Setup Your Email to Look Professional

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.

  1. 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:picture-3.png
    This is an example of how the” to” field should appear when someone receives your message:
    picture-2.png
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:
    • bob.hope@mail.com
    • bob.t.hope@mail.com
    • bhope@mail.com
    • bobh@mail.com
    • bob.townes.hope@mail.com
    • bob_hope@mail.com
    • hope.bob@mail.com
    • hope.b@mail.com
    • bob.hope.job.search@mail.com
    • bob.hope.mba@mail.com
    • bob.hope.engineer@mail.com
  6. Use Your Own Domain – If you run www.mysite.com you should be able to send and receive mail from yourname@mysite.com. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Comments

  1. says

    Really good advice for people out there! I’ve found out it always helps to send a test email to myself once I have everything set up, in case I fudged up the signature, my name, or some other important part of my e-mail template.

  2. says

    This is a well thought out post. Professional looking email addresses and professional use of them is a great concept and idea. Its important, especially when putting it on a resume or other related places.

    You mentioned the don’t use the first name. I agree, but have noticed a trend, and I have followed it, to have firstname@mydomain.com, for the actual email address. But in the name area it is always a good idea to put FirstName LastName.

    I’d be curious to hear others thoughts on the firstname@mydomain.com approach, and whether or not they think a different approach is better. For example, what about first initial, lastname such as mmathson@mydomain.com or the corporate style, mark.mathson@mydomain.com.

    I think the firstname, mark@mydomain.com gives a personal touch, and you can give your full name in the other details, including your signature. However, in medium, and large organizations it just isn’t feasible.

    What do you think?

  3. says

    Hi, thanks for the great tips on setting up my very own professional look email.

    I am currently using gmail as my email provider, keeps things organized, and many people already have this saved as my email. It works perfectly fine. I don’t think there is a need to change it to me.

    I will give the template a try, as I tends to start from scratch on every clients correspondences.

    Tuan

  4. Mark Shead says

    @Matt – Sending a test email to yourself is a good idea. It is best if you send it to an account without an address book. Many mail clients will replace the name with whatever you have in your address book, so you might not see what others are seeing.

  5. says

    I have been back in a working environment that gets hundreds of emails a week to plough through, and letters that follow a more professional approach to layout really do get my attention faster and longer.

    One tip I can pass on is that recently I asked all my direct reports to help me by ensuring that each email is about a single topic, and that the subject line clearly describes that topic or matter. This way I can spend much less time tracking requests, decisions, urgent needs etc.

    Wonder what others think?

    Mark Taylor, West Sussex, England

    • says

      Lots of good ideas. I would like to add a few of my own.
      firstname@business.com is ok for small business owners like me, that there is a very unlikely chance that there will be an employee with the same name.

      I also think that if you have a name that can be spelled more than one way, or other name variations too like Robert / Rob/ Bob, that you should setup accounts with the alterations, so not to miss an opportunity.

      Double check your email address’ on your new business cards, email signatures, and where ever else. A second pair of eyes never hurts either.

      Keep established business communications simple, don’t clog them up with logos. pictures, and letter heads. Not only does it make viewing an email on a mobile device somewhat upredicatable, but it takes longer to load.

  6. says

    At work I deal with a number of clients, and usually how they sign the email reflects the sophistication level of their organization management and operation very well. Sometimes it strikes me to see the manager with hundred people under him having no email signature at all. These are usually the people who answer only 1 question out of 10 in the email, don’t use punctuation, spellchecking and Capitalized Words and never return phone calls…

  7. Mark Shead says

    @Wake Up – Email signatures is an interesting thing to look at. I typically only use a signature if I’m writing to someone who doesn’t know me. If they know who I am, I feel it introduces visual noise. I never thought about it appearing unprofessional. On the other hand I hate getting messages with 20 or 30 lines of signature at the bottom containing a full biography and the blessing of the legal department.

  8. says

    @Wake Up and Mark Shead – I feel that an email signature only needs to be concise and doesn’t need to include a lot of details. Put only the essentials. (I feel adding your title and postal address of business is unnecessary and junks things up; Get that information to the person otherwise) You never should have to include your email address because they will already have it from your message header!

