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Do you realize the importance of a good email Subject?

Created on 08 Aug 2012 | Last updated by Tiago Araújo [SSW] on 07 Apr 2021 09:46 PM (8 days ago)

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.

Subject: 6:30PM Tonight! See you at the User Group

Figure: Good Example - 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!

Good Subject Examples

Always use a descriptive email subject to make it easier to find later

Consulting: ::: greybox Subject: Northwind - Future - Meeting to get your software solution rolling, next Monday 2PM :::

Dinner: ::: greybox Subject: Dinner Tonight, 6.30PM at The Oaks ::: greybox

Bugs: ::: greybox Subject: BUG - Northwind form - Button not working :::

Call someone: ::: greybox Subject: SSW User Group - This month needs a speaker - Call Tom Howe pronto! :::

Feedback on a product: ::: greybox Subject: Northwind app - User Interface feedback :::

Test please (see test please rule): ::: greybox Subject: **Test Please - Product Name v1.11 ** :::

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.

Subject: [Client Name/Product Name] - [Project Name] – [Object Name/Description]

Example:

Subject: Northwind – 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.

Tip: When referring to a website, it's a good idea to include the URL in the email subject.

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 it 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:

  • BUG
  • INCOMPLETE
  • URGENT

Other words to be used are:

  • TIMESHEETS
  • INVOICES
  • PROSPECT
  • 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

::: greybox

Remember: For external emails, it is acceptable to change an email subject in certain circumstances.

For internal emails, the subject should generally not be changed as it will break the threading of emails.

Adam CoganAdam Cogan
Cameron ShawCameron Shaw

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