You know that first impressions are important, and that same rule holds true for email. Your subject line is the very first impression that your message makes. So, naturally, you want it to be a good one.

Crafting an effective subject line can't be hard, right? After all, it's only a few small words. However, you probably know all too well that it's not quite as simple as it seems.

We've all come across our fair share of awful, no-good, cringe-worthy subject lines -- and, unfortunately, we've also probably used a few of them ourselves.

But, if you want to increase your chances of getting your email actually read and responded to, there are a few common subject lines you'll want to stay far, far away from. Here are four subject lines to stop using -- immediately, please.

1. "Following Up"

I'm guilty of using this subject line -- or a very similar "checking in!" -- myself. It's an easy one to rely on when you're just popping into somebody's inbox for an update.

The problem? It's incredibly vague. While your subject line doesn't need to be written with painstaking detail (you don't want it to be too long!), you do want your recipient to be able to immediately glean what your message pertains too.

The less work you can make for him or her, the more likely you are to get a response.

Use This Instead:

"Your thoughts still needed on sales presentation"

Regardless of your specific circumstances, aim for something more descriptive. It'll help both you and your recipient, as your email will be that much easier for both of you to find by searching for the subject at a later date.

2. "URGENT!!! PLEASE READ!!!"

Sigh. The capital letters and the overused exclamation points. It's as if you intend for your message to be read in a loud, angry yell.

If you're sending an email, it's pretty much assumed that you'd like to be read -- which means your desperate plea is totally unnecessary.

And, if your message really is that time-pressing? Flag it as such. That will get your point across, with no obnoxious capital letters or exclamation points required.

Use This Instead:

"Sales presentation notes needed by EOD tomorrow"

Again, you want to be specific. Include what you need, as well as when you need it by. Including a hard deadline will strike a chord much better than a generic term like "URGENT!!!" will.

3. (no subject)

As bad as some subject lines can be, it's still always better to have a subject than none at all.

Would you want to read a book with no cover or title? Would you start a presentation without an introductory title slide? Probably not.

For that reason, your email absolutely needs a subject to allow your recipient to scan through his or her own inbox and instantly get a feel of what you're looking for.

Use This Instead:

Anything -- yes, literally anything (except, ideally, one of the other subjects on this list). But, as long as you have some sort of subject there, you're a step ahead of many people.

4. "Re:"

This is one I see many sales and PR people use in attempts to get my attention. Before their subject, they include an "Re:" -- which I suppose is some sneaky way to trick me into thinking that they're responding back to me.

I'll admit, when I'm quickly scrolling through my unread emails, I've fallen for this one a few times. But, when I actually click open that message and see it's not truly a reply? I'm immediately annoyed -- and that email quickly finds its way to my trash bin.

Use This Instead:

Just skip the "Re:" and use only your original subject. Email should be straightforward and convenient. If you need to use this sort of trickery to get someone to respond to you, you might not actually deserve a response.

At first glance, writing the perfect email subject shouldn't be difficult. Compared to the body of your message, it's only a few words, right?

However, finding the perfect way to concisely capture the essence of your email can be tricky. And, that challenge can result in plenty of cringe-worthy subjects.

Don't want to immediately find your way into that recipient's trash bin? Stay away from these four common obnoxious subject lines, and you're well on your way.

Published on: Apr 27, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.