If this was January 1, I would be making this a New Year’s Resolution. But it’s not, so I will just promise to do my best. I resolve to edit the subject line of my e-mails when I hit reply. You probably already know this, but when you hit reply, most e-mail programs automatically create a subject line. For example, if I e-mailed you to invite you to lunch, I might write a subject line like, “Lunch Thursday”. You hit reply, and send me an e-mail with the subject, “Re: Lunch Thursday”, and tell me “sure, lunch Thursday is great”. Fine so far.
Two weeks later, long after our lunch, you want to send me an e-mail about something else. Let’s say you want to borrow a book. You can’t remember my e-mail address, but you remember we corresponded about lunch, so you scroll through your e-mail history, find the old e-mail, and hit reply. I get an e-mail about a book, with a subject line, “Re: Lunch Thursday”. That night, I remember to look for the book, but I’ve forgotten the title. I pop open my e-mail to look for your message, but all I see is a message about lunch.
I know this is pretty trivial, but it happens all the time, and may happen with more important e-mails. To make matters worse, some spam filters look for repeated messages with the same subject line, and start tossing them into the junk folder.
So the next time you hit reply, remember to take a moment to look at the subject line, and fix it if it is no longer appropriate. It will help you, your correspondents, and it will make you look more professional.