We all work in haste these days, or at least without thinking. I even find myself laughing sometimes at the turns an e-mail conversation takes with a friend that begins with a subject “logo comps” and ends up as a recipe for what to do with tons of unripe green tomatoes, still with the title “logo comps” attached.

But worse are the e-mails you open because, if you don’t, you fear you might miss out on a business prospect. There may be something suspect about the subject title, but you take the time to open the e-mail only to find you’ve been had, intentionally or not.

Just today I opened an email oddly titled “RFQ’s”—odd, because there are few instances where RFQ needs to be a possessive. I get all sorts of RFPs and RFQs in my in-box that I dutifully open in case they lead to a potential project. Instead, I found that it was a company selling DVDs and CDs that wanted to know if I had an upcoming need. Which I guess translates into my requesting a quote from them? And they were offering me the opportunity to request a quote?

Given the amount of electronic communication these days—most of it done without thought or even capital letters or punctuation—we can, without realizing it, ask a lot of a person.

Make the subject title relevant to the content of the e-mail. I often find myself renaming the titles of replied e-mails to a client because the subject has changed. I want to make sure they (and I) can go back into their in-box to retrieve what I told them last week. But they can only do that if they’re searching for a meaningful title. This takes a little effort but it’s worth it.

Businesses that send e-emails entitled “The information you requested”—you know you didn’t request anything—are the worst offenders. It’s hard to imagine my business could survive if I sent e-mails like that to prospective clients.

It’s hard to cut through the clutter with the perfectly phrased subject title. But a little “first, do no harm” wisdom is a good place to start.