Brief Rant about Email: Change the Topic, Change the Subject Line

Look, you’re busy. I know you’re busy. I’m busy too. ¬†We’re all busy.

But there’s one inviolable rule of email communications — the prime directive, the Federation’s highest law — and it’s simple.

If you change the topic of an email thread, then you have to change the subject line too.

That is, you have to do this if you want people to read your emails.

Just moments ago, an email correspondent sent a reminder to everybody on an email thread that a component of a project is due today. That part is good.

The bad part is that my correspondent sent this reminder by replying to an email request for a meeting that happened YESTERDAY.

That is mind-numbingly stupid.

At least half the time, email threads continue long after anything that looks like a Brad-shaped action item has long receded in the rear-view mirror, so the likelihood that I will read them promptly if at all is dim. I’m not alone in this.

More importantly, if there’s a new request about an unrelated or adjacent piece of business buried in a reply to a reply to a reply on an old thread that started a while back about something entirely different, then you have only yourself to blame if your request goes unanswered.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Email is a scourge and a tool. You can make it more tool-like by using it intelligently.

Rant over.

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