Like me, you no doubt receive a veritable landslide of emails in your personal and business accounts.
Most of us are bombarded by hundreds of email messages every day, adding up to hundreds of thousands of messages that we--and the people we're trying to reach--have to filter through every year. The sheer volume is enough to make even the most organized person want to declare email bankruptcy.
You know what sets apart the winner emails from the losers that people automatically trash? Subject lines: 40 to 50 character "sales pitches" that convince people to click, open, and read.
Considering the super-brief amount of text, there's an incredible amount of things can go wrong before even getting to the body of the email. Every day, I receive emails with subject lines that are vague, aggressive, too-familiar, or just downright annoying.
If you're having a trouble getting responses from the people you most want to reach--sales prospects, networking connections, former colleagues--take a good look at your subject lines, and make sure none of these are types of messages are slipping through.
1. Quick Question
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "Quick question" is a red flag for a productivity vampire coming your way. Take out the quick, or--better yet--try "Question about X."
Does it get more vague than making the subject line the day of the week? There are 52 Tuesdays each year (and 52 occurrences of every other day of the week, while we're at it), so this nondescript subject line becomes a nightmare to search by next Wednesday.
3. Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Fwd
Just change the subject line or start a new thread at this point!
"?????" and its cousin "!!!!!" are unnecessarily aggressive, and--perhaps worse--don't actually communicate the problem (or anything).
5. Hey, can you call me when you have a chance? I wanted to discuss the quarterly marketing report before our meeting on Friday.
Once that email subject line starts dipping into a second sentence, or--shudder--a second line, it belongs in the body of the email.
6. It's Anne!
Thanks to the beauty of the "From" field and the signature line, this particular bit of information has already been covered. Even if it's an intro or cold networking email, you can get a little more creative than this identifier.
You're really only hurting yourself when you use "Urgent" or its cousin "Need an answer ASAP" in your subject line. If a matter is truly urgent, you're best chance of getting a hold of someone quickly is on the phone, with a text, or with an instant message. If it's not--well--you're just crying wolf for the next time there's an actual fire to put out. (Oh, and for what it's worth: I think your caps lock button is broken!).
8. Are you busy?
You're putting someone on the defensive when you ask if they're busy...at work...especially if you're their superior. Instead, try "Do you have 20 minutes to help with X?," which is not only less accusatory, but also is more informative.
9. Please call me
There is no greater anxiety-inducing email subject line than an unexplained "Please call me." It's the "We need to talk" of the business world, and leaves your recipient wondering what news could be so bad that it can't even be mentioned in an email. If you must use an email to request a phone call, at least follow it with "about X."
The only thing worse than a bad subject line is no subject line at all. Forcing your recipient to click to see what you have to say creates too much work--and nearly always sends your note into the trash.