If you find yourself guilty of dashing off emails without even thinking about them, take heed. Communication through email plays a major role in how Americans perceive and judge others personally and professionally. Many judge a person’s intelligence and reputation based on his or her writing style, tone and language used in email.
However, it’s relatively easy to burnish your professional email reputation. Most of that effort involves slowing down and making the concerted effort to do email right.
Consider these email tips to help boost your own professional reputation:
- Write a clear headline. The headline identifies what the email is all about. A good headline influences whether the reader may want to open it or not. And, the subject helps readers search through old emails to retrieve valuable information. If the email thread is long, consider changing the headline when the subject matter changes so you can retrieve it more easily at a future date.
- Select a professional address. If you’re at a company, use its business email address. If not, choose one that identifies you by name and not some nickname or reference to your likes or dislikes.
- Always include a signature. Don’t make it difficult for readers to try to reach you by phone or snail mail. Include your name, company, title, address, phone number(s) and any other pertinent email address. You might want to add your photo to make your email more personal.
- Greet readers appropriately. Use a professional salutation, such as “Dear,” “Hi” or “Hello.” Everyone likes to see or hear their name, so be sure to write “Hi Sue” or “Hello Bob.” Watch slang, laid-back expressions; they are too familiar and aren’t very professional.
- Introduce yourself. Give the recipient some context about who you are and why you are emailing. A formal, extensive biography isn’t necessary; just be sure you’re clear about your identity.
- Don’t “dial drunk” or “email angry.” Before hitting send, pause and re-read your message. How would you feel about getting your own message? If you’re angry about something, sleep on it and amend your message in the morning. You’ll be glad you did, believe me. Just remember how easy it is to forward an angry email to anyone or everyone—and how difficult it is to take it back!
- Don’t make me laugh. Keep “humor” to a minimum. Emails are not a very good way to convey humor; the sender might not understand your wit or sarcasm and be offended.
- Getting back to you. Make it a habit to try to reply to every email. Senders deserve a response, and a timely one at that.
- Check and double check. Before pressing send, be certain your message is coherent, clear and concise. And check for errors, especially in spelling. Nothing says “unprofessional” more than a typo.
- Is it you? Be certain you’ve selected the correct recipient. In haste, it’s easy to select the wrong “Robert” when your email software quickly suggests a name in the dropdown window.
- Can you keep a secret? We’re all learning that emails and other electronic communication last forever, even when “deleted.” Don’t write emails that you may later regret. Who knows whom your recipient might forward your email to?
- Your tone matters. Just like humor, your tone of voice can be misunderstood. Soften your language to ensure that you don’t come across as negative, harsh, abrupt, etc. Don’t forget to add please and thank you, too.
- Don’t “reply all” unless absolutely necessary. Think before you “reply all.” Does your response really need to be read by everyone on the list? Choosing wisely will keep from annoying others on a long “copy to” list.