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Feeling Ignored? Blame Your Subject Line

The other day I wrote about not blaming yourself if your email doesn’t reach its intended reader: Feeling Ignored: Blame Email.  Rather than post to my blog, my husband Michael commented to me face to face. I think that’s a good sign for our marriage.

Michael reminded me that often messages don’t get read because they have a blank subject line. Or the subject is so vague, it sounds suspiciously like a come-on for mortgage reduction, sex enhancers, or Canadian drugs (or sex reduction, mortgage drugs, and Canadian enhancers–I get these topics mixed up). 

When we don’t immediately recognize the sender, we delete messages with these subjects:



     As you requested


     A joke for you

     Great news!

So if you have sent us any jokes or updates lately, we missed them. Sorry. Please try again with a specific subject that we will recognize–unless, of course, you are selling something we don’t need.


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.