Business Writing Tip #183—Suggested Words for Email Subject Lines

In previous posts I’ve talked about the importance of meaningful email subject lines. I don’t know about you but I’m getting about 100 emails a day (I’m sure some of you get more). I love it when people make it easy for me to know what their email is about.

One great idea is to use one or two words to indicate the category your email falls into. This means that the person you’re writing to can quickly scan the email titles and decide which need to be opened first.

Here are some suggestions to help you write great email subject lines.


Category Word/PhraseExample
Action: Action: submit business plan by 4/5
Reminder:Reminder: Project meeting @ 10 am, 8/8/2015
Meeting:Meeting: HR meeting @ 9.30 am, 13/8 - request for agenda items
Order:Order: Your order 46845, delivery date
Job application:Job application: Pos 563, D Trost
Interview follow up:Interview follow up: D Trost, Pos 563
Sales Report:Sales Report: Q1 2015
Requesting information:Requesting information: cost/range of recycled wood garden beds
Work request:Work request: Q1 delegate figures by 7/4

Happy writing.

Image: © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


A colleague pointed me toward this blog from Target Training today. If you’re looking for phrases to use in emails for a variety of situations, there are some great suggestions here. Whether you’re saying goodbye to someone whose leaving the company, expressing congratulations or just want tips on how to be polite in emails, this blog is definitely worth a visit.

Business Writing Tip #62—Ambiguous Headlines

I love English, and I love spotting the errors that so many of us (including me) make with the language.

One of my favourite pastimes is finding errors in headlines in newspapers. Now, you wouldn’t really expect professional writers to make errors, but we do. We’re all human after all. I would just say you need to take care when you are writing a headline, a heading, or a subject line for an email.headlines

There are two main reasons things go wrong in these kinds of text. Usually the authors:

  1. Avoid using punctuation, and
  2. Don’t form complete sentences.


To give an example of the perils, here’s a headline I copied from a newspaper some years back.

Lack of facilities in schools to hit children

Of course, and thankfully, when we think about it we realise that they mean that the children will be affected by a lack of facilities, rather than the schools don’t have enough children-hitting facilities.

But you can see how easy it is for the meaning to be misconstrued.

It makes for great fun, but you don’t want people to remember your business writing because of how much they laughed!

Just to give you another example of unclear meaning, here’s a headline that was analysed on the website

Gadhafi Forces Retreat

Did Gadhafi force a retreat, or did Gadhafi’s forces retreat? Without reading the article, we’ll never know…

So read your headlines carefully before you publish. Better yet, ask someone else to read them for you.

Business Writing Tip #18 – It’s about email

In emails say what you need to say and move on.

Most people I know suffer from severe cases of email overload. I know people who have multiple email addresses, each of which gets maybe 20 or 30 separate emails each day. Some need action, some are for information, some are spam …

You want people to read your email, not just ‘trash’ it. You want to make it easy for people to read it, and you want to make it easy for them to know if they need to do something and, if so, what they need to do.

Two Top Tips for Email

1.  Make your subject line meaningful.

  • If it’s about an upcoming committee meeting say that. For example:
  • Agenda items for staff development c’tee meeting – 30 September – please read
  • Need agenda items for October board meeting – submission date 15 September
  • If you are sending them something to read, say what and why
  • Report – 1st quarter sales figures – for information
  • October Board Meeting – agenda – submission date for papers
  • First quarter sales figures – for information
  • Interview report – executive secretary – read and discuss

2.   Put your main point in the first paragraph and use bullet points and short paragraphs to make it easy to read.

Example 1

Here are the agenda items for the staff development committee meeting. Please read them and let me know if you need further information before the meeting on 30 September.


  • developed this list from the previous agenda and from comments a few people have made
  • cleared it with the GM
  • distributed it to all committee members and to the committee chair

Example 2

The next board meeting is on October 5 2012 from 10.00 to 13.00. I have attached the draft agenda. Please:

  • submit additional agenda items and supporting papers by 15 September
  • email them to

Example 3

Here are the first quarter sales figures. Please read them.

You don’t need to take action on anything, but you should be familiar with them, and with sales trends.

Example 4

Here are the results of the interviews for the executive secretary position. I have made a recommendation (see summary at beginning of report):

  • Please read the report and let’s discuss it
  • Wednesday afternoon is good for me. Let me know if you can make it then, or if we need to find another time