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Email Subject: Field Tips that Add Clarity

Email Etiquette and Clarity

Regularly, those I communicate with comment on how I take the time to use the Subject field differently from most they email. The difference is I consider the Subject field as the first part of my email 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 prioritizing this field, I help set the ongoing tone and let the recipient know what to expect.

Are you looking for the proper way to help your emails stand out in other’s inboxes? Especially for essential or time-sensitive issues or when you need further assistance, such as asking for help, requiring a response, or clarification.

Quick Ways for Your Email to Stand Out in the Inbox

When you need to grab attention and get a response, Subject field prefaces work well. Now, you don’t do this with every email. Discretion is key. We don’t want to be the “boy who cried wolf” when needing an email response.

I use the Subject field to help set expectations and the tone for my email replies or follow-ups. Adding these Subject field practices allows 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 [2]: 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 need the response.
  • RESPONSE REQUIRED: If required, there should be an outcome if no response is received.
  • COMMENTS PLEASE: Why is their input so important? Note why.
  • LAST TRY: Use this only when you mean it.

But I don’t just change the subject alone. I add a comment at the top of the email (or previous email) backing up what I have in the Subject Field. You don’t want to 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 advise clients on their project status by using the following in the Subject field.

  • FIRST STEPS: This lets 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.

[ Read more on Business related Email Etiquette… ]

These Subject: field prefaces allow my clients to file those emails and 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 your email is about and what you are looking for. You may also find that those you communicate with appreciate this slight “hint” in the Subject: field too.

Be Concise, Review and Change If Apropos

You’ve probably caught yourself doing this. You start an email and type a general phrase into the Subject field. A phrase that could apply to pretty much any email or topic.

By taking the time to type a Subject that is specific to that particular email, 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. There is nothing like digging through many emails 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 email 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 email etiquette, these little extra efforts lend to better organization for all involved too.

Email is now part of everyday life — and it isn’t going anywhere. So honing your communications skills is time well spent.

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