— Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan) December 2, 2014
The email subject line is the thing we see first, yet it is the part of the email which seems to get the least thought. The tweet you just read is an example of putting the subject line to work and having it mean something.
I once knew a school secretary who always used the same subject line for every email: Important!
The problem was that most of them weren’t. And like the “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf,” when she did send something important, she was mystified as to why nobody paid it any attention.
Write Your Emails Backwards
In a post entitled, “Write Your Emails Backwards,” I talk about composing the body of the email first and adding the subject afterwards. Look at the body of the email and decide how you could craft a subject line which describes that email and what needs to be done with it.
Writing complete subject lines helps me when I send messages. When I send an email where follow-up is needed, I also send a bcc to my to-do list. Toodledo, like all of the good web-based task mangers, provides me with an email address such that anything sent to that address goes on my to-do list. I talk more about that technique in this post. I send the email, and without doing anything else, I have a task on my list reminding me of that email. I work the list, and there is no way the email will fall through the cracks.
When you write complete subject lines, it helps me. When I receive your email, recognize it is calling for action on my part, and know I can’t take that action now, I have a little trick. I immediately hit “forward” and send it to Toodledo. The subject line of the email becomes the name of the task. The more complete the subject line is when I receive it, the less work I have to do in editing it.
Many people have a tough time with handling email. When they don’t know exactly what an email is asking them to do, that’s the email which tends to sit in the inbox and collect “digital dust.” When they can tell from the subject line alone what is being asked of them, they are more likely to respond to your email.