Your number one goal in composing an email should be to make sure your reader understands your message right from the beginning. Don't wait till the middle of an email to let the reader know what you are talking about. Get immediate clarity with a well-written subject line.
Tip #1: Specific Email Subject Line
An email subject line needs to be specific to your purpose for writing. For instance, if you were writing a memo regarding July's Retail Sales Report, you might have a subject line of: Sales Report, July's Sales Report, Retail Sales Report, or July 2008 Retail Sales Report. Which email subject line would be most helpful to you?
The last example, July 2008 Retail Sales Report, is the best email subject line because it is the most specific. All the other subject lines leave out important information and could be confusing to the reader.
Another problem with vague email subject lines is that it makes it difficult to file and locate messages. Imagine looking for the January 2008 Sales Report when all of the e-mails have a subject line of "Sales Report." It would take you twice as long to find what you need.
Tip #2: Concise Email Subject Line
A good email subject line will use key words that accurately describe the email message without creating a complete sentence. Try to use six or less words in a subject line. You want it to be brief, yet clear.
If you are writing an e-mail to request something, don't put the whole request in the subject line. Just use a descriptive phrase for the email subject line and then put your request in the body of the message. For instance, if you wanted to attend a Business Writing Workshop, your subject line would be: Business Writing Workshop.
What you don't want to do is put your request in the subject line: May I have permission to attend a Business Writing workshop? This is especially ineffective if you know you are going to have to talk your boss into letting you go for training. She'll read the subject line and say no before you have even had a chance to explain why you should be allowed to attend the workshop.
Therefore, a poor subject line can cause your message not to be read. This problem consistently occurs with e-mail subject lines.
Tip #3: Attention Grabbing Email Subject Lines
How many of you will not open an e-mail if it has a strange subject line or one that doesn't make sense? We have to be cautious, because opening an e-mail could cause a virus to enter our computers. If you have a vague e-mail subject line like "Report", how is your audience going to know it is safe to open? Unless the reader recognizes the e-mail address of the writer, there is a good chance this message will not be read.
People also look at email subject lines as a way to decide whether or not to open your email. These days our inbox is flooded with so many emails that we find ourselves in the position of deciding which ones to open and which ones to ignore simply because we don't have enough time in the day to get our work done.
By taking the time to create a subject line that that might actually encourage someone to read your email, you have a chance that your email will not be ignored.
Email is a convenient and popular way to communicate, but it can also be the worst way to communicate because email is easy to ignore or delete. Get your email opened as soon as it arrives by following the three tips of creating a subject line that is specific, concise and interesting.