Get to the Point

Without climbing on a soapbox, I’ve decided to use this entry to address e-mail subjects. The subject line is arguably the most important element of the entire e-mail, as it is often the determining factor for people to read or ignore your messages.

Particularly when drafting business memos, the e-mail subject line must be compelling and informative. It needs to draw attention, but also give some indication of the information that will follow, should a user opt to read the entire message. Of course, it should not be cute or untruthful. Relevant anecdotes are appropriate, in moderation.

G-Mail E-mail Screen Showing Subject Lines
You only get one subject line. Make it count.

You may think this is common knowledge, however I got the idea for this column after receiving several e-mails from a co-worker, in which he chose to include virtually the entire memo in the subject line. In speaking with him about this, I understood his thought process was to allow the user to “get the gist” of the e-mail without actually having to open it. The result — at least for me — is that the entire message was ignored.

I skipped over the e-mail not out of contempt, because I was too busy, or that I was simply uninterested in the subject matter, but rather because the subject line featured a nearly four paragraph introduction, without any indication of the reasoning for sending in the first place.

This would be like a marketing professional attempting to sell a product without any mention of its benefits until 45 seconds into a broadcasted commercial! Most of the audience has moved on to other things by then.

I mentioned I would not get on a soapbox, and really there is no benefit to further belaboring the point here. The bottom line, of course, is that brief, ‘to-the-point’ e-mail subject lines — coupled with equally brief and relevant supporting details in the actual message itself — should always be preferred to weak subject lines that offer little or no insight into the topic, and provide no incentive for the user to read further.

by Enid Ahylhienatta | Technology Consultant | Residential Life Magazine


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