Here’s the situation: Like you, I am inundated with e-mail, both the kind that I need for my profession and the insidious spam that seems to multiply when I sleep. When I open my inbox, I have the job of sorting through these e-mails under intense time pressure. There’s always more mail than time to give it.This means that all of us who write e-mail must compete for our receiver’s most precious resource: attention.
Here’s the stupid mistake: A respected, seasoned colleague of mine sends me e-mails with no subject line. Because I identify her name, I open these e-mails. When a name that I don’t immediately recognize hits my inbox with a blank subject line, I automatically delete the message. No hesitation on this one.
I’ve had occasions when at the very last minute I’ve recognized a name as an important contact, or even a client, and rescued the e-mail. When this happens, I can’t help but shake my head at the lack of professionalism—and the risk this person takes of having the message lost altogether—in this oversight.
Here’s the solution: ALWAYS take time to compose a compelling subject line for your e-mails. Here are two important reasons:
- You are competing for attention, and it’s smart to use every advantage you have. Your subject line sells your message. If you fail to compel, the message gets deleted.
- Your subject line is like a file drawer for your message. If a person needs to search for your message at a later date, it’s the subject line that makes it possible to find it.