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Email subject line best practices – Email etiquette for students

Email subject line best practices

In another blog, we have discussed How to choose the right email address. Here we will see how to craft the best a subject line for your email. If you want your email to stand out in the crowded inbox, you have to follow some email subject line best practices which creates the first impression. The subject line of an email is like the headline of a newspaper article. It is the first thing your recipient see when your email pops into the inbox and it’s really crucial for your email to be read. People judge the emails and will decide to open your email and read it, based on how well you crafted the subject line is. In this article, we will see how to craft the subject line by following some email subject line best practices in an effective form so that it will have higher open rates.

Why you should have a subject line:

Summarises the email: A perfect subject line summarizes the email and the recipients will be able to get what you are trying to tell them. So, keep away vague subject lines like hello, update or meeting. A subject line like these won’t give your reader a clear idea of the content of the email.

Helps with retrieval: A well-crafted subject line not only indicate what the email contains, but will also help you search through your email archives to easily retrieve out any email that you are looking for at a later date. Now a day people use their mail as an archive tool.

Some email subject line best practices:
  1. Don’t leave your subject line blank: 

    I have seen many students write emails with the subject line blank as they are unsure about what to write there. If you are one doing so, there is a high chance that your message might not be bothered to read it or many may just delete it.  It will annoy them and force the recipients to open the email to find out what it is about.

  2. Keep it short and sweet:

    Try to keep your subject line short ideally under 50 characters will prevent the end being cut off, particularly on mobile devices, when it appears in the recipient’s inbox.  This also makes sure the recipients get a complete idea about what the email is about.

  3. Don’t Shout by using ALL CAPS: 
    Making all words in a subject line in capital letters is a sign of shouting and irritate people. So, keep things relatively quiet and don’t make yourself look like an attention seeker. It is ok to use email hashtags like URGENT, FYI, EOD in caps
  4. Using Excessive Punctuation:

    Don’t use excessive punctuation on the subject line as it will become difficult to read and this looks spammy.  There is a high chance of getting such emails ignored also. There is a practice among many to use exclamation to mark as important. The same can be replaced by email hashtags like IMP. Unless you are composing a subject only email, you should keep your questions in the body of the email and make your subject question mark free.

  5. Include the 3 W’s:

    If the email includes actions that you need someone (or a few people) to do, then add the Who, What and When in an abbreviated way in subject line. A good habit is also to type [ACTION] at the beginning of the subject line to stress the importance.
    Example: [ACTION] Reminder to send the report by tomorrow @ 5 PM.
    If you are seeking a particular action from the recipient feel free to include that in the subject line. Even better if you can state the timeline for a response
    Example: Website updated: send your feedback by 5 PM to confirm.

  6. Prefix Modifiers:

    If the email is not an action-oriented one (i.e., the 3Ws don’t apply), then add the prefix modifiers such as URGENT, CONFIDENTIAL, IMP (Important) or FYI (For Your Information) in the subject line to explain what the email is about. Make sure that you include the prefix at the beginning of the subject line because it might get truncated or missed at the end.
    Example: [URGENT] Please submit the final report before you leave.
    If you don’t need a response, indicate that too.
    Example: FYI: Semester exam time table attached

  7. Write the entire email:

    If your email is extremely short, then use the subject line itself as the entire email. Just like you would in a text message. Suffix it with EOM, which stands for “end of the message”.
    Example: Bring portable LCD projector to staff meeting tomorrow <EOM>

  8. Change the subject only when needed:

    When you are replying to an email, avoid modifying the subject line unless you absolutely have to. That’s because it will make it harder to keep track of the conversation and search for any emails later on. Most email programs identify emails based on the subject line text. Some even group them together using conversation threading (where messages are visually grouped together with their replies), so changing the subject line will mess that feature up.
    When you replying to an email, change the subject line when:
    a). The topic itself changes (i.e., the original subject line doesn’t apply anymore):
    Start a new email thread with a new subject line and state something like: “Team – I’m moving this conversation to a new email thread so that things don’t get confusing.”
    b). You are removing recipients from an email (due to confidentiality reasons):
    Start a new subject line by adding a prefix modifier like [Removing Faculties] or [Internal only] so that everyone is aware

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