Email Communication: The Subject Line–Samples
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
A letter-letter is preferred or required in certain situations. But you don’t need whatyousay.com to tell you that fewer and fewer people write letters–actual letters these days. Millions of people restrict their written communication almost exclusively to texting and sending emails.
Yet many of these individuals commit sins of omission and commission ion every time they send one. If they only knew a few basic rules, they would get better results. Sometimes dramatically better results.
This post is the first in a series of reports on how you can improve your effectiveness when you communicate by email.
Let’s get started, not with the text of the email, but with the Subject line.
Most of the individuals who send us emails pay little attention to the Subject line. They should.
The Potential of A Well-Written Email Subject Line
One. It can arouse the recipient’s attention.
Two. It can inform the recipient about the subject that is covered.
Three. It can make sure that the message gets read, and that it gets read first.
Four. It can save the recipient’s time in such a way that he/she will appreciate it.
Your emails may go to very busy people with lots of stuff on their plate. When they do get around to reading emails, they quickly scan them to see which ones they will read first, which later, and which not at all. They generally make the first-cut based on two questions, Who is this from? and What is this about?
So, write your subject line in such a way that the recipient will regard your message as important.
If you’re a member of a committee or team, you probably receive and send a lot of email messages that are in the FYI category. The messages are updates that are shared about what’s happening. Usually it’s not important for you to read every word as soon as you receive it. But there just might be something absolutely crucial for you to know or do that’s buried in a long email.
So here’s a communication tip that you can share with other members of your committee or team. If there is an action item, state that there’s an action item in the Subject line. If there’s urgency, you can add the word “urgent” or “time-sensitive” or “I need a reply by Friday, etc.” To signify important but not urgent, you might type a number that indicates importance, such as “10.”
One final word about the Subject line. Do check your spelling, especially if you are using the recipient’s name in the subject line.
Sample Subject Lines That We Have Received: Blahs
“Abe quote” This tells me nothing. It will not get read first.
“From the Brickery” This email announced a promotion about a delicious shrimp special from a restaurant that we like. But they wasted the Subject line entirely because the From line already told us that it was from the Brickery. They should have written something enticing, not something redundant.
“Speaker’s Bureau Site” This email came from a professional speaker with graphics that we had requested. He might have written: “The graphics you requested.”
“Hello” Save this for the text of the email.
Sample Subject Lines That We Have Received:Excellent
“A Must-Read book recommendation” This email came from a friend whose opinion we respect. You can be sure that we will keep this email.
“Thanks for your inspiration.” This email aroused my attention because it appealed to my vanity. It came from someone who had benefited from “Lincoln Live.”
“Change in April Program. Action requested.” This told us that we needed to do something. What we were supposed to do was spelled out in the text of the email.
“Just wanted to let everyone know that we are leaving for London on Thursday at 2:30 in the afternoon,back the following Friday” Some people wouldn’t want a Subject line this long, but we’re OK with it. It could have stated simply “Itinerary of our trip.” The itinerary is written in the text of the email itself.
“Urgent. Priority 10. Additional docs needed for mortgage refi” No need to explain this one.
(Send us examples of great emails, and bad ones, that you have received. We will consider using them–with your permission–in subsequent articles on email writing.)
The first rule of writing an effective email? Pay attention to what you say in the Subject line
Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-435-2225 or [email protected] Learn more about Gene Griessman at presidentlincoln.com and atlantaspeakersbureau.com
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