Are your subject lines fuzzy or focused?

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 1st October 2018

I recently helped a team create a more productive culture around email usage. They were all past alumni of Smart Work, and all passionate users of the system, but they still struggled with the high volume and poor quality of email communications they received each day. 

One of the big breakthroughs they had on the day was to agree on a set of email subject abbreviations that would focus their email subject lines and help the reader understand what the email was about and what was required from the email at a glance. 

Their experience was that many of the emails they received had ‘fuzzy’ subjects which made it hard to work out what the email was about, or what was required of them. This caused them friction, especially when they had limited time at their desks, or were looking at emails on their phone. 

So, some simple agreements were put in place around subject lines: 

  1. We will all write a subject line that accurately describes the content of the email; and 
  2. We will start the email subject with an agreed set of abbreviations to indicate what is required from the email (ACT, FYI and so on). 

The subject line of your email is like the headline of a newspaper article. It helps the reader to understand the content and hopefully engages them to read on. This simple change to how a team communicates with each other can have a profound impact on productivity. People can process emails more quickly, and as the sender, you are more likely to get your email actioned in a timely way. 

Are your email subjects fuzzy or focused? 

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