E-mail Subject Lines

Writing a correct subject line can be deceivingly difficult. An initial subject line, where you are the first author of a thread, is fairly straightforward; if it is a call to action, write the call to action in directly: Call Mark Re: Babbit case or Send final sales draft. In your mind you should be thinking: What do I want them to do once they receive this?

Sometimes it is simply informative like; Transfer of rights or Product info. Whatever you write it should represent the essence of your message to the receiver – not you. My bank info should then be Michael’s bank info, so the receiver doesn’t have to think twice. Do anything you can to help the receiver understand the contents of the message. Avoid endlessly long subject lines as you would those that are too short to convey your message. Do these things and think this way not just for the receiver, but for YOU.

The more care you take, the better the chances are for successful communication, the faster your business moves.

The challenge of writing a focused, helpful subject line begins, however, when messages have gone back and forth a few times (especially if the initial subject line was poorly written) and the subject has since changed. It’s not as easy as changing the subject line every time the subject takes a turn because you can lose track of the main conversation topic. Remember that the whole reason to use the subject line is to either inform the receiver of the essence of the mail or to remind them that the mail is a continuance of the conversation that you are having – and conversations often turn to the left and to the right.

The best rule of thumb is to be conscientious. Get in the habit of always checking the subject line before you send a response. If it seems reasonable to change the subject line from Parrots in Spain to Sorry about last night, do it. Don’t wait for the other person to remember to change the subject line because they probably don’t have your amazing skills and insight.

One last note: If you are in a hurry, it’s fine not to write any subject line at all (especially on a hand-held device). Just don’t expect positive results or people to take you seriously. And yes, I am being facetious.

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