    Here is an example of what I think fits the bill and is informative enough not to be intrusive:


    Firstname Lastname
    Company Name

  9. says

    Great suggestions and comments! Another professional thing to do is to list your attachments at the bottom of your message. Especially if it gets printed or saved w/o the attachments, a list of attachments is a handy (and classy) extra that my clients appreciate. I prefer this style:

    Attachments:

    — “file-1.doc” (Microsoft Word document, 123kb)
    — “file-2.pdf” (PDF file, 234kb)

    I use Martin Michel’s excellent Attache droplet to create the list automatically in Mail.app.

    Cheers,
    Paul Lagasse

  10. RJ says

    At the cost of repeating earlier responses; This is a well thought out post and includes some very valid and important tips.

    Many folks think it unnecessary, but my emails have become known for the way it is laid out / formatted

    1. firstname.lastname shows in the ‘sender’ to the receiver

    2. Subject: [Matter or reference]: Specific description of content of the email. Eg: If I am writing an email to an autorepair shop regarding my car the subject would show: [Nissan Maxima GLE, 2003]: Appointment for 60,000mile service

    3. Content: Date is always inserted. (I use Thunderbird and it has a nice extension which inserts the current date on rt click – no need to type the date!) Many folks feel this to be unnecessary, but it has become a habit and IMO, lends to a little ‘professionalism’ to the email.

    4. The receiver is always addressed by name, if known. Eg: Tom, or Harry or Ms Smith – as the case may be and the situation warrants.

    5. Keep the message brief and to the point. I write my email in the same basic format of a letter. I dispense with the need to indent new paragraphs etc. No ‘all lower case’ or ‘all upper case’ since it’s only an email.

    6. Signature:
    Firstname lastname
    |T: 123-456-7890|C: 456-789-0123|F: 789-0123-4567|

    Thank you for an informative article.

  11. says

    The problem with a long signature and showing it only once is that if someone quickly needs your information, they will rely on the fact that you had a signature, but may not remember in which email it was.

    So I wouldn’t agree on sending the sig out only once. I think every message should have it, but I’m also in favor of a short signature. If you have the webspace, set up a contact page with exhaustive info, and a downloadable vCard.

  12. Mark Shead says

    @Arjun – Hm. That is a good point. The problem I run into is when you have an email exchange going back and forth every 2 or 3 minutes and one person has a huge signature and legal agreement at the bottom of their email. It just clutters things up and makes it hard to scan through the previous replies.

  13. says

    Well, personally, when I reply to a message, I do two things:

    1) Only quote the parts necessary to understanding what I’ve written (cutting signatures, regards, greetings etc.)

    2) I top-post, meaning I place the quoted bits above my corresponding reply. This makes for a more logical email, and you don’t have to have overflowing threads.

  14. Phil says

    Back to the first name last name issue. My reasoning for not using my Last name in my email display is the fact that a lot of emails get distributed and forwarded multiple times.

    Let’s say you forward a harmless joke email to a friend who then forwards it on to someone else who then replys back to that person with say a link to something unsavory. That email can be sent over and over to hundreds of people and somewhere in buried in that now unsavory email is your first and last name.

    Not to mention the privacy concerns. With the pace that emails can get replicated who knows who is going to wind up with your first name / last name and email address.

    I know these may be extreme, but in this day and age I’ve elected to keep as much information about myself as private as I possibly can.

  15. says

    My e-mail account is set up with a user name of “first_name last_name” sent from “first_name@my_domain”.

    But when entering an e-mail address at a web site (such as this one), I use something different: their_domain@my_domain. I find that this helps me track and filter spam if the site gets hacked or its database gets misused. The downside is that I have to set up my e-mail service to accept all messages sent to (anything)@my_domain, not just first_name@my_domain. That means it doesn’t filter out spam sent to (random characters)@my_domain, or kickback messages from distant e-mail servers rejecting spam with (random_characters)@my_domain as a spoofed sender address. However, it’s likely that even first_name@my_domain is or will be spoofed at some time, so I think I’m still better off.

  16. says

    @Wayne – That’s an interesting way to set it up. I’d be concerned that you’d get a crazy amount of spam–or worse, your spam settings would have to be so high that you’d miss a great deal of legitimate emails.

