Just as we should not 'judge a book by its cover' - we will not judge an email by its subject. But, we do! Because users get so many emails, getting your clients and suppliers to take notice of yours in their inbox can be quite a struggle.
Figure: Good Example - I'm definitely going to read this email
Use the email Subject to grab your recipient's attention. Choosing the right subject can give an email a sense of urgency or importance that choosing the wrong subject won't!
The best way of doing this is to ensure that your subject includes either an ACTION POINT (e.g. 6.30 TONIGHT! See you at The Oaks Hotel...) or a RESULT of a task you were asked to do (e.g. Here's the 5 mins. of FEEDBACK you requested from our meeting with Charles Merton). You'll note from this that including the date and time in the subject gives immediacy to the email.
If there's anything to be learned from spammers, they know how to get your attention. Spammers use very tabloid based, or headline grabbing subjects, to try and coerce you to open that email. But don't make your email subjects tabloid-tacky, instead follow a good broadsheet paper's style of attention-grabbing lines.
Never leave the subject blank! It's like writing a book and failing to give it a name!
| Bad Subject Examples|| Good Subject Examples|
|Database||Northwind - Future - Meeting to get your software solution rolling, next Monday 2PM|
|Dinner||Dinner Tonight, 6.30PM at The Oaks|
BUG - SSW SQL Auditor - Button not working|
|User Group||SSW User Group - This month needs a speaker - Call Tom Howe pronto!|
|Feedback||SSW SQL Deploy - User interface feedback|
|Broken Form||Northwind - CPF - Fix combo box on Broken Form|
(see test please rule)
|Test Please - Product Name v1.11|
|RE: Test Please - Product Name v1.11|
(don't just reply)
|TODO - Product Name v1.11 - "Save" button not working|
Figure: Always use a descriptive email subject to make it easier to find later
Of course, we also use a structured approach for emails - especially when sending them internally.
We use the following format for the subject internally and encourage clients and external contacts to use this format as well.
[Client Name/Product Name] - [Project Name] – [Object Name/Description]
Eg.: WorleyParsons – IOP – Customer.aspx - Add email address validation
The advantage of this is that when you sort by the subject in Outlook, you get all of the emails grouped together, and it is easy to recognize the client/product, because the subject contains the relevant information.
Additionally, you should be able to determine which emails are the most important. Using a meaningful subject with keywords makes it easy to identify and categorize emails without actually opening them (and is also makes it easy to find them in "Sent Items"). When emails are really important write IMPORTANT in the subject. Other emails considered important or urgent should have the following in the subject field:
Other words to be used are:
- TO-DO - for tasks pending
- FYI - information you want to keep around for a while, for yourself or for others (never for a task)
- FUTURE - ideas for the future
- IGNORE - for the rare occasion when something is requested and you really don't want to do it yet
- Product name - Registered User Support
- Product name - Pre-Sales Support
- Project name
- Client Name
For external emails, it is acceptable to change the email subject in certain circumstances.
For internal emails, the subject line should generally not be changed as it will break the threading of emails