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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

5 Common Email Subject Lines You Need to Stop Using

I sent my first email when I was in middle school. So, needless to say, I have a lot of experience with the concept.

But even with all of that experience, I don’t always send clear messages that make people say, “I know exactly what Rich wants!”

And that problem typically starts with my subject lines. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all seen our share of them that’ve made us roll our eyes, confused us, or some combination of the two. And if you’re being honest with yourself, I bet you’ve made some mistakes along the way as well.

So, let’s talk about a few common subject lines that might seem fine, but with a little extra thought could get you better, faster responses.

1. “Following Up on Our Meeting”

Hey, you’re taking the initiative to send out post-meeting notes in a work email. What’s wrong with this, right?

There are a couple things here. For starters, the recipient will have no idea what you’re following up on in a few days when he or she goes to find this email, which means all those urgent deliverable deadlines aren’t exactly findable.

How to Fix This

If you’re sending out reminders to people about things they need to complete, try this:

[Date] [Topic] Meeting Follow-up Reminder: [Task or Assignment] Due Dates

But if you’re just recapping, try this:

[Date] [General Topic] Recapping Our Meeting on [Specific Topics Discussed]

2. “Status Update?”

This one’s a good way to strike confusion into the hearts of your recipient. Status update on what?

How to Fix This

The good news is that this one doesn’t require a lot of switching up. Just make this addition:

Requesting a Status Update on [Thing You Want an Update On]

3. “Question For You”

Again, what could this mean? I know that you’re probably just busy and needed to get this email out quickly, but this subject line could make your colleague’s mind go in a million different directions.

How to Fix This

Again, this one just needs a little addition. Check this out and tell me it’s not clearer and less stress-inducing:

Question for You About [Thing You Have a Question About]

4. “Next Steps”

OK, you might think that I’m just picking on you now. How many times have we all sent “next steps” emails? If you were to look in my inbox, I bet you’d find at least 50 examples.

But again, you’d also find that most of them didn’t get responses for at least a few days. Let’s make a quick change to this one.

How to Fix This

Spoiler alert: It’s not that surprising or that difficult. But when you need answers, these few extra words in your subject line will go a long way.

Next Steps on [The Project That You’re Working On]

5. “Wanted to Check In With You”

Checking in with me? Checking in with me about what?

Maybe I’m just more anxious than most people, but “check in” emails always freak me out and make me think I’ve done something wrong. If you can empathize, do your teammates a favor and tweak this subject line a bit.

How to Fix This

Ugh, another simple improvement, right? You bet your savings account that it’s simple (and effective).

Checking in About [Project or Question or Deliverable]

If you’re amazed at how simple some of these fixes are, you’re not alone. Personally, I’ve made a few adjustments to my most common subject lines. Anecdotally, I’ve gotten about 1000% faster and clearer responses in return.

All joking aside, there’s no need to overthink your entire approach to your emails—but you do need to think about these small changes, because they yield big results.