Why email hashtags?

Email is a great invention—so great that, collectively, we use it 300 billion times a day. And that number is only growing.

Each email message includes two very important pieces of information to help you deal with it effectively—the subject line and the importance level.

What it’s missing is an indicator to tell you what kind of email it is.

Does the email require you to do something? Is it important reading material? Does it relate to a project, a team, or an upcoming meeting? Is it personal or confidential?

If the software developers who created today’s email systems were going to add this, they’d have done it by now.

But there’s another option. We can do it ourselves. It’s free, and it doesn’t even require a software download.


Hashtags are simple. They’re familiar (many people use them already). And they’re easy to implement.

So easy that we can simply start using them. Now.

Only instead of attaching them to tweets, we suggest using them as the first word of email subject lines.

A standard set of email hashtags might help get things started. Let’s begin with these six:

  • #Action—this email asks you to do something
  • #Respond—the sender needs to hear back from you
  • #Meet—this relates to an upcoming meeting (or one just held)
  • #Info or #FYI—no action needed, but here’s something you should know
  • #Hot—information in the email is time-sensitive
  • #Personal

Beyond that, hashtags are infinitely adaptable. Anyone can start using them. They can be created on the fly. So invent your own—and, where it would help, use more than one!

Hashtags not only provide at-a-glance visual cues, they can be used in rules and filters. That enables you to sort your email more effectively—for instance, collecting all the #Action emails in one spot.

The list above might not be the most useful six. They’re merely suggestions. Hashtags are a democracy. The best ideas will rise to the top.

We’d like to know what you think. Is this a good idea? How can we make it better? Would you include different tags in the proposed set? How can we encourage their adoption?

Most important of all, will you start using them?

If you will, you’ll start a revolution in how we handle our email—and how much time we reclaim as a result.

What you can do right now:

  1. Use hashtags in your email subject lines
  2. Encourage others to use them, too
  3. Promote emailhashtags.org in your email signature
  4. “Like” this page and tweet the URL

Don’t wait for someone else to start the trend. Use a hashtag in the next email you send.


4 comments on “Why email hashtags?

  1. I recently added a post to my site about helpful e-mail subject lines:
    and was then made aware by a subscriber of this e-mail hashtags term.
    I really like the term and will be using it now moving forward. It is an easily recognized term given the growth of “twitter”, and if that helps people remember to use them, then that is a great benefit.
    Dr. Michael Einstein

  2. Joy Bellis says:

    As a novice who never saw a need for a hashtag I now see a positive use, if I could convince my correspondents to use it…to separate their mail from the junk immediately.

  3. Rocco says:

    Why is #Action in a Subject Line better than Action?

    • Bill Boyd says:

      Thanks for a good question. #Action clearly stands out as a label, enabling recipients to easily sort or filter their emails according to type. It also makes sure the filter doesn’t pick up “reaction” or “action heroes” and group it with emails requiring action. All that said, email systems now include a lot of intelligence — to the point where I’m not sure hashtags add the same value they would have several years ago.

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