Make the Bottom Line the Subject Line

Drake Baer, in his article The Surprising Secret to Getting Your Emails Read, lays out what I’ve taught in my Work Smarter, Not Harder training:   State the conclusion in the subject line.   What is the conclusion in an email?  Daer defines it as: “Your conclusion is a statement of the decision that you want the recipient to make, based upon the contents of your e-mail.”

How many times have you received an email with a lame or non-existent subject line or one where there doesn’t seem to be any stated request?  I see it often and if you’re like me and receive up to 200 emails daily, you either waste time reading such emails or just delete them because you don;t have the time to figure it out! 

Geoffrey James says it right, “Vagueness is the opposite of useful,” in his article How to Write a Convincing Email.  “The clearer the goal, the more convincing your e-mail will be.”  James’ article provides a 6-step process to help others write emails that people will not only read, but understand the senders’ intentions.  He also articulates the importance of having a compelling benefit that others would support.

Here are two examples he provides to see the difference between a poorly written email and a more convincing one:


Subject: The Health Impact of In-House Employee Fitness Programs
As you know, employee absenteeism is generally recognized as an ongoing problem with a steep financial impact, both in our company and in other companies in our industries. An in-house gym will reduce absenteeism because then people will want to come to work rather than stay at home and they won’t get sick so much. Therefore, we should consider allocating money for the installation of a gym at our headquarters facility. Your support for this project would be greatly appreciated.


Subject: How we can reduce absenteeism
I want you to approve the installation of an in-house gym. This will:
– Reduce absenteeism. According to a National Health Institute survey of 1,000 firms, companies with in-house gyms experience 20% less absenteeism than thosewho lack such facilities.
– Increase productivity. We have 50% more absenteeism than other firms in our industry, so reducing that number by 20% will automatically increase our productivity by 10%.
If you respond to this e-mail with your approval, I’ll get the process started.

Which one would you read and get the correct gist from?  Do you want to help other coworkers write better emails?  Send them links to both articles and start benefiting from more meaningful emails in your in-box!