Excerpt from smashingmagazine.com read the full article here.
Email is the primary means of internal and external communication at most companies. Surprisingly, many people still don’t know how to use it properly.
The subject line is the first thing that a recipient notices. It should be brief and should explain the contents of the email. The recipient might want to refer to the correspondence in future, perhaps weeks or months later. Therefore, the subject line should clearly identify the project (including the customer, depending on the organization) and the subject matter.
Of course, not every subject fits neatly into a project — in such cases, take extra care to make the subject line clear. Consider that, while you might be working on only one project for a given customer and “ACME Corp: new images” sounds like a good subject line to you, your coworkers in the marketing department might be working on many projects for the same customer, all of which involve “new images.”
Here are some examples of good subject lines:
- ACME Corp. | HR Portal | draft of functional documentation, v. 0.1
- ACME product page — questions after the meeting with marketing dept. on March 5th
- Please, send your report — deadline: March 10th
Nicknames for clients and projects and the separator symbol should be agreed on by everyone involved in the project, because they enable recipients to sort their inbox according to filtering rules (especially for managers, who get hundreds of emails an hour).
Here are some real-life examples of bad subject lines:
- New images
- We’re going for lunch at 1 pm
That last one is from a follow-up email that contained important documentation — true story!
A clear subject line quickly tells the recipient the contents of the message and whether they need to respond in any way. For this reason, avoid changing the topic of conversation during an email thread (“BTW, about that other thing, did you…” is a dead giveaway). Either change the subject line or send a separate email.
The “To” and “Cc” fields are useful ways to indicate who is the addressee of a message and who just needs to be informed without taking any action. By default, the person in the “To” field should read and probably respond, while the person in the “Cc” field would do enough to just read the message. Many managers want to stay informed on matters that they are not directly responsible for, and they’ll configure their filtering rules accordingly, browsing those messages from time to time. Don’t “Cc” someone if you expect a prompt response.
One last rule, perhaps a lifesaver, is to do everything in writing. People tend to forget about arrangements made by phone or in meetings. Perhaps a form of communication other than email would be appropriate in these situations. We’ll discuss that next.