This got me thinking about not only appropriate business email subject lines, but also about the history of email.
A brief history of email and a Golden Anniversary
The first example of email can be found on computers at MIT in a program called “MAILBOX”, all the way back in 1965.
With “MAILBOX,” users could leave messages on the computers, and other users would see them the next time they logged into that computer.
In mid-1971, Ray Tomlinson was a programmer working on a time-sharing system called TENEX. He wrote the code that allowed emails to be sent to another host, rather than a local device. He appended the now-famous @ sign and the host name to the user’s login name. And history was made.
Let’s fast-forward 50 years
After 50+ years of email evolution, don’t you think someone could come up with a better email subject line than “Hey Everyone?”
Below are some subject line rules that I find helpful when sending or receiving business email correspondence:
1. Have one
Your name is likely the first thing people see in their inboxes, and the subject is next. Be sure to tell your recipient(s) what you are contacting them about.
2. Make it descriptive
Make sure your recipient(s) know what the email is about right from the start. “Hey Everyone” doesn’t accomplish that.
3. Keep it short
Lengthy subject lines may not fully show in the inbox and may also be confusing. Try to keep your email subject line under 5 to 8 words, but still descriptive enough to convey the purpose of your message.
4. Change the subject line if the string has morphed
By the time various people reply to email strings, the subject often morphs into something either peripherally related, or not related at all, to the original email. If that happens, and you need to repurpose the email string, change the subject line to reflect the new content.
5. Indicate the action: FYI; Response Needed By; Action Needed By
The average office worker receives 125 emails per day according to various studies. Help your recipients prioritize their emails by indicating in the subject line if your email is an FYI, if a response is needed by a certain date, or if action is needed by a certain date.
If you are requesting a response or action by a due date, thought, don’t just say “Tuesday.” Indicate which Tuesday by saying “Response Requested by Tuesday 6/7.” That will help make sure your recipients know the full due date.
If you have any feedback, feel free to email me. Just don’t use the subject line “Hey Everyone.”