You might have seen the show What Not to Wear. Each week, two fashion experts give someone a makeover. They ruthlessly replace clothes that are outdated or don’t fit with a new wardrobe that creates a better image.
Could your email use a makeover? These tips will help you present a professional image.
Make Your Subjects Specific
“The average office worker spends 49 minutes managing email daily, with top management devoting four hours a day to the task,” says Nancy Flynn of the ePolicy Institute.
With that volume, a message headed “Calendar update” might get lost. One about “Marketing meeting moved to 12/1” is more likely to be read.
Your subject line should answer one of four key questions, according to Deborah Dumaine:
• What’s this about?
• Why should I read this?
• What’s in this for me?
• What am I being asked to do?
Present Yourself as Trustworthy
People are more likely to open mail from senders they recognize and trust.
If your personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, you should open another account for work- or school-related use.
Watch Your Tone
Most people think of email as more formal than a phone call, but less formal than a letter. The ideal tone, says writing expert Dianna Booher, is “somewhere between stuffed shirt and t-shirt.”
Criticisms delivered by email often seem harsher than intended. Bad news is best delivered in person.
Humor—especially sarcasm—can be easily misinterpreted. Several studies have found that those messages meant to be funny are misread nearly half the time.
One of the officers convicted of beating Rodney King sent this email from his patrol car right after the incident: “Oops. I haven’t beaten anyone so bad in a long time.” A transcript of the message was used at his trial.
Before you hit Send, consider whether the email could come back to haunt you. Also double-check the To: line. It’s bad enough to use company email to criticize the boss. Accidentally including the boss on the list of recipients could end your career.
Use Spell Check
Some people think, “It’s just email. Spilling and pungswayshun don’t matter.”
However, a palmOne survey found that bad grammar, misspellings, and disconnected arguments gave 81 percent of those surveyed “negative feelings” about the senders.
Find Free Email Resources
- Take an interactive quiz: How Formal Does My Email Have to Be?
- Download a checklist for revising your emails.
- View Step Away from the Keyboard: How to Respond to a Rude Email: