How to Change the Subject Line in Gmail
Ever found yourself stuck in an email thread where the subject line no longer matches the conversation? Or perhaps you made a small typo in the subject line that you’d love to correct? In professional and personal communication, the subject line is your first impression, and sometimes, you just need to change it.
This step-by-step guide will show you how to change the subject line in Gmail, both on your desktop and mobile device.
Why Changing the Subject Line in Gmail is Important
Changing the subject line in Gmail, or any other email platform, can be important for various reasons:
Organization and Searchability
A descriptive subject line makes it easier to identify the email thread, especially if the conversation spans several days or even weeks. If the conversation changes topics, updating the subject line to reflect this change makes it easier to find later.
Sometimes email threads drift away from the original subject matter. Altering the subject line to align with the ongoing conversation makes it relevant for both you and the recipient. This can be particularly useful in professional settings, where you might need to refer back to conversations for various reasons.
Changing the subject line can indicate the priority level of an email. If the subject of the email thread becomes urgent, updating the subject line to reflect this can help draw attention to it.
When a thread becomes too long and tackles various topics, changing the subject line can be useful in segmenting different topics within the thread. This can make the conversation easier to follow and more manageable.
Respect for Time and Attention
It’s respectful to your recipients to make the subject line as informative as possible, so they can quickly understand the content and importance of your email. This way, they can prioritize their time and attention more efficiently.
When you are responding to an older thread but want to discuss something entirely different, changing the subject line can help clarify that the conversation has shifted. Otherwise, the recipient may overlook the new message, assuming that it’s related to the old thread based on the subject line.
Legal or Compliance Reasons
In some professional settings, the subject line can be important for archival and compliance reasons. Changing it to accurately represent the conversation can be crucial for these purposes.
As a minor point, a neat and organized inbox is aesthetically pleasing to many people. A descriptive subject line contributes to this.
In a business context, keeping the subject line updated and relevant demonstrates a level of professionalism. It shows that you care about clear communication and respect the other person’s time and attention.
Changing the subject line may not always be necessary or appropriate. Still, in many situations, it can lead to more organized, efficient, and effective communication.
When You Might Need to Change the Subject Line in Gmail
Changing the subject line in Gmail can be important for a variety of reasons. Here are some scenarios when you might consider doing so:
When Responding to a Long Thread
Email threads can sometimes stray far from the original topic. If you’re responding to a long thread but your message focuses on a new or different subject, changing the subject line can help make the topic clear.
To Clarify the Subject
Sometimes, the original subject line might be too vague, misleading, or entirely missing. Changing it to something more specific can make it easier to search for the email later and immediately lets the recipient know what the email is about.
During a Job Application
If you’re replying to a job posting and you’ve been asked to include specific information in the subject line (like a job code or your name), you’ll want to ensure that you adjust the subject accordingly.
To Highlight Priority or Actions Needed
If you need to draw attention to an urgent matter or required action, revising the subject line to include words like “Urgent” or “Action Required” can help it stand out in a crowded inbox.
For Personal Organization
If you use your email as a task management system or for archiving important information, you might want to change subject lines for your own organizational purposes.
If you’re forwarding an email but want to direct it to someone for a specific reason that was not covered in the original subject line, you may want to change it to better reflect why you are forwarding it.
To Correct a Mistake
Typos and errors happen. If you notice one in the subject line after sending an email, you can’t retract the original email, but you can send a follow-up with a corrected subject line.
Legal and Compliance Reasons
Certain industries have guidelines or regulations concerning email communication. If the original subject line doesn’t comply with these, you might need to change it.
To Add a Prefix
Some organizations use prefixes in subject lines to categorize emails (e.g., [HR], [Finance], [Urgent]). You may need to add or adjust these to fit into existing workflows.
For Group Threads
If you are part of a group thread where everyone is contributing updates or ideas on multiple topics, it might be useful to change the subject line to indicate the content of your specific message.
Steps to Change the Subject Line in Gmail on Desktop
Here’s how you can change the subject line in those scenarios:
When Replying to an Email
- Open the Email: Open the Gmail email thread that you want to reply to.
