Since we all deal with so many pieces of email everyday, I think it’s important to be able to use it efficiently and effectively. Many people don’t use email in a professional capacity very often because their job doesn’t call for it; if this is you, it might be helpful to go over the basics of appearing professional in email. Here are some tips:
1. Make sure your display name is YOUR name. (This is the name that pops up in the recipient’s inbox.) It is incredibly annoying to see the name “John Smith” in my inbox… open it up and start reading a query for a sweet romance, wondering why this guy John is writing women’s romance, then get to the end of the letter and have it signed, “Mary Smith.” You need to have your own email address that you don’t share with anyone. It doesn’t matter what the actual email address is, as long as the display name is your first and last name. I’ve harped on this before because it seems so obvious in a business context, and yet so many people don’t get it.
2. Put something appropriate in the subject line. You don’t need your name there; that’s what the display name is for. When figuring out your subject line, imagine your recipient needing to file that email and then easily access it later. The subject line should be something BRIEF that will help the person recognize the content of the email. Don’t be too generic, i.e. “Quick Note.” Be more specific: “Update on my manuscript” or “Query: Romantic Suspense.”
3. Get to the point quickly. Again, in the interest of being kind to your recipient, keep your email as brief as possible, while avoiding being too curt. With most people in business handling dozens to hundreds of emails a day, this is becoming more and more crucial. But at the same time…
4. Make it personal. Include a real greeting and a nice closing. If you like, a brief bit of small talk is also appropriate and helps to keep your email from seeming terse or demanding. (“Hope you enjoyed your holiday” or “Appreciate your help!”)
5. Clearly state what you need from the recipient if you need a response. Don’t write a six-paragraph email with questions sprinkled throughout, and expect your reader to find and answer them. Make it easy for your recipient to understand what’s expected of them.
6. Use real English. This should go without saying, but in business correspondence, avoid “texting” abbreviations and lazy shortcuts like refusing to capitalize and punctuate appropriately. Write in complete sentences, and don’t use ALL CAPS.
Your turn: What are some other tips you have for email? Is there anything people do in email that really annoys you?