Tips for composing a better subject line.

E-mail is a communications tool vital to modern life, both for business and personal use. You use and rely on e-mail, as do millions of others around the world. Composing an e-mail can be a reflexive act, one we do without much thought for how we are trying to communicate instead of just what we’re trying to communicate. But, depending on your relationship with your intended recipient, the tone of an e-mail can be very informal or quite formal. In any case, you will want to compose a subject line for every message that is as short as possible, as long as necessary, and specific so as to summarize the entire message to follow.

Keep in mind that your message has to compete with other messages in your recipient’s inbox. One popular method of managing e-mail is known as the Inbox Zero philosophy popularized by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders. If your recipient keeps his or her inbox empty, you are in luck. As soon as a new message is received, it sits there alone waiting to be read. But if your recipient is less organized, and leaves every message ever received in their inbox, your message may easily be swamped in a list of a thousand or more messages. How do you compose a subject line that stands out in that crowd?

Here are some rules of thumb that can help you get your message read.

Keep it short. There is no practical limit to the number of characters you can place in a subject line, but some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do place limits from 40 characters to 255 characters. Remember that people scan subject lines before deciding what to read first, and based on that scan they may forward, file, or trash the message instead of reading it.

Never leave a subject line blank. A blank subject indicates you are forgetful, that you can’t be bothered to take a moment to think clearly, or that you’re too busy to give attention to important details.

Don’t use ALL CAPS or exclamation points!!!! Or if you do use them, do so sparingly. Let your message speak for itself, without using these tricks to convince your recipient that your message is more important than it really is.

Don’t put your entire message in the subject line, no matter how short your message may be. If you do this your recipients will recognize your lazy attempt at communication.

Be specific. Don’t use generic subjects such as: quick question, meeting, website, or FYI. The more specific you can be, the better. If you are contacting a vendor, include your company name at the beginning of your subject.

So the next time you are composing an e-mail message, remember to keep the subject as descriptive, as short, and as specfic as possible. You contacts will appreciate your effort.

The Simple Joy of Website Updates

Polish your business image while saving time and money with a Content Management System.

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I wish I could tell you just how many times we have heard the same story over and over. Talking to someone about the Internet and what we do here at Graphics and Motion, Inc., we hear a common complaint.

“Our company site is so outdated, we don’t show it to anyone anymore,” they say, “it hasn’t been updated in months. We hired a freelancer who set up the site, but now they don’t answer our calls or e-mails anymore. We can’t get our site updated.”

Sometimes, it isn’t a freelancer, but the owner’s nephew or an employee’s mother. Sometimes it is an advertising agency or another Web development company who stopped responding to their client once the site launched.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could update your company website as easily as you check your bank account online or edit a Microsoft Word document on your computer? And without having to rely on an outside vendor who charges a high hourly rate…

The truth is, to make small changes, like a name or title, or to rewrite a paragraph of information or post a new photo, there is no reason you should have to wait on someone else to take care of these minor updates. The solution is known as a content management system (or CMS).

At Graphics and Motion, Inc., we no longer build static HTML websites. For several years, every site we have built has been on top of a content management system that puts the power of site maintenance in the hands of our clients. As part of our design and development process, we assess our client’s needs and recommend one of several content management systems to meet those needs.

Our clients have the ability to log into an administrator section of their site to:

  • edit text content as desired
  • upload images to add or remove photos or graphics on pages
  • upload and link to downloadable files such as PDF documents
  • add new pages as their needs expand (or delete pages as necessary)
  • add new menu items to the site navigation system

Actually, nearly any edit you might want to make to update your website could be accomplished with an administrator login, your favorite Web browser, and an Internet connection. Training to use a CMS normally takes between one and two hours of your time, so you can get up and running relatively quickly.

If your business website is out of date, we can help. Contact us about converting your site to a Content Management System that would allow you and your staff to manage your website faster, easier and cheaper than ever. Let us show you how updating your website can be a simple joy for a change.

Originally published in the Graphics and Motion, Inc., April 2009 e-mail newsletter.