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5 Mar 2010

Message from CreeKay

One can never emphasise enough, the importance of the subject-line in an email. If you ever attended a session on how to write better emails or improve your communications, this is one of the first things you are taught. The subject of the email helps the receiver decide the priority of the email and whether he wants to read it at all.

It is something like a resume. A resume cannot promise you the job but it will decide whether you will get that interview which can get you the job. If you fail there, you do not even get to make the journey further down that road.

I do not like too many highlighted emails in my mailbox, so I click on the the 'Unread Mail' tab regularly to see if I can quickly read and get rid of the mark-up on as many emails as I can. Almost every time, it is the subject-line that helps me decide the priority of the email. Emails that come with the 'newsletter' or 'general announcement' kind of subject-lines are usually left to be read later. The subject-line does not even register in my head as something to go on priority. They don't bother me even with a mark-up.

I rode in to work this morning and in the light of my recent accident, I decided to ride slow, which meant I got to work later than I wished to. It was one of those days where you have enough work to keep you busy and there are numerous emails flying in to your Inbox. I have a preview pane on the right hand side of my Outlook window so when I find something that I want to glance through quickly before I brush it aside, I just have to click on the email. While I was sorting emails that I wanted to read and those I wanted to put off, I hit one of those bad subject emails.

I was reading another email on status of an upcoming installation and a new email popped in that irked me greatly. Firstly, it distracted me from the email I was reading (the email was boring, I was trying to finish it quickly). When I glanced over to see what email it was, the subject said 'INFO: Message from CreeKay' and the sender was CreeKay (name changed). If I have an email from CreeKay, I know it's a "message from CreeKay". Aaarrrrggghhh! The pop-up feature that Microsoft Outlook provides came to my rescue, to an extent, in that it showed me the first line of the email. It was an announcement of a change in some team structure (or so it seemed). A little later, I clicked on the email to view the preview and decide if it was something that would affect me. The heading of the contents of the says 'Message from CreeKay'. This is really heights! Bad bad email! Coming from someone really high up in the management ladder, it left me with a bad taste. Agreed, it was his secretary who sent the email, but is she not supposed to be good at this stuff? Is this not an integral part of her job? When she sends an email from CreeKay's id, is she not responsible for the effects the email has, on her boss' reputation?

It is one of the first things we learn in schools in Letter Writing and Essay Writing classes. It is hammered into us whenever we talk about letters and emails. Everyone knows it. I bet if I sent her an email back with an incomprehensible subject-line, she would be agitated and annoyed as I was. Yet she, and many others like her, do not stop to give a thought to the subject-line in their emails. Simply put, it ought to be a one-line summary of the contents of the email or a pointer to what the email contains, with an indication of the action to be taken by the receiver. The subject-line in the above-mentioned email started of well with the "INFO:" part indicating to me that it was merely to be read and did not require any action. However, immediately after that is where the etiquette died. "Message from CreeKay". Duh!

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