Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

A Dying Art

In case you haven’t heard, this ‘electronic mail’ thing is a pretty big deal. You see, it’s like normal mail, but it’s on this so-called ‘internet’ thingy so it’s instantaneous (once it makes it’s way through all those little tubes).

If you’re anything like me (and if you’re a regular reader here, I’m sorry to tell you that you ARE like me), you probably have your life neatly planned and organized thanks to your email. Phone numbers, directions, recipes, events and important dates are all neatly stored in folders in your GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Splahoo, Fingaspleeconk or achtungdavey email accounts, and you refer to them often.

That leads us to today’s rant… the subject line. One of the great things about email is how the subject line is a neat and tidy little place to summarize what your email is about. It prepares the reader for what’s to come when they click on it, or sometimes it informs the reader that they don’t need to click at all (more on that in a second).

It should be brief and to-the-point (fun and cutesy emails are excepted and bulk forwards don’t matter… they just get deleted anyways), not just for efficiency in responding, but also to make important information easy to find later. I can’t even guess at the number of times a week I have to forward myself an email from someone with an important phone number because instead of a subject line like “Bono’s Home Number (you stalker)” I get something like “Toes and Peanut Butter make Turtles giggle with glee”. Granted, that’s pretty poetic… or soemething, but it doesn’t do me much good.

If you REALLY want to impress someone, pull out the old [EOM] trick. This really should be getting more popular given the number of people who use Blackberries or other handheld devices to receive and check email. Sometimes your email is so short that it doesn’t even need content. You can send a note with the subject line “Dinner at 7?” and your recipient doesn’t need to waste 0.4 seconds opening it. But how will they know that the subject is the End Of the Message? If only there was a standard acronym that was widely adopted and well understood… if only.

So that’s my rant. Rest assured that I won’t respond to your emails with tirades… nor will I just delete them out of spite (unless they’re forwards with surveys asking if it’s okay to cry or if I’ve ever been so in love I wanted to cry… those get burned and their senders blacklisted). I’ll just quietly suffer and reforward the note to myself for filing… under “Bad Subject Line”. Oh, and I’ll probably write a flaming blog post about it.

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