In this paper we revisit the definition of the stabilization parameter in the finite element approximation of the convection–diffusion–reaction equation. The starting point is the decomposition of the unknown into its finite element component and a subgrid scale that needs to be approximated. In order to incorporate the distortion of the mesh into this approximation, we transform the equation for the subgrid scale within each element to the shape-regular reference domain. The expression for the subgrid scale arises from an approximate Fourier analysis and the identification of the wave number direction where instabilities are most likely to occur. The final outcome is an expression for the stabilization parameter that accounts for anisotropy and the dominance of either convection or reaction terms in the equation.