Taking a little time to think about how your email looks from the standpoint of the recipient can go a long ways toward presenting a professional image. Here are eight things you should check to make sure, that when you send an email, it conveys the image you want.
- Setting Up Your Name to Show up Instead of Your Address – When you send an email, it should show your name in the “from” field. Sometimes people have it set to just show their email address. The worst setup is when it shows something like “NA.”
This is an example of how your emails should not look to someone else:
This is an example of how the” to” field should appear when someone receives your message:
- Include Your Full Name – Some people like to use just their first name, but when the person receiving your message is scanning a list and sees “Tom,” it may be difficult for them to know which “Tom” the message is from.
- Don’t Use a Nickname – I get emails from SmoothGeek and similar names. It is frustrating to try to figure out who the person really is. There might be a reason to use a nickname if you are concerned about privacy, but be prepared for people not to take you seriously because there doesn’t seem to be a real person standing behind the email.
- Avoid Complicated Formatting – Keep in mind that the email that looks really nicely formatted on your email client may get butchered by your recipient’s.
- Use Something Professional for the Username – EvilGoddess@gmail.com might have seemed like a good idea at the time. It might be great for your friends who get the joke, but someone who doesn’t know you may not draw the same conclusions. Here are some ideas to help get you started:
- Use Your Own Domain – If you run www.mysite.com you should be able to send and receive mail from firstname.lastname@example.org. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. If you like Gmail, you can get a customized version of the service for free by signing up here. The instructions are easy to follow. (If there is interest in seeing a walk through of how to use this, please leave a message in the comments and I’ll try to put something together.)
- Use Templates for Email – If you find yourself sending similar emails, you should probably invest in a template program. (MailTemplate for OS X is what I use.) Instead of starting each email from scratch a template will let you create a reply and automatically fill in certain fields (recipient name, etc.). You can then customize the message, but it is a lot easier to avoid mistakes if you aren’t starting from scratch each time. For example, I use this when people unsubscribe from the Email RSS feed. It grabs their email address from the notification messages and pre-populates an email with a message thanking them for trying the email list. While it would only take a few moments to write the email myself, the template helps make sure I don’t make a silly mistake and it is fast enough that I don’t put the task off for later.
- Avoid Long Signatures – Two to four lines should be more than enough. Resist the urge to include several paragraphs or your biography. Include a link. If someone wants to know more, they can follow it without cluttering up your messages. If you do go with a longer signature, don’t include it on your replies. Let people see it once, but don’t keep throwing it in their faces for the rest of the exchange.