What’s In a Name?

I’m feeling Shakespearean.


Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)


In this speech, Juliet is essentially pooh-poohing the importance of names.  She’s saying that it’s what is inside that counts.  However, I’m not sure Shakespeare could fully appreciate the essential function that a name has, especially when it comes to email and file management.


Email Subject Lines

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good email subject line.  Psychologically, it prepares the reader’s brain for the message to come and allows precious nanoseconds of processing time to switch gears from what the reader was thinking to what they need to be thinking now.  Additionally, an effective subject line lets the reader know what call to action (if any) your email has.

For the sender, a good email subject line is extremely valuable for filing and retrieving emails.  If it has the right keywords, you will find it much more quickly later on.  Additionally, when searching for email messages weeks, months (or years) later, you will be very grateful for a good subject line.


Tips for constructing an effective email subject:

  • Never, never, never leave the subject line blank
  • Include a concise (5 – 7 word) description of what the email pertains to
  • Finish, the subject line, If applicable, with a clear phrase telling the recipient what to do now (e.g., Action Requested, No Reply Required, Review and Respond, etc.)
  • Change the subject line in your reply if it is vague or not suitable. You don’t have to live with the subject line from the sender.



When creating a document, it is essential to take a few seconds to construct a useful filename that will aid in your “search-and-rescue” efforts later on.  You may have your own system or may need to work with others to come up with file naming conventions that dictate how everyone in the group names and stores documents.  File naming conventions are especially important if you want to avoid file duplication and version control problems on shared servers.


Tips for constructing an effective filename:

  • Remember that the first word is the most important because it will determine where the file falls in the alphabetized search results.  Your first word should ideally be a noun.
  • Minimize use of non-value-added words (a, an, of, the, for)
  • Use commonly-accepted abbreviations and acronyms.  Don’t get creative – talk to folks with whom you share files and agree on what abbreviations and acronyms you will use.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes when naming files – what information would they need in order to know what a file is, what version, and its importance


Poor Juliet.  Things didn’t turn out so well for her.  Maybe it was her cavalier attitude toward names…


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.

1 Comment

  1. Jackie Wiggins

    Beginning file names with the date, (i.e., 200211 for today), makes them easy to sort alpha, but also easily allows you to see which is the latest version of a file, especially if multiple people are making changes. The date is followed by a concise description, and search features can dig deeper if necessary.


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