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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.
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.)
Use these to indicate that you need something done.
Ex: Updates to the proposal [Action Required]
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
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
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]
[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 » )
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.
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