a journalist) by email or market a new product. I've written about this before, but using creativity in a subject line is a much better strategy--one that has now worked on me countless times after writing about this recently. (You can stop now, though.)
As we all know by now, ALL CAPS is a sign of digital immaturity. It means you're yelling, for sure. It also means you don't know how to use italics or bold in apps like Slack. (Hint: You have to type asterisks like this: *bold* to use bold type.) In an email, using all caps in the subject line means you likely don't know how to craft a compelling message.
People often look for digital clues. When a message arrives that uses all caps, our brains suddenly switch into a dismissive mode. No matter what the subject line says, we assume it's a waste of time or sent from a spambot that is too dumb to use a more persuasive approach.
On social media, it's even worse. When someone types in all caps when making a comment or for a new post about their new job, we immediately assume the person is trying to get our attention without using persuasion. It's a shortcut used by people who have not been around computers long enough. I'M TRYING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION USING ALL CAPS is one of the best ways to make people ignore you.
Interestingly, email is still a viable way to market a product. I've written before about how email has become digital noise, but the reason it's still effective is that it is still incredibly public and still widely used by every age group. Anyone can send an email to anyone else. On Facebook, you can lock down your account and make it private. On Twitter, you can block people if the use a certain phrase. But, for the most part, email is an open forum. You can still block people, and apps like Gmail block spam, but if you're in marketing, there's a good chance you can get the attention of the recipient.
That is, unless you use all caps. PLEASE STOP! Thanks.
RELATED: 19 unprofessional email habits that make everyone hate you
19 unprofessional email habits that make everyone hate you
19 unprofessional email habits that make everyone hate you
Sending 'urgent' emails that aren't urgent
"Like the boy who cried wolf, if you abuse the urgent marker, it won't be long until no one will pay any attention to it," Rosemary Haefner, chief human-resources officer for CareerBuilder, tells Business Insider.
And when you finally do send a truly urgent email, no one will pay attention, she says.
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Being too casual
While the tone of your message should reflect your relationship with the recipient, Haefner says, too much informality will make you come across as unprofessional.
She advises being judicious in your use of exclamation points, emoticons, colored text, fancy fonts, and SMS shorthand.
She laments that sometimes she receives "one-line emails that are so transactional they sound like an automaton is responding."
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"Email is not a party in the break room, it's a communication tool," Haefner says. "If you're responding to an email sent out to a group, be sure you are only hitting 'reply all' if your reply is truly necessary for everyone to receive."
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Cc'ing without approval
At the very least, sharing information that's not yours to share is annoying. It could also be a liability.
Whether you're cc'ing a client on an email where your boss said something about them or including a coworker on an email chain where another coworker shares personal information, "No one likes to have someone else decide to cc someone without being asked first," Randall says.
The best rule of thumb is to never assume it's OK to share an email with someone new to the conversation.
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"I am not a big believer in blind copying people on emails," Oliver says. "When I have been bcc'd, the first thing I think is, 'If she is bcc'ing me on this, who else has she bcc'd on other emails?'"
Bcc'ing conveys distrust and secrecy, she says.
"If you need to forward an email to someone who technically should not be on the chain, cut and paste the email into a separate email for that person," Oliver suggests.
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Using a vague subject line
"It's me," "Hey," or "FYI" give the email recipient no indication of what you're emailing them about, and they're less likely to open your email as a result.
"None of these prompt immediate attention," Randall says. "A workplace email, is best when it's clear and concise. Giving the recipient a clue can encourage them to read and reply quicker."
Starting a sentence in the subject line that you finish in the email's body
If you begin a thought or question that ends in the email, then the reader is once again forced to open the email, which is annoying, Augustine previously told Business Insider. The goal is to be clear and respectful of the recipient's time.
(Daryl Solomon via Getty Images)
A ridiculous email address
If you're sending out an email in a professional capacity, whether it's to a client, colleague, or potential employer, avoid sending it from an unprofessional email account, Randall says.
Anything cutesy, sexy, vulgar, or nonsensical will set a negative tone from the get-go. If you insist on keeping "S3xyCan1@netscape.net," at the very least create a separate email account strictly for professional emails, Randall suggests.
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Putting words in ALL CAPS
ARE YOU YELLING?!?! Because that's what using all caps looks like.
Unless you want to give your email recipient a heart attack, turn your CAPS LOCK off. And while you're at it, ease off on all the exclamation points.
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Sending too many personal emails
Jokes, touching stories, and motivational quotes sent on occasion could cheer up someone's day, Randall says, but they can quickly become tiresome.
"No matter how well-meaning you are, bombarding your coworkers' email on a daily basis can prompt them to auto-delete," she says.
(Compassionate Eye Foundation/Hiep Vu via Getty Images)
It can be tempting to show a little ire in your follow-up email, especially when you've been waiting on something that hasn't been delivered. Don't, advises Oliver.
"People always remember the mean email," Oliver says, "which is why you must not send one."
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Instead, she advises writing the email you want to send, saving it in your drafts folder for 48 hours, and then revising it to take out the snippiness.
"It will help you accomplish your goal faster because you will come off as patient and professional as opposed to snarky," she says.
If you know the person really well, you can sometimes dispense with the niceties, Oliver says.
"But if the person to whom you're writing is a business colleague or a client, err on the side of politeness. Use words like 'please,' 'thank you,' and sign off with a word like, 'Best,'" she says.
(Stephan Hoeck via Getty Images)
"Sent from my iPhone," is no excuse for sloppy emails.
While Oliver says one typo here and there is becoming more acceptable because everyone is sending emails from their phones, more than one per email is unprofessional.
If the email is important enough to send out while you're on the run, it's important enough to look over before you send it out.
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Sending emails at 3 a.m.
Oliver says that she's done it occasionally herself "because sometimes you wake up very early and you're feeling productive."
But she cautions that even in this 24/7 world, "most people look at the time stamp and hold it against you if it shows some crazy hour in the morning. At best, they think you're a workaholic who doesn't have a life. At worst, they think you're obsessive."
If inspiration strikes you at odd hours of the night, Oliver suggests writing the email, saving it in your drafts folder, and sending it during working hours.
"People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature," she writes in her book. "Exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing."
(Zoonar RF via Getty Images)
Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place — maybe? — but for business correspondence keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic.
The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read.
"Generally, it is best to use 10- or 12-point type and an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman," Pachter advises.
As for color, black is the safest choice.
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Going too long
Most people spend seconds — not minutes or hours — reading an email, and a lot of people only skim them, so write your email accordingly.
Large blocks of text are hard to read, so it's better to break emails into short paragraphs, Haefner says. Bullet points or numbered lists are even easier to digest.
(Tim Shaffer / Reuters)
You can also use bold or italics to highlight important parts of your message, but you should do so sparingly.