6 of 21 Speedmailing Tips
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Does your email headline cover its content?
This could have happened to anyone:
An email arrives with “Update – customer review” in the subject line. After a quick skim-read, you file it away in folder “1 – FILED ITEMS”. A few days later, the sender phones you and asks for your input to the presentation. “What presentation?” you say. It turns out there was a request for input with a tight deadline buried somewhere in the email.
A clear, informative headline prevents things falling between the cracks.

How: For clear headlines, use the 80/20 subject rule when sending email. To do this effectively, you check your subject line just before you send the email to ensure it covers at least 80% of the email’s content for your reader(s). In general, a clear subject line will result in quicker responses and less misunderstanding.

Why: People sometimes feel the limited space in the subject line makes them appear blunt by using expressions like “URGENT” or “customer review input needed this Thursday”. Now, think about it for a moment from the recipient’s perspective. Akin newspaper headlines, the subject line helps recipients to decide when and with how much attention to read a message. So with unambiguous - some might say straightforward - headlines, you are really doing your recipients a big favour. The very best headlines will let them decide the appropriate folder (FILE / DO / HOLD / WAIT) for the message without needing to even open it.

Next: So, when you write your next email, just before you send it, pause and ask yourself whether the headline covers the most important 80% of its content. If not, tweak until it does. Do this a few times and you are likely to find it getting easier pretty quickly.

For messages covering multiple subjects:
  • It’s OK for a headline to make that clear, e.g.: “Fire drill next Monday AND July blood donation team visit cancelled”
  • Consider breaking them up in smaller messages by subject to enable recipients to better manage their tasks.

Useful tip? If you know someone who can benefit from this tip (co-worker, friend, spouse or former colleague), feel free to share it with them by forwarding [Ctrl+F] this e-mail.
If you have any questions or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you.

Happy subject-lining!
Email Handyman
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