- Click Reply: Click on the “Reply” button usually located at the bottom of the email.
- Edit Subject Line: Above the body of the email, click on the small downward arrow or triangle next to the current subject line to reveal the full header. Once visible, you should see the “Subject” field, which you can then edit.
- Type Your Message: Type the body of your email as you normally would.
- Send Email: Click “Send” once you’ve made your changes and composed your message.
When Forwarding an Email
- Open the Email: Open the Gmail email that you want to forward.
- Click Forward: Click on the “Forward” button usually located at the bottom of the email.
- Edit Subject Line: Above the body of the email, click on the small downward arrow or triangle next to the current subject line to reveal the full header. You should see the “Subject” field, which you can then edit.
- Add Recipient: Enter the email address of the person to whom you’re forwarding the email.
- Send Email: Click “Send” after you’ve made your changes and entered the recipient’s email address.
Steps to Change the Subject Line in Gmail on Mobile
Gmail’s mobile app does not provide an option to change the subject line directly for an existing email conversation. However, you can do this on the desktop version of Gmail easily. On mobile, you might have to work around this limitation.
Here’s what you can do on mobile:
- Forward the Email: Open the email thread whose subject line you want to change. Click on the “Forward” option usually represented by an arrow.
- Change Subject Line: When you forward an email, you’ll have the opportunity to change the subject line to whatever you’d like.
- Address the Email: Enter the recipient’s email address. If you’re keeping the email in the same thread, you’ll send it back to the original sender and possibly CC any other previous recipients.
- Send: After you’ve changed the subject and addressed the email, click on the send button, usually represented by a paper plane icon.
By forwarding the email, you break the email out of the original thread and start a new thread with the new subject line. It’s not the same as changing the subject line within an existing thread, but it does allow you to create a new thread with a different subject.
For more advanced subject line editing and to change a subject within an existing thread, you’ll need to use the desktop version of Gmail.
Fixing Common Issues
If you find that your changes are not saving or experiencing other issues, here are some common troubleshooting tips:
- Make sure you have a stable internet connection.
- Update your Gmail app if you’re using a mobile device.
- Refresh your Gmail page on desktop.
How do I change the subject line in a Gmail conversation?
- Open the Gmail conversation in question.
- Click on the “Reply” or “Forward” button.
- In the new reply or forward window, locate the subject line at the top.
- Make your edits to the subject line.
- Write your message and send.
Does changing the subject line create a new conversation thread?
Yes, changing the subject line in a Gmail conversation and then sending the message will create a new thread separate from the original conversation.
Can I change the subject line for sent emails?
No, you cannot change the subject line of emails that have already been sent. However, you can forward the email to the same recipients with a new subject line if needed.
Is it possible to change the subject line of a received email?
You cannot change the subject line of an email you’ve received without forwarding or replying. However, you can label or categorize it to find it more easily later.
Can I change the subject line in Gmail’s mobile app?
Changing the subject line is also possible in Gmail’s mobile app, but you can only do this when replying to or forwarding an email.
What happens if I forget to change the subject line before sending an email?
Once an email is sent, its subject line cannot be changed. You would have to send a new email with the corrected subject line.
Is it considered rude to change the subject line in a conversation thread?
This depends on the context. In professional settings, a relevant and clear subject line helps recipients understand the email’s purpose, so changing it to something more appropriate can be helpful. However, changing the subject line without any context might confuse recipients.
Why would I need to change the subject line in a Gmail thread?
Changing the subject line can help when the discussion topic has shifted, making it easier to locate emails later on. It can also help recipients prioritize your email.
Can I change the subject line of multiple emails at once?
No, Gmail does not provide a way to bulk-edit the subject lines of emails. You would need to forward or reply to each email individually to change its subject line.
Can other email clients see the changed subject line?
Yes, if you change the subject line and send the email, recipients using other email clients will see the email with the new subject line.
Changing the subject line in Gmail is a simple yet impactful way to make your email communication clearer and more organized. It takes only a few clicks or taps to perform, but the advantages are significant. Get started today and enhance your email management practices.
About the Author
Evans Raymond is a Gmail expert and communication specialist with over a decade of experience in email management.