Writing Good E-mail Subject Lines

Careful attention to your e-mail Subject: line can make your recipients love you.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #42

Write a Good E-mail Subject Line by Summarizing Your Message

Instead of using the subject line to describe the message, use it to summarize. Put as much relevant info as possible in the subject, so your recipient can quickly judge whether they need to open the message. Maybe you can give them all the relevant info in the one line. Then when they’re done scanning, they’re also done reading!

When you schedule your beloved staff meeting, the subject line could be, “Saturday staff meeting, unpaid, 7 a.m., main headquarters.” Doesn’t it make you warm and fuzzy just to think about it? For the change of locale, the subject could be, “Saturday 7 a.m. staff meeting moved to office on far side of town.” See? It just gets better. No need to open the message. And the agenda message subject line could say, “Staff meeting agenda: why is morale so low? Full agenda enclosed.” Of course, the agenda was created in Acrobat 9, and the IT department only installed Acrobat 5 on your machine . . . why is morale so low?

If your subject line contains the entire message, you might want to consider writing <EOM> at the end of the line so people know it's the End-Of-Message.

Next time you touch fingers to keyboard to blast out that oh-so-important e-mail, help your readers by summarizing the message in the subject line. They can delete the message without reading it, which makes them happy, and you get the satisfaction of believing that there was more substance to your message than the 13-word summary, which was actually all you should have written in the first place.

How can you use this system if you're responding to someone else's e-mail, you ask? Check out my Quick Tip on When to Change an E-mail Subject Line to find out.

This is Stever Robbins. I’m proud to announce my audio program You Are Not Your Inbox: Overcoming E-mail Overload. It’s jam-packed with everything in the world you need to know about e-mail, and then some. Check it out at: http://YouAreNotYourInbox.com. .

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

E-mail image from Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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