Please Take a Moment to Consider Recipients

I think about communication all the time. I have a couple of suggestions for communicating with your peers and clients with less friction. Specifically, when you choose:

  • email subject lines
  • names of files you share

Email Subject Lines

We all get emails with unhelpful subject lines. It’s pretty inefficient to have to open them and scan their contents to discover the intent of the sender.

Every email’s subject line should start with a label word (or phrase). Choose the prefix while you envision the recipient(s) seeing your message amongst many in their In Box. The mass of messages obscures the context for any individual message. They may also be seeing only the first few words of any subject line.

Prefixes you might use include:

  • PLEASE REVIEW
  • AS REQUESTED
  • PREP’D FOR YOU
  • INVITE
  • FYI
  • ACTION ITEM
  • REQUEST
  • THANKS

You probably use software that inserts some of these (your calendar app may insert INVITE). But we humans can do just as well.

I’ll bet you can think of other prefixes off the top of your head. The ones you use for people who recognize your name might be different from prefixes for broadcast messages. For internal communications, you may even want to adopt a standardized set.

Names of Files You Share

I have received so many files with the name “to-nancy.” Again, consider the context for the recipient! When I send a file to my tax preparer, its name is “McClure-2021-tax-data.”

If you are sending a file from your organization to lots of recipients, consider that many of them may save it. Finding it later is going to be difficult if the file name is “sept.” How about “OurOrg-Sept2021-events”?

And please don’t post a downloadable file to your web site with a name like “calendar v2 approved.” There’s a moment when it moves from being a draft to being published, and that moment is when you give it a final name (that doesn’t include the word “final”!)

Thank you!

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