E-mail has become a vital form of communication in the world. As you begin to grow your presence online e-mail will continue to become an important part of how you communicate. Unfortunately, many people today are confused when it comes to conveying themselves in a professional manner when communicating via e-mail. This article will help you to use e-mail in an effective and professional manner.
Anatomy of an E-mail
An e-mail is made up of several parts: To, CC, BCC, From, Subject, Body.
To: The "To" field should contain the e-mail address of the person or people you are sending the message to.
CC: "Carbon Copy" should contain the e-mail address of other parties to whom the e-mail might be of interest, but to whom it is not specifically addressed.
BCC: "Blind Carbon Copy" is like the Carbon Copy field, however the e-mail address is not visible to those who receive it. When sending out a bulk e-mail to unrelated parties you should use the "BCC" field to protect the privacy of those on the mailing list.
From: The "From" field will contain your own e-mail address. This is usually handled automatically by your e-mail client.
Subject: The "Subject" line should include a meaningful description about the message. You should not leave this blank and something as simple as "Hi" generally does not suffice.
Body: The "Body" contains the main content of the e-mail.
Your e-mail address actually says a lot. If you're trying to be professional, your address should look professional too. While a certain handle may be alright for online games and personal correspondence, it may not have the desired impact when used in the professional realm. Also, be mindful of the domain that your e-mail comes from. Many internet providers supply e-mail accounts to their subscribers. However, when you cancel the service your e-mail account is often cancelled too. By tying this account to your business you unknowingly made yourself a hostage to your internet provider. Free e-mails such as Gmail can follow you no matter where you go, and can be considered semi-professional. Ideally though, if you own your own domain you should probably use an e-mail address hosted there. If you do use your own domain you can also setup multiple accounts for different purposes, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, which may help at an organization level depending on your needs. All of the hosting packages at Epic Construct come with e-mail.
You should always be polite in your e-mails. Use "please" and "thank you" when appropriate and mean it. Don't use ALL CAPITALS as it implies that you're shouting. Additionally, you shouldn't use all lower-case letters either. Your e-mails should follow proper grammar and spelling. It should not contain acronyms that you'd see in a chat room or on a text message. Be concise, people are busy so you should get to the point as quickly as possible without leaving out any important information.
You should include a simple signature at the bottom of each of your e-mails. It should contain any appropriate contact information and should not contain images or cute phrases. You'll want to program this into your e-mail client to be automatically added to all of your e-mails. If you use a logo as your signