Send messages that get read—and get results

Do your e-mails get the attention—and rapid response—they deserve? Here’s how to make sure people read and answer your messages while they’re still fresh:

• Grab them with your subject. The subject line should read like a compelling newspaper headline. One technique is to use the subject line to tell people what you want up front:  “Please come to the 3 p.m. meeting,” for example, or “Do you have the Jones file?”

• Limit yourself to one subject per message. Don’t overload readers with questions and data. Single-topic e-mails are easier to answer than lengthy essays or questionnaires.

• Ask for action. Tell the reader what you need him or her to do—present a report at the 3 o’clock meeting, or bring the Jones file to your office. Specify whether you want a response to your e-mail. If it’s not necessary, tell them.

• Be consistent. Tracking e-mails is easier when you keep the same subject line.

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