Digital communication is fast becoming the preferred method of communication for many professionals. If you are like most of us, you likely spend 2-5 hours every day at work (and another two hours at home) sending, reading, and managing email.
With all that time and energy expenditure, how likely are you to ignore certain messages for one reason or another? On the flip side, how often are your message to getting lost in the masses?
A Bit About Emails
Because email involves neither face-to-face nor voice-to-voice communication, it is imperative your email conveys a positive impression. Especially for initial contact, how your email is structured can make-or-break whether it is opened, read, or responded to. And while subsequent emails can be less formal and structured, that initial contact must be thoroughly crafted, overwhelmingly professional and not give a hint of spam. (That last part is especially important because with the rise of more advanced filters, your correspondence may not even reach the inbox.)
Becoming adept with email is one of the most useful professional skills you can develop. Below are a baker’s dozen tips for sending emails that will put you and your business in a positive light.
- Start with a professional email address. People quickly form biases about your business based on address alone. If possible, use a domain-level, branded email, like firstname.lastname@example.org, the gold standard for emails. If that’s not possible it’s good to note that among third-party providers, Gmail ranks highest for professionalism. Though, it lags far behind the ideal of a branded email.
- Give thought to your subject line. Strive for a subject line that is not too vague or too lengthy. If you use something catchy, make sure it relates to content. If it does not, you will just anger your recipient. If you are asking for a response, consider using actionable words in the subject line. Rather than using “Spring Newsletter” as a subject line to your colleagues, consider using “Newsletter Approval Needed by June 2 at 4 PM” to drive your purpose home.
- Use an appropriate salutation. For recipients you don’t know personally, use a formal salutation like “Dear.” For familiar recipients, you can use casual salutations such as “Hi” or “Hello.” If sending to a group you don’t know, use “To Whom it May Concern.” For those you know, “Hello Everyone” is a friendly, casual greeting.
- Get to the point quickly. Consider the purpose of your email and get to your point in the first sentence or two. Consider how roughly half of all emails are now read on a cell phone. No one wants to read a lengthy document on limited screen space.
- Use familiar and appropriately sized fonts. Resist the urge to get fancy with fonts. Not all fonts are email-safe and legible. Use traditional fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana, Tahoma, Georgia, Palatino, Trebuchet, and Calibri. Most people prefer sans-serif fonts. Use a font size between 10-12 points. Smaller fonts are difficult to read; larger fonts are overwhelming.
- Use black text and a clean, white background. Black text on white backgrounds is legible and professional. Wild colors and fancy fonts look spammy and can trigger spam filters that make your efforts fruitless.
- Use visual elements to break up content. Bullet points can help you organize content and your reader quickly scan the email. Bold or italic fonts can also be used to highlight important details. Use them sparingly though. Everything is not crucial and large blocks of italic text can be difficult to read.
- Conclude your email with a call to action and sign off. End your email with action-oriented text that follows a natural progression of your message and an appropriate closing. Never fail closings include: Regards, Sincerely, All the Best, Thank You, and Thanks in Advance.
- Develop a professional looking signature. Be sure to include your name, title, company name, phone number, website, and email address. You can also include a company logo, but make sure this is tastefully sized (no more than 200 x 200 pixels).
- Proof, proof, proof. Nothing says unprofessional or induces a bad impression faster than typos and grammar mistakes. Before you hit the send button, make sure files are attached if you are sending them, recipients are correct, and names spelled correctly. As someone who has an unusual spelling for my name, I notice immediately when I receive email with my name spelled correctly.
- Use the delay feature for an added layer of comfort. We have all done it: sent an email and immediately noticed an error, like a name spelling, missed attachment, or grammatical booboo. One way to give yourself some grace is by using the delay delivery feature of your email server.
- Be considerate of the inbox. Do not flood everyone’s inbox with an email that is best directed to one or two appropriate people. On the flip side, if you receive a mass email, think twice about choosing “reply to all” unless it is necessary.
- Make sure email is the correct vehicle. If your message requires the creation of an 800-word document and lengthy discussion, consider picking up the phone or scheduling a Zoom call. No one wants to spend hours creating and reading through emails that could be more efficiently handled in person.