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Discover the secrets to writing powerful emails your colleagues will read and answer by crafting your message and delivery. In this short course, author and business writing professor Judy Steiner-Williams shows you how to write emails for maximum readability and impact. Discover how to craft a compelling opening, how to message the right people at the right time, and how to leverage etiquette to use email as one of many communications tools.
You open your email account and you have 55 new messages that arrived overnight. Which ones do you read first? The junk emails that got past your company's filter are usually easy to spot, so you delete those immediately. Next, if you're like most people, you look at the senders and the subject lines. Consider the following points to help ensure that your message is read based on its subject line. First, include a specific, complete subject line. If there is no subject line or it's vague, such as policy or meeting or location, you may keep scanning until you find a subject line that is specific or sounds as though the information is important or relevant.
Those vague, incomplete subject lines may result in the message not getting read at all. Look at these specific subject lines. New Vacation Policy, from the VP. Sales Meeting at 9 a.m., from your manager. Or Change of Company Picnic Location, from HR. Those would get your attention because you immediately recognize that the message's content is something you need to know. Here's another example, Payroll Procedure. And you've worked at the company for five years. You probably immediately think that you know what the payroll procedure is and delete the message.
But what if the subject line said, Revised Payroll Procedure? Would you read that one? That one word, revised, sends a completely different message. It now indicates that something has changed about the procedure, a change that you need to know. Also consider that a clear, routine subject line is probably safer than trying to use creative or cutesy ones. Let's look at this example of a misleading subject line One day I noticed that all my colleagues were getting computer upgrades.
When I inquired about if I would be getting one, one of the installers asked if I'd scheduled a time slot. I had no idea what he was talking about. After investigating the situation, I learned that I should have received an email about scheduling an appointment. I eventually located the unopened email in my delete box. The problem? The subject line. Congratulations. I didn't recognize the sender, the subject line sounded like a scam, so I deleted it. If the subject line had read, Need to schedule computer upgrade, I would have had my new computer at the same time as everyone else.
On the other hand, consider if the subject line is concise. The subject line can be too lengthy. Occasionally, a sender will put the entire message in the subject line. Then when the reader opens the message, there is none. Here's an example. Your order has been shipped and will arrive Friday. Be sure someone is home to accept delivery. How much more effective if the subject line had read, Juicer will arrive Friday, needs signature. Then the message would say, your juicer was shipped yesterday by Red Motor Freight and should arrive Friday afternoon.
Someone needs to be available to sign for the shipment. The impact sounds, looks, and is more professional. That run-on subject line gives the impression that the writer just wants to hurry through notifying you. Not the impression a company should give a customer. If the entire message can fit on the subject line, and there is no reason for a message in the message box, then do end the subject line with EOM, end of message. At least the reader knows not to bother to open the email.
So crafting an effective, clear, complete, and concise subject line is important to helping ensure that your message will be considered important and will be read.
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