A writing workshop participant recently asked an excellent question …”When I reply to an e-mail message, should I change the subject line or leave it the same?”
What do you think? Here is IWCC’s advice about e-mail subject lines.
The simple answer...
If you change the topic of the e-mail, then change the subject line accordingly. If you are responding about the same topic, then leave the subject line alone.
The more complex answer…
To help your reader, you need to answer two questions in your subject line:
Topic – What is this e-mail about?
Urgency – Do I have to do anything and by when?
When you hit “reply”, you should be responding to the topic and urgency of the e-mail you received. Is that always the case? NO! You see, e-mail has made us lazy writers. Be honest, how often do you take the easy road and simply hit reply so you don’t have to start a new e-mail, type in the “to” and the “cc” portions and write a new subject line?
Why changing the subject line matters…
Have you ever been looking for an important e-mail about a particular topic that you know you received and you can’t find it anywhere? Hmmm, perhaps the subject line doesn’t reflect the topic you are looking for. Maybe you and the sender/reader were going back and forth with a string of e-mail on one topic. Then the topic changed and nobody “changed” the subject line. You may never find that e-mail because it’s buried in the cyber world of irrelevant subject lines!
You can likely think of other reasons when changing the subject line would help you and your reader.
Tips for changing subject lines…
Here are three simple tips:
- If responding to an e-mail with an irrelevant subject line, change it to reflect the topic and the urgency.
- When expanding the topic of an e-mail, change the subject line to reflect the evolving conversation.
- When changing the topic completely, create a new e-mail with a new subject line.