Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Subject Lines for Business Emails

One aspect of business English that I teach my adult ESL students is how to write effective emails. In addition to the regular challenges of writing business emails, my students also have to learn about the tone of an email. This is actually important for all email writers, especially when writing business emails.

Another thing that I believe is very important is an effective "subject" heading. The subject heading should be succinct and convey the main topic of the email. The reader should be able to look at the subject line and decide if the email is of interest.

One mistake that many people make, not just ESL learners, is to send an email by hitting the "reply" button from an old message, but not changing the subject line. For example, I may have received an email from an ESL student with the subject heading "My writing sample." I respond to the student about the writing sample (no need to change the subject heading here), but then the student uses this email and simply hits "reply" (without changing the subject line), the next time that he or she wants to contact me. However, the subject of the new email might be a schedule change. In this case, the subject line should be changed to "Schedule change" or other some related phrase.

Always using a subject line that is related to the topic of the current email is good business sense and is one component of a good business email.


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