Ask GTDA: using subject lines as the whole email

One more question: Since we were talking in class about minimizing the emails that you force other people to read, what are your thoughts on sending an email that simply says “Thanks” when someone responds to a request you sent them?  It seems rude to not acknowledge their response, but it does force them to open/delete another email…

Good question. You have three options when you receive a useful email.

  1. Do nothing. The first rule of email etiquette is to do no harm. Let’s say that you, along with the entire department,  just received a useful email from the Chair. You, and the other 100 recipients, are not going to make her happy by sending a courteous message reading “Thanks, that was really useful!”.  If they are not reasonably expecting it, don’t send it.
  2. Send an email using both subject line and text box. This is the old standby, but increasingly out of favor, as it not only takes up space in the inbox, but requires the reader to click on the message to make doubly sure nothing more is involved than a simple thank you,  for example
    By the way, I ran over your cat. My bad. :-0
    Have a good one.
  3. Use the subject heading only.  This is increasingly common practice, especially for a polite acknowledgements when someone has done you a favor. A simple
    “Thanks!  n/t”     should do the trick.

See Wikipedia’s List of Email Subject Abbreviations for a whole list of acronyms, from the mundane to the bizarre, that are now populating subject lines, including, the very useful

NT, meaning No Text. Also written as N/T or n/t. Used when the entire content of the e-mail is contained in the subject and the body remains empty. This saves the recipient’s time because she then does not have to open the e-mail.


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