Best practice for email subject templates

Does anyone have any thoughts on best practice for the templates used on emails from the site?

By default the email subjects have a fairly standard look & feel, e.g.

[%{email_prefix}] [PM] %{topic_title}

I’m finding that we are not getting many replies to welcome PMs and there is a chance that the formulaic nature of the subject line, at least for PMs is making them be missed, ignored or treated as spam.

While a standard template makes writing email filing rules easier, it also makes the notification more likely to be ignored, and so I wondered how to personalise this and bring it to life, so that I’m not annoying members, but making sure I catch their attention.

Do you have any thoughts? Have you changed the default setting for these email notification templates?

Is it better to leave it in to be ‘honest’ it is just a notification and not an actual personal email from the relevant member?

I’d be very interested in your thoughts

We can’t assess your question without seeing the body of the message. The subject on its own won’t cause a person to reply, so it should be treated all together.

Also, why would a person reply? Do you ask questions, with question marks? If they don’t have a reason to reply, they won’t.

Thanks, but I think we are talking about different things

By default, ALL Discourse emails follow a template subject line which is:

PM subject line
[%{email_prefix}] [PM] %{topic_title}

Notification subject line
[%{email_prefix}] [%{category}] %{topic_title}

The Digest subject line
[%{email_prefix}] Summary

In other words, if you do not customise your subject lines, ALL notifications from the community start to look very similar.

I am wondering if anyone has made any significant changes to these template subject lines (including removing the email_prefix and the [square bracket dividers]) or whether we think that keeping these are good practice in order to inform our members?

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Okay, I’ll try to contribute in a different way.

Yes, it is always better to be honest, in all your interactions with site visitors.

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Hey Robert,
Interesting question. I haven’t customised the template for any of my Discourse communities but I’ve spent time researching email subjects for mail drops from Mailchimp etc.

The ones that I find do the best aren’t capitalised (so they don’t look like titles). Ideally they’d be personalised but that’s not feasible in this case so I’d say that you’re likely on the right track with at least removing the square brackets. You probably need to be careful though because if someone writes a PM with a spammy looking title (“help me please”) then that might affect both delivery and open rates.

That said, people are going to get used to recognising these at a glance regardless of what they look like so I’m not sure you’ll have a huge impact on your numbers.

It’s probably a case of testing a few options out.


The only ones that I’ve seen work – by that I mean bulk emails that caught my eye consistently – are from demand progress, and they hand-edit each email blast title to make it look like it came from a person. Very labor intensive.


Yup, I managed to get the same results by doing that but the ROI wasn’t there.


Thanks all - I turned on ‘watching’ for most of my categories initially, so my inbox is busier than most, but the results look like this. The individual’s name still does appear in the From box, so that is great, but by defaulting to the name of the site, there is a mix of category, sub-category and PM there, and you can see that it gets rather repetitive (sorry, names meant to be ‘private’)

I’m tempted to remove the site identifier at the very least, but wonder about the appropriateness of this

One thing I can recommend is to set a much shorter email site title. Instead of [The Society's Community] change it to [TSC], like so:

that is the site setting “email prefix”.


Ah, nice idea but practicality has to contend with brand guidelines and the acceptability of acronyms (no shortening is allowed!)

I’m thinking of re-branding (potentially) to create a shorter name, but in any case it gets repetitive if you use it for everything, but removing it completely means you end up with emails not obviously linked to the community - either not encouraging repeat visits, or being accused of being misleading

Rock vs Hard Place


My current experiment is moving the prefix to the END of the subject line.

Will let you know how that goes.


and how does that work?