Introduce Your Email with a Strong Subject Line
Before a recipient opens an email, she should already know two things – who sent it and the purpose of the message. The first is usually obvious by the name or email address that appears. (People who opt for unusual email addresses rather than some variation of their name or initials run the risk of their message being deleted as spam.) The second gives clues about the nature of the email, the action or response needed, and perhaps even its importance.
According to Bary C. Sherman -- CEO of PEPworldwide, an organization devoted to workplace productivity -- a good, effective subject line can save hundreds of hours per year for people. “The rule is simple and easy to follow: You should know by the subject line exactly what the email is about (not the details, but the subject).”
The subject line never should be left blank. Whether you fill it in first or compose the message and go back to it, try to succinctly sum up why you are writing. There’s no need to try to squeeze everything into the subject line (that’s what the rest of the message is for), but it should be detailed enough that it jogs one’s memory when looking back.
For instance, “Mary’s Birthday” is not a bad title, but “RSVP: Mary’s Friday Luncheon” tells the reader both the event and what needs to be done. Then, the body of the message can fill in details such as the place, time, and RSVP deadline.
Sherman notes that subject lines should be changed as necessary when emails are responded to or forwarded. For items that have been bounced around, the original heading may no longer even be relevant. If “Minutes from Tues. Meeting” has turned into a discussion of expense reimbursement procedures, clue in recipients by stating so in the subject line.
Finally, if you have so many items in an email that choosing a heading seems impossible, it may be wise to consider breaking topics into multiple messages. This action will ensure that information doesn’t get buried and left unattended.