These days, one of our most important writing skills is the ability to draft a short �subject line� for our emails.� So it amazes me how carelessly many people approach the task.� But it matters � because we get so much email.� So your email in my inbox is competing with so many others to get read.

And before you say: �but most people read all of their emails� consider this: have you ever accidentally skipped an email on a busy day and not found it until you tidied your inbox days or weeks later?� I know I have.� Your subject line needs to grab my attention and compel me to open it.

Here are some tips:

  1. Make it clear who the email is from � especially if your email address will be unfamiliar to me
  2. Keep it brief � but not at the cost of obscuring the message.� Your subject must let me know what your message is about
  3. If it�s urgent say so� – but only if it really is.� If you get a reputation (which will stick after one or two slips) for claiming fake urgency, you�ll never lose it
  4. Hyperbole (grossly exaggerated statements) will make your email look like spam
  5. �Show me the money� � use your subject line to demonstrate why I should read your email
  6. � or at least get me curious

and finally:

7.��� Write it so it means something to me � rather than to you

I thought of writing this when I got an email from someone whose name I did not recognise, with my home address as the subject line.� I immediately sniffed spam or phishing.� Actually it was neither: it was a quotation for some repair work that we need and I was waiting for it.� To the administrator in the office, my address made it easy to file her email to me.� To me, it failed to tell me who it was from, what it contained, why I should read it � or even trust it, or how urgent it was (very).


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