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The first part of each New Year I receive an influx of email inquiries about my business etiquette services. Companies and organizations are planning their professional development for the year, and I’m always thrilled to share how I may serve them.

However, in these inquiry emails, several things catch my eye, including  the lack of effective subject lines. They’re often too vague or don’t reflect the content of the current email thread. So, to get your business emails read by your reader, which we all want to happen!…here is a short list of three ideas for subject lines that are effective and will help compel the recipient to open and read your emails.

  1. Make the subject line specific. “Staff meeting” is too general. Add the date: “Staff meeting, February 6” is more specific. If you’re attaching an agenda for the meeting, your subject line will read, “Agenda, Staff Meeting, February 6.”  (Note: Quotation marks are for emphasis only in this blog post; they are not included in the actual email subject line.)
  2. Change the subject line to reflect the most current email in a related  email thread. When I emailed a Letter of Agreement to a client, my subject line read: “Dining Etiquette – March 7, Letter of Agreement.” However, when my client emailed back to ask several related questions, she did not change the subject line to indicate that the email included additional questions. So, when I responded to her email, I changed the subject line to read: “Dining Etiquette – responses to your questions.”  Changing the subject line to reflect the current email thread helps the reader know exactly what’s in the email. In addition, an updated subject line helps to locate and reference a specific email when doing a keyword search.
  3. Write FYI emails when appropriate. FYI in the subject line is an effective way to let your reader know that this email can be read at leisure and requires no response. Here’s an example of an FYI subject line: “FYI-New health insurance information – no response needed”. On the other hand, if an FYI email requires a response, then indicate that in the subject line: “FYI – action required by March 6 – new health insurance information”. Notice that in the second example, the most important words (action required) have been moved to the front of the subject line so that they are not overlooked by recipients reading the email on a mobile device in which subject lines are often truncated.

Writing effective subject lines in emails is part of good email etiquette and good business etiquette. These tips will help your business emails to be prioritized by the reader, and your emails are more likely to get opened and responded to in a timely way.