Emails are an essential part of life for most of us — but they can also be fraught with danger.
When you rely on the written word, it's easy to make a bad impression or get the tone wrong, which can then get your reader off-side.
And when you mess up your subject line, you can blow your chances with them right from the get-go.
According to people management specialist Karen Gately, director and founder of human resources firm Ryan Gately, an email's subject line was often the most crucial part to nail.
"Rule one is you want someone to open your email and feel safe in doing so, so you don't want the subject line to indicate you're about to complain or have a problem," she told news.com.au.
"Emails are just another communication channel, and the same principles of how we inform, educate, inspire and engage through our communication still apply.
"But people can make assumptions, get defensive and create perceptions based on what they see in written form — they can wonder, 'Did you mean to yell at me, or is your caps lock just down?' Email can be so dangerous; it can be such a problem."
But Gately also shared her top tips for avoiding a subject line blunder.
Subject line don'ts:
Choose your words
"If you're dealing with a service provider, for example, then you might choose to use the word 'complaint' in your subject line, but if you're dealing with a colleague from another department you might be better off saying something along the lines of 'feedback'," she said.
"You should be thinking about what message you are sending and what attention you're attracting — and how the person will feel when they receive it, and what action it will take to get them to open it — if they feel the email is going to be ready for a fight, they may avoid it."
Don't cry wolf
"Unless it truly is urgent, don't write 'urgent' in the subject line because it can become a bit like the boy who cried wolf, and eventually people might stop listening because they lose perspective of what really is important and urgent," Gately said.
Don' t shout
"Capital letters always make a statement — a loud statement — and other that saying 'I'M SO EXCITED!' to a friend in an email, I can't imagine why else you would need to use all capital letters," Gately advised.
"Don't leave it blank — a lot of people do that, and it means the receiver has no idea where it should fit in their priorities," Gately warned.
"Have respect — people have very noisy inboxes, and trying to manage the flow of emails in our life can be a great cause of stress for people, so make it really easy for them to identify what the email is about, what the urgency is and where they should place it in their order or priorities."
Subject line dos:
According to marketing software player HubSpot, the average person deletes almost half of the emails they receive in a day as we struggle to get through them.
But the company's new ebook, 100 Email Subject Lines We Actually Clicked, has revealed some tips to help your email stand out from the crowd and avoid the junk pile through the power of the subject line.
The ebook suggests exploiting people's "fear of missing out" by using the subject line to highlight what the recipient can't afford to lose or ignore by not clicking.
Hint at the juicy details to come in the email without giving too much away, and pull the reader into wanting to know more.
Serving up a silly joke in your subject line can spark interest — but make sure you understand what will amuse your audience and not offend them.
Identify how your email will help uncover the solution to your recipient's dilemma to encourage them to click through.
Incorporating emojis into your subject line could help make your message more fun and interesting.