Email: Your Subject Line Is An Action Item

Posted May 20, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Networking Buzz

It’s one of the biggest problems you face every day at work – your emails aren’t getting returned. You write them, meticulously at times, and people just don’t respond. Could it be that perhaps you’re not putting the action item up front? Are you rambling on and on until you get to the point in the last sentence? Solve this problem immediately and put your action item directly in the subject line.

We’re taking the advice of one of our favorite productivity experts, Jason Womack, and making our email more productive by making our subject lines actionable. Check out Jason’s advice here:

Make your subject line actionable
Have you ever gotten an email from someone with the subject line: “Opportunity”?

Think about what you have to do with this email. If it’s long, you have to read through the whole thing, looking carefully for said opportunity. How to remedy this?

Here’s a trick I’ve been using for a long time. I write the subject lines of my emails last, starting out with a verb that describes what needs to be done and a noun encapsulating what the email message is about directly. Over the past few years, I’ve realized I consistently make requests via email asking recipients to call, schedule, view, print, sign, scan, return or confirm receipt of a document.

It’s only fair to let the recipient know exactly what I need them to do when they see the email show up in their inbox so they can get to it more quickly. At my company, we’ve standardized the verbs used in email subjects so that everyone on our team is on the same page. For example, if I need one of my staff to take an action, I type in the subject line: “Call Susan B. today to confirm start time for Tuesday’s workshop: 415-555-xxxx.’ This makes it very clear what I need done and provides all relevant information as succinctly as possible.

Read the rest of Jason’s email productivity article at by clicking here.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."