    @Daniel – That looks like a good way to do it. I’ve started going to mark.shead@domain.com because if someone knows my name, I don’t have to spell anything else to them over the phone.

  17. says

    @Mark Shead: Yes, I do get a crazy amount of spam, probably about 98%, but I think that’s what most people get. Nearly all of that is filtered out by the built-in Bayesian spam filters in Yahoo Business E-Mail, my e-mail server and domain host. I did need to add a few extra filters on the Yahoo side to delete the “message undeliverable” kickbacks from remote servers when it seemed as if the botnets had put my domain name on their “this is a good domain to spoof” list. About 1 or 2 spam messages per day do make it through to my Yahoo Inbox and then get POP3 downloaded to my PC, but my PC software then catches them.

    As for missing legitimate e-mails, yes, that does happen occasionally, usually because Yahoo’s Bayesian analysis tosses them into the spam bucket. For that reason, I have Yahoo configured not to delete them immediately. I manually sort the spam bucket by subject and look through it quickly to see if anything there isn’t spam. If so, I tell Yahoo it’s “Not Spam”, which puts it into my Inbox.

    I do find it a sad state of affairs that 98% of e-mail is useless traffic. So many routers burning so much power to ship it, then so many servers and PC’s burning so much power to destroy it. It’s as if everyone decided that there was nothing we could do if scrap metal dealers wanted to mine our freeways with explosives, and so we all started driving slow armored vehicles with terrible gas mileage.

  18. alan says

    “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.) ”

    Can you take me through this – cannot find the details from your directions on google
    Many thanks

    • says

      Go to the link and then look for the place where it says “Other Google App Editions”. Choose the standard edition for the free version. The paid version isn’t a bad deal though, so it might be worth looking into as well.

  19. Chelsea says

    My name is a very popular one. No matter what email service I attempt to use, an email address with my name is taken. I really want to get a professional email address, any advice?

  20. Becky says

    Junior Community Services, is the name of my new business a 3rd party employment verification.
    I haven’t set up the email address and this is where I need some feed back. It’s a little too long for email, maybe you can help me.

    Thank you

    • says

      Becky,

      So it sounds like you haven’t purchased the domain yet either? Is that the case? If so, I could recommend a few domain sellers.

      If you have then, I’d recommend looking at Google Apps. It is great for business, non-profit and education.

    • says

      john.smith@johnsmith.com seems a bit awkward. john@johnsmith.com seems a bit better, so that is probably what I’d do. Another option would be something like j@johnsmith.com or js@johnsmith.com. This wouldn’t be too odd because you probably aren’t going to have a bunch of people using the same domain.

      If you are trying to run a business though, I think I’d do john.smith@businessname.com. If you just do john@businessname.com it kind of shows that you aren’t a very big business. Also it helps brand your full name–not just your first name.

    • says

      Rhonda,

      I definitely agree with what Mark Shead said about the personal branding element.

      For the business, I used to prefer first initial last name @domain.com but now have shifted mentality to favor the format of rhonda.lastname@businessname.com. It helps show your full name and is good for the personal and big feel.

      This being said, when it comes down to it, how you do business and the way you make people feel is more important than email address structure. Some of the most successful business people I know still have john@businessname.com formatted emails.

      • Rhonda says

        Thanks. I would like to keep my business website (which I’m still to set up) away from my personal website which I plan to use as an online business card. I’m enrolled into a mentorship program starting this month and also will be attending networking events, so I’m trying to pick the best solution. I might use the rhonda@rhondalastname.com.au only once I’ve set up my personal website and for now I might use my rhonda.chapman@businessname.com.au to make it look easier on the eyes!

        I also want to share with others the cheaper way to manage your business/personal branding email account without paying for hosting.. I’m using Google, and that’s free. People can send email to my @domain.com email but i manage the account through Google by using the forwarding features which make people think I sent it from my @domain.com inbox! I find this very useful!

        • says

          You can also set up Google Apps (which is also free) and handle all the email from your domain through Google without the forwarding.

