Improve E-mail Effectiveness by Writing Great Subject Lines

Last Updated Nov 17, 2010 12:26 AM EST

Even if you obsess over every line of your e-mail (and honestly, that's pretty unlikely), you probably barely give a moment's thought to your subject lines. Heck, you probably forget to even enter a subject line 10% of the time; otherwise there's be no need for tools that warn you about sending blank subjects. But a smart subject line can ensure people pay attention to and respond to your e-mail in a timely manner. And that's what it's all about, right?

WebWorkerDaily recently suggested a half dozen tips for writing effective subject lines. Here's the skinny:

Be clear and precise. This one is obvious, but often overlooked: the subject should be a reflection of the content of the mail, and be easy to understand. If the thread strays from the intended subject, therefore, it can be a good idea to rename the thread mid-stream, especially if it has action items.

Include critical due dates. You might use this one sparingly, but it can be useful to specify a due date, especially if the project is important and the date is imminent.

Identify people by name. I've done this. Karen - Please re-send the PPT deck to me asap. Perhaps that's all you need; the body of the e-mail can be blank. But when Karen is scanning subject lines in the inbox, you can bet she'll see this one.