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October 05, 2009


Leslie O'Flahavan

These comments are posted on behalf of Colleen Blessing who sent me "Alternative subject lines for Writing Matters example"

-- Answer to your question—proof of academic eligibility
-- Answer from Academic Superstore—re academic eligibility
-- Response from Academic Superstore—proving academic eligibility

Leslie, It seems they have a standard response email that answers a number of questions. Customizing the subject line for each question would take them a lot more time. They probably figure that, if you asked them a question, you would be watching for something identified as being from them. They figured their company name was enough. I personally love customized subject lines and try hard at work to have my subjects be specific and clear.

We also could brainstorm *worse* subject lines for your example! How about:

-- Blank
-- We received your question (but no context)
-- Answer to your question
-- Question #3954753
-- Important information for you

David Kay

My proposed revision:

Subject: Your question answered: Academic discount eligibility

(This is very much in line with what I see Colleen suggests above).

I've played with a bunch of lead-ins ("Email inquiry response" isn't bad, but it's a little formal). They take space, but I want the subject line to communicate that this is directly in response to a question you posed. Another fun way to do this is to pretend that this email is literally a response to your question.

Subject: Re: I'd like to buy InDesign for my daughter who...

Of course, the words aren't as meaningful as "Academic discount eligibility," but they're YOURS. So, coupled with the Re:, they might trigger the right neurons during the email triage process. This is also something that can be autopopulated.

Subject lines that have a generic business name like "Academic Superstore" make the mail look like spam. If their ERMS (email response management system) is really so primitive as to only support
a generic subject line, at least make it "Email inquiry response from Academic Superstore") This looks spammish, too, but at least it might
help one remember the question posed a day or two prior.


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