  21. Edward says

    Which one is more professional? lastname.firstname@gmail.com, firstsyllable.lastname@gmail.com or firstname.lastname.birthdate@gmail.com?
    firstname.lastname@gmail.com is already taken. I couldnt get this address. I need some help. I need a professional email address for my business stuff. And how about yahoo? I can create an account myfirstname.mylastname@yahoo.com format. But I can’t choose one. lastname.firstname@gmail.com or firstname.lastname@yahoo.com?
    Please help. Thanks…

    • says

      Everything you described sounds like it would look professional. I don’t know that I’d put my birthday in there though–just because it is often used to verify information. With a little setup you can get a free Google Apps account and get your own domain for about $10 per year. That way you could have firstname.lastname@yourdomain.com.

      Yahoo is fine as well if you are happy with their services.

  22. says

    What is your advice if I just want one email address for people to use for any questions relating to a business my husband and I are buying into? We own the domain http://www.skipulk.com and I’m thinking of using something like info@skipulk.com, mail@skipulk.com or contact@skipulk.com. I don’t want to have separate email accounts like firstname@skipulk.com or firstname.lastname@skipulk.com because my husband never checks email ;) But, I’m hesitant with the others because I set up info@skipulk.com and when I did a test to my hotmail account it went right into my junk mail. So, I’m looking for something that’s not going to get flagged as spam. Any thoughts how to avoid this? Thanks!

  23. says

    Why not just tell people to wear 1950’s era starched shirts with burlap jeans made by Levi Strauss himself.

    Don’t believe the hype. Be yourself. If it’s in your company’s email, fine. For your own business who cares what they think.

    Have a Merry Christmas out there in Inteeeernet Land.

  24. Jared says

    I know this is a few years old but it still has some really good advice. I find clients that have aol accounts or have confusing email addresses to remember. For smaller organizations, I prefer a first name for the address as it’s easy and you know who you’re talking to. If it’s a larger organization, I guess first letter of first name and last name is more pragmatic but I like seeing a first name.

  25. Adelina says

    @the Mark’s… lol

    Thank you for so much wonderful advice!

    I am known for sending out very important information only. So it is imperative that my address is professional. For many years I used a nickname of Tinyma because he organization knew me by Tiny ma for “mother”. It was more for respect. I keep that for personal E-mails. Tinyma@domain.com

    For my business I use my initials and the business name @ domain.com. It looks like this: alcbusiness@domain.com

    I was receiving so much E-mail for another entity of my business so I came up with a name that pertains to that type only…. I use my first and last name initials, then the entity name, followed by a number to represent a significance for those who work on that project only. It looks like this: acentityname#@domain.com.

    Now I am starting another business that is more public friendly without me having to worry about my personal information. However, it has major significance to me! Business Name@domain.com for business purposes.

    After reading your responses, I may use a professional address of first name.last name@gmail.com. This will be used for all professional E-mail pertaining to the professional contacts that I will be working with.

    Whew! Great information… Thank you for he advice!

    AC

  26. Alex says

    Thanks for the advice! I was having trouble with the names on gmail cause all the named I wanted was taken and I needed a professional name for my email address. This helped me out!

  27. Glitter says

    I disagree with #2, that is what the sender name is for and it is actually easier to look at the sender name compared to the email address itself.

  28. Christina says

    I want to make a comment on the ‘long signature’ part. I work in a business that does extensive email, but there are many times where email isn’t enough (I need a phone number so I can cut to the chase and get the details of their projects) and frequently involves mail (so your office address if frequently helpful) … Personally – I find it priceless when someone emails and has a ‘long’ signature that is business card style. Tell me the ways to contact you and who you are – I get tons of emails from people I don’t know every day, and frequently they leave out that information. Put it in the signature and you’ll never forget.

    *That said – I do agree it is super annoying when people have loads of pictures/quotes/etc. that is irrelevant to any useful business. Name, Organization, Phone number, Fax (if you actively use it), Address, Website. … and if you have to – ONE social networking site. (I also hate when they have twitter, facebook, googleplus, linked in, and six other websites that I can see them through)

    • says

      Good point. It probably makes sense to include more information on an initial email than it does when you switch to conversation mode and are emailing back and forth.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>