Writing productive email subject lines

email subject lineWriting useful emails goes beyond a simple productivity tip—communicating quickly and efficiently is the key to staying nimble in business and life. Sometimes quick communication means getting up and talking face-to-face or picking up the phone (TDS phone service, of course 🙂 ). Other times, it means putting a little more thought into your email subject line before hitting “send.”

I recently wrote about taming email overload, but Asian Efficiency suggests a handful of subject line prefixes your team can adopt to help make managing email much easier and give you more time to be productive. Here’s what they suggest:

    FYI – For Your Information. It implies that no reply is needed, and is usually a short message. Example: “FYI Free Donuts in the Kitchen”.

    URGENT – Used for when something is really urgent. Don’t use it if something is not urgent. And if something is truly, truly urgent, it’s best to follow up with a call or IM as well.
    Example: “URGENT: Final reminder to file quarterly team reports”

    EOM – End of Message. This is usually used when the entire email is in the subject line. Example: “Elevator is broken today, please use stairs. EOM.”

    NRN – No Reply Needed. Indicates that the receiver doesn’t need to reply. There is likely a body to the message but no response is needed. Example: “Jennifer wants you to call her back. NRN.”

    NFA – No Further Action. This is almost a combination of FYI and NRN. It stands for “your notification only,” and it means that no action or reply is needed. Example: “Mr. Tanaka will be in at 11am not 10am. NFA.”

The Asian Efficiency author suggests sharing these tips with your co-workers (along with the others from the article), direct reports, and your team to ensure everyone is on the same page (or maybe even agree on a new subject line prefix that works for your office). Then slowly implement one prefix at a time. Over time, you’ll notice managing your email is a lot easier which means you’ll have more time to get real work done (and maybe even spend less time in the office).

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