We’re all working professionals, right? You’ve used email before, right? Email. You know, the bit of content that you send out using Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, and other web programs? Well what I’ve encountered over the many years of sending emails out back-and-forth is that there are many folks who just don’t get how to send emails. I’m not talking about sending it your parents or your friends, but when you’re sending it for work, correspondence, or perhaps just to get your next job. So here’s a list of 10 things you can do to be more professional sounding and have some credibility…even when dealing with colleagues and folks you have a business rapport with.
1. Have a clear subject line.
Doesn’t matter whether you have a good rapport with someone or it’s a co-worker or whatever. Please don’t simply have a one word subject line unless it makes sense. A subject line like “fix” or “one more thing” or perhaps “need” doesn’t help tell me what you’re sending me. Do the recipient a favor and spend a couple more seconds to type in a thoughtful and succinct subject line so that it can be filed away and easily found. If you need an additional report from a colleague, then simply put “Need executive summary for report” and that will give the recipient an understanding of how to prioritize your needs.
2. Don’t use email wallpaper backgrounds.
You know who I’m talking about. They’re the ones that likes to customize everything on their email when they start a new job or get new software. All just to add their own flavor and brand to the company. So while everyone that uses Outlook has the default settings, then there’s that one person with the cloud background or the other Outlook theme that totally distorts everything when an email is sent. Wallpaper backgrounds, unless used by everyone in the company or in your organization do nothing to help show you’re professional. You’re representing a brand now so while you’re an individual, you need to understand that you reflect on what the company stands for. Lose the colorful wallpaper and save it for your personal use to send to your friends.
3. When forwarding a long chain of emails to someone new, make sure you tell them why they’re receiving it – you need to show VALUE.
Have you ever realized that you’re forwarded an email from a colleague about a certain issue or topic going on in the company or industry and multiple people have contributed to the conversation string. Just imagine how painful it can be to scour through that long email threat just trying to make heads and tails of it. Now you realize what you’re doing to other people who you forward those conversations to. If you think that people are going to understand your entire dialogue with multiple people and thoughts, then you’re wrong. They need to understand the context and background. So make sure that when you send it to them, include more than a simple “FYI” or “Here’s the details”. Explain what the emails is about. Summarize it. You’ll help smooth out the transition.
4. Avoid using uncommon fonts. Stick with the basics. And DON’T choose a color other than black.
Chances are that you’ll be using Outlook or some deviation of it to send out your emails. If you’re using webmail or other email platforms, then you’re probably in the same boat. Make sure that you’re using some of the most common fonts that are shared across all computers/systems. Stick with Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Georgia or a couple others. Don’t try and be fancy with your emails. The point is to make sure people SEE what you want to write. And don’t try and make your font color anything unique. There’s nothing professional about having pink font color on a white background. Stick with black. Black is professional. You’re professional. See the relationship?
5. Have your emails be in rich-text or plain-text.
I would say this is probably a good way to go so you don’t worry about how your formatting on your email looks to the recipient. Maybe some email clients just don’t see bullet points or underlined words the same. Best to imagine yourself with going with low-tech barebones means to get your message seen.
6. Don’t forget to include a signature.
How many times have you received an email from a business professional and only days later, you need to get in touch with them so you look at their emails for the contact information but ‘lo and behold, there wasn’t anything there. You need to get a background on someone? Best place is their signature. But if there’s no signature withÂ your phone number, email address, how are people going to know how to reach you? Moreover, what’s your title and how do you spell your last name? These things can be important in the business world. Even in your office, signatures can help newbies figure out who does what in the company faster. Oh, and one other thing. If you’re going to have a company-wide signature format, make sure that everyone follows this standard exactly. No one is exempt…no matter who they are: the president, VPs, managers, and everyone below that.
7. Make sure that what you write on the email is relevant to the majority of your audience.
Do not talk about pointless things in an email if there are more than two people who will see it. If you have five people all with different needs and objectives, don’t talk about your dog if only one other person understands what you’re talking about. It’s unprofessional, no one probably cares, and why can’t you address that in another email instead of wasting space for other people to read about? Moreover, the email may be saved by other folks, so you want them to see what type of drivel you include?
8. If your email becomes really long, perhaps you should meet in-person or chat by phone.
Hopefully you’re not finding yourself writing an email that mimics “War & Peace”, but if you think you could win a Pulitzer Prize or even be a contender for a book on tape, then you might want to scrap the email and get on the phone with the recipient of your email and set up a face-to-face or phone meeting. It makes things much easier and less distracting. Less chance of any misunderstandings and you can document in a Word file.
9. When you’re attaching files, make sure people know what they are – and they’re a decent file size.
People love to send files in emails. But often they don’t know how large the files are and are oblivious on what’s going on. Most email clients will allow you to attach up to 10MB of files to an email. This is to help prevent clogging of bandwidth. The larger the file size, the longer it will take for your email to reach their recipients. When you send files over, make sure you list what they are so the receiver can understand why they’re getting it.
10. Punctuate, grammar, and spelling count.
Do you sound professional and grown-up if you’re misspelling words, forgetting how to punctuate and writing incorrectly? I sure hope you care about how you’re writing because if you use words that doesn’t make you sound smart, then you’re going to have a real tough time building up credibility when people meet you in person for the first time. Another thing to consider is not to use abbreviations unless all your recipients know what the hell it is. If you use FTW, do you think everyone knows what it stands for? What about EOD? Probably best to write it out, then abbreviate. We all don’t know what you’re thinking so make it easy, okay?
Those are ten tips that I think will make you sound smarter and help build some credibility with your peers. What other ways would you recommend or suggest?
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