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How to Get Your Email Read Immediately: Email Etiquette

How to Get Your Email Read Immediately: Email Etiquette

There is a great booked called  Emily Post's Etiquette by by Peggy Post and Anna Post. This is a HUGE book with hundreds of examples of etiquette for just about every situation you can imagine.

Except Digital Etiquette.

I forgive the authors for not including digital etiquette since digital happened much later.

Ever wonder why your email sits in the receiver's inbox for days, weeks or even months without a reply? Ruling out the fact that they may not want to respond to you, it's most likely because you're not practicing good email subject line etiquette.

Never use an old email in your

inbox and hit reply and start a

completely new topic that is

irrelevant to the original subject

line. Never ever ever!

Take a look at this example where John and Stephanie had a conversation back in May 2015 about Sales Reports. Now fast forward to Nov 2016. John needs to know if Stephanie is available for an urgent meeting tomorrow. Instead of writing a new email with a subject line that matches the email content, John is lazy and finds an old email from Stephanie in his inbox and uses it instead:

WHAT we open FIRST

Everyone is hyper warped busy these days. We are bombarded with reply-alls and unimportant cc:s not to mention the dozens of email advertisements we sift through daily. The only way to make sense of the madness is to prioritize WHAT we open FIRST.

As the sender, if you don't fine-tune your subject line to let the receiver know its level of urgency and what the email is about, any professional who has learned the art of time management is going to place your email in the "not urgent, read later" pile.

Candidates do this to me all the time. They will use the auto confirmation email that goes out to them when they book time to speak with me to reply to me with a question about a job or something urgent. The subject line reads "Alan Jones is confirmed for Dec 1, 2016 at 3:00PM" but after getting the email, Alan sees a job he's interested in online and wants to ask me about it quickly and hits the reply button on the email. What do I do? I ignore it, because the subject line doesn't tell me that the reply is a high priority so I assume it's just a reply saying "Thank you" or "looking forward to the conversation."




  1. If your email is truly urgent, always start the email subject line with the word URGENT

    Example:  URGENT: End of the Month Sales Reports are Due at 3PM today

  2. If your email is important but not urgent, always start the email subject line with the word IMPORTANT:

    Example: IMPORTANT: Next week's manager meeting has been moved

  3. If your email is purely for FYI only purposes ("For Your Information"), start your email with the phrase FYI ONLY:

    Example:  FYI ONLY: A new article was posted on our site about our widget sales

  4. If you regularly send similar emails to someone, such as a monthly status report, KEEP THE SUBJECT LINE CONSISTENT. 

    Example:  Mike Smith - Status Report for May 2015   Mike Smith - Status Report for Jun 2015  |  Mike Smith - Status Report for July 2015 . This makes it easy for the receiver to quickly sort through their inbox and see all the similar emails from you regarding status reports. I always do this for my clients when submitting candidates. I might submit 3 to 6 candidates and the subject line will always read like this:  Raegan Hill Presents: Digital Marketing Manager - Tory Francis  |  Raegan Hill Presents - Digital Marketing Manager - Tiffany Pierce , etc. This way my busy client can sort and find all the emails I sent to him/her specific to presenting candidates.

Are you beginning to get the idea?

Are you beginning to get the idea?

Show a little respect for the receiver's time simply by making the time to initiate your email with a proper subject line and please, please PLEASE stop using old emails in your in box to start a new topic. If you do, don't get your feelings hurt when your time-sensitive email with the wrong subject line doesn't get a response. Practice a little email etiquette and get faster replies! Who knows, maybe, just maybe, YOUR new professional politeness will rub off on them!

Topics: Communication

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