Monday, January 14, 2013

Email Etiquette - Make Your Subject Line Do Its Job

If you work in an office you no doubt use email every day as a primary means of communication. Too often, though, people are frustrated because they don't get replies to their emails. Little do they know their messages are going in the junk file unread!

The deciding factor as to whether your email is opened or deleted is often the subject line. So it's in your own interests to write a subject line that entices the reader to open and read your message.

So what makes an enticing subject line? Two things:

1. It leaves no doubt as to the subject of the email.
2. Readers understand what's in it for them.

A subject line like "Budget figures" is too vague and not at all enticing to the reader. What about the budget figures? Are you sending them for my information? Are you asking me for my figures? Do you want input of any kind from me? Must I do this now?

All these questions lead to confusion in the reader's mind, and a confused mind tends to do nothing.

Here's an alternative subject line to consider: "Your budget figures required for President's report by Friday morning, Maria". Doesn't that change the picture right away? It does, because it meets both criteria. It expresses exactly what the message is about, and why Maria needs to pay attention.

Suppose I send you an email message with the subject line, "Monthly Sales Meeting." The meeting is always held on the last Wednesday of the month, and today is only the second Tuesday. I'm busy, so I'll probably decide to leave this message for now and read it later -- and of course that can mean not at all!

But suppose I say instead, "Change of time and date for this month's sales meeting." That sends quite a different message? After all, it's in my interest to show up at the right time for the meeting and I'll want to change the note in my schedule, so I'm going to open the message right away.

It's a good practice to put in your subject line at the end, after you're satisfied with your message. Your important messages will be read and answered, instead of consigned to the trash.

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