On a pretty regular basis those I communicate with comment on how I take the time to use the Subject: field differently than most they e-mail. The difference is I consider the Subject: field as the first part of my e-mail and not an afterthought.
Many will rush to type a cryptic thought into that field. Others, over the life of a communication, never consider if the Subject: field still applies. By putting priority on this field, I help to set the ongoing tone and let the recipient know what to expect.
Are you looking for the proper way to help your e-mails stand out in others inbox? Especially for important or time sensitive issues or when you need further assistance (asking for help, needing a response, clarification)?
Quick Ways for Your E-mail to Stand Out in the Inbox
For those times where you need to grab attention and get a response, Subject: field prefaces work well. Now, you don’t do this with every e-mail. Discretion is key. We don’t want to be the “boy who cried wolf” when it comes to needing an e-mail response!
What I do is use the Subject: field to help set expectations and the tone for my e-mail replies or follow-ups. By adding these Subject: field prefaces you allow your communications to stand out in a very likely overcrowded inbox.
Before the established Subject:, and on ongoing conversations, I use the following:
- FOLLOW UP: Use this when you don’t get a response to your original request.
- FOLLOW UP : Self explanatory.
- FYI: Great for when you have additional info that adds to a conversation.
- QUESTION: Use this when you have a question based on previous emails.
- UPDATE: Did prior information change?
- IMPORTANT! Don’t overuse!
Still No Response?
For those times when I must have an answer and haven’t received one just yet…
- PLEASE RESPOND: Be sure to include a note about why you really need the response.
- RESPONSE REQUIRED: If required there should be an outcome if no response is received.
- COMMENTS PLEASE: Why are their comments so important? Note why.
- LAST TRY: Use this only when you mean it.
But I don’t just change the subject alone. I make sure to add a comment at the top of the e-mail (or previous email) backing up what I have in the Subject: Field. You don’t want to just add these suggestions to the Subject: and click Send.
Another example of using the Subject: field to guide recipients is how I take the opportunity to guide clients on their project status by using the following in the Subject: field:
- FIRST STEPS: This let’s the client know what they need to provide and how we’ll proceed.
- PRE-LAUNCH: Covers all the details to get ready to launch their online program.
- POST-LAUNCH: Considerations now that their website is live.
- WRAP-UP: After a live training session, I’ll send an overview of what was discussed.
- LOGIN CREDENTIALS: When I “turn over the keys” at a project’s completion.
These Subject: field prefaces allow my clients to file those e-mails and be able to refer back to them at a glance because they know exactly what is contained within. You can create your own set of Subject: field prefaces to guide those you communicate with!
Subject: field attention-getters let the other side know at a glance what my your e-mail is about and what you looking for. You may also find that those you communicate with appreciate this little “hint” in the Subject: field too!
Be Concise, Review and Change If Apropos
You’ve probably caught yourself doing this. You start an e-mail and type a general phrase into the Subject: field. A phrase that could apply to pretty much any e-mail or topic.
By taking the time to type a Subject: that is specific to that particular e-mail, the other side knows without question what you are contacting them about. By carefully crafting your Subject: field you can’t help but add clarity to your communications, right? Right!
I do not hesitate to change the Subject: field entirely when the topic being discussed is no longer what is noted in the Subject: field. Nothing like having to dig through a bunch of e-mails for info when the Subject: field has nothing to do with that topic! Do not hesitate to change the topic when it makes sense to do so.
Use the Subject: Wisely
It only takes a few extra keystrokes to use your e-mail Subject: field to your advantage! By using the Subject: field as noted above, you help recipients know what you are looking for. As with anything to do with e-mail etiquette it is these little extra efforts that lend to better organization for all involved too.
E-mail is now part of every day life — and it isn’t going anywhere! Honing your e-mail communications skills is time well spent.
What do you think? What type of Subject: prefaces could you see yourself using? Let me know in the comments below!