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E-mail Etiquette: Writing an Effective Subject Line

To improve the way you communicate, take two minutes to write more effective e-mail subject lines.

The Problem
Too many people fall into the trap of writing vague e-mail subject titles like “Hello”, “Hi” or even forget to bother with a title at all. The trouble is that junk mail tends to look pretty much the same. When writing e-mails to friends, you can probably get away with being vague or sloppy; however, professional correspondence like at work or college requires more thought. Especially if you want a reply.

Example 1
If you’re applying for a job, leaving the subject field of an e-mail empty is a definite no no. Your mail is likely to get picked up by a spam filter or possibly ignored – especially if it arrives in a busy mailbox.

“Job” is also vague because the company could be advertising a number of posts. It might also imply that you are actually offering a job.

It’s far better to state the post you’re applying for: e.g. “RE: Maths Teacher Required”. But even this might seem like you have a question about the post. If you’re actually applying for the position It would be better to write: “Applying for position of Maths Teacher”. The recipient would immediately understand what the e-mail is about and would know whether it was worth opening.

It’s important to bear this in mind if you’re writing speculative e-mails: “Do you have any short-term vacancies?” is informative and direct. It’s far more likely to earn you a reply than simply leaving the subject field blank or going with the embarrassing “Hello”.

Example 2
If you’re employed in an office or company it’s likely you will have seen e-mails arrive in your In Box entitled “Meeting”. Again, this kind of title is incredibly vague and not really useful. “Meeting” might be used to announce:

  • the cancellation of a meeting
  • the scheduling of a meeting
  • the distribution of the minutes from a meeting or even a request for a meeting.

All the examples in example 2 could be expressed far more clearly with very little thought:

  • “Tuesday’s meeting at 10 is cancelled”
  • “Staff meeting is this Wednesday at 14:00″
  • “Enclosed: the minutes from last week’s Board meeting”
  • “Can we meet to discuss your coming trip?”

Related information: A Quick Guide to Writing a Professional E-mail

[tags]e-mail, writing, tips[/tags]


One Response to “E-mail Etiquette: Writing an Effective Subject Line”

  • vivian says:

    yeah the first example is absolutely supper, I mean how can someone send an e-mail to someone or to a company with your subject line being blank!

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