July 20th, 2011
Last week I learned a valuable web-lesson regarding e-mail subject lines – and I’m not talking email marketing messages. I’m talking day to day emails that we need to make matter to get work done! While I pride myself on making subject lines clear when creating a fresh new one, I haven’t always been as careful when replying. Most of us have an overflowing inbox that needs to be quickly scanned in order to prioritize. Within a few short minutes after opening our mailbox, we typically consider things like immediate action items, what can be reviewed later and what needs to be trashed. Any confusion in the queue slows down this process. To make sure the co-workers, bosses, and clients on your list get the cyber-respect they deserve, here are some tips to ensure powerful, efficient, clear and concise subject lines:
- Place the “action item” first in the subject line. For example, if I was sending finished work to someone at Web Marketing Therapy and needed them to post it- the subject line would look like:
Please Post Blah Blah
This formula tells the reader what action they should take first. I date all correspondence for future searches and this works well with my organizational method. Keeping a consistent order ensures work gets received, scanned and distributed easily. Think Starbucks! All employees call out each drink order in a specific pattern so the order is received quickly and efficiently no matter how the customer originally asks for it.
- Start a new thread or edit the subject line if the thread gets out of control. This seems odd to some, but we are so wired to respond at lightning speed that this detail is often overlooked and can cause unnecessary Inbox mayhem (Guilty!) Look back on old e-mail’s and you may see a long chain of lazy replies that provide few clues as to what the original e-mail was about. Who has time for that? It’s ok to break this chain. If you want action and the original email thread was Re: Join My Network on LinkedIn….do you think that email subject is going to stand out???
- Copying others? Using CC vs. BCC. Copying others is an important way to distribute information, but if it’s not imperative to know who was on the original info list, please be kind and BCC. It’s surprising how many people do not use BCC (blind carbon copy) BCC is a way WMTers often share “FYI”s but keep them out of long email loops. Consider that many check their e-mails on the fly using mobile devices, so a less is more approach is usually easier to sort through and much appreciated.
Staying apprised of proper netiquette rules can streamline work and save valuable time for everyone. It may also help your contemporaries organize their work as well once they discover the simple system you are using. Just like at Starbucks, giving a consistent, succinct order produces better results in a shorter amount of time – and who doesn’t love shouting out the right formula for the perfect latte.