[Urgent]: The Most Important Thing You’ll Learn About Email Subject Lines Today

Rachel Dotson —  April 4, 2016 — 2 Comments

urgent email subject line

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You’d be surprised how many people just scan subject lines and delete emails that don’t seem relevant to them. And we can hardly blame them—this is exactly what we ask you to do when triaging your inbox and using the Scan-Block-Ask system.

To make sure that your emails are not just opened, but also responded to correctly, there are a couple of things you can do. First, try putting a call to action right in the subject line. “5 things I need you to do tomorrow” is much more clear than “Things” and it also makes searching for older email easier.

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Next, add queues and instructions right into the subject line to make your emails relevant and actionable. What stood out to you in the headline of this post? Probably [Urgent]. That’s just one common example of how to add context to your subject lines. By including an instructive word, phrase, or abbreviation into your subject lines, you:

– Help others prioritize their inboxes

– Be more likely to get what you want, when you want

– Save other from writing unnecessary email replies

– Save yourself from reading unnecessary email replies

So with that, here is a list of the ten most useful subject line abbreviations and phrases. (Note that you can use these with our without brackets, but we find that the brackets help your subject line and instructions stand out, and you can put them at the beginning or end of the subject line.)

Email Subject Lines Infographic by SaneBox[Action Item] or [Action Required]

Use these to indicate that you need something done.

Ex: Updates to the proposal [Action Required]

[Time Sensitive]

This encourages the recipient to open your email, as the contents will no longer be relevant or actionable soon.

Ex: [Time Sensitive] Last chance to RSVP for Tuesday’s Lunch & Learn

[Urgent]

Use this for matters that are more pressing and more important than [time sensitive]. We strongly recommend following any email like this up with a phone call, text, or instant message. Also, use this only when an email is, in fact, urgent; if you use it too often, it will lose its gravity.

Ex: [URGENT] Final approval needed by 3pm

[Not Urgent]

When you add this to the subject line, you remove a lot of pressure from recipients and help them prioritize their inboxes.

Ex: Interesting new software to consider [Not Urgent]

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[Please reply by (date)]

This tells the recipient she can snooze the email until the time indicated.

Ex: Quarterly feedback survey [Please reply by June 30]

[NNTR], [NRN] or [FYI]

These are short for “No Need to Reply,” “No Response Necessary” and “For Your Information.” These subject line abbreviations save recipients from writing an unnecessary email and save you from reading unnecessary replies. Double win!

Ex: Suggestions for new website design [NNTR].

Ex: Yummy snacks in the kitchen [FYI]

(Related: Stop Responding to Every Email—Here’s Why » )

[EOM]:

If you can fit the entire message into a subject line, use EOM, which stands for “end of message,” to tell the recipient he doesn’t even need to open the email. This saves you time because you don’t feel compelled to write additional fluff in the body of the email, and saves others time from opening the email and reading said fluff.

Ex: Friday meeting rescheduled for 11am [EOM]

There you have it—ten subject line abbreviations and phrases that will make email work for you. Include them to increase clarity and avoid unnecessary email exchanges, thereby improving life for you and for everyone you email.

Email Subject Lines Infographic by SaneBox

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About SaneBox

Remember when email used to make your job easier, not harder? SaneBox gets you and your inbox back to a Zen-like state so you can reduce the noise and focus on the things that actually matter in work and in life. Log into your account now to see SaneBox in action, or sign up to start a 14-day free trial.

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Rachel Dotson

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Michigander turned Angeleno. Teach For America alum turned startup marketer. I spend my days at SaneBox, saving the world from email woes one interruption at a time.

2 responses to [Urgent]: The Most Important Thing You’ll Learn About Email Subject Lines Today

  1. 

    Why not come up with 2-3 letter standard acronyms for the full text subject notices, e.g. [AR] = Action Required.

    [AI] = Action Item
    [AR] = Action Required
    [TS] = Time Sensative
    [U] = Urgent
    [NU] = Not Urgent
    [PRB date] = Please Reply By date

    Without a text expander the full text notices are a pain to type.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 

    We’re happy users of TextExpander 😉 but you are very right that without it, the phrases become tedious to type. This is a terrific idea and something many companies would benefit from if they circulated and adopted it internally. Thank you for taking the time to share!

    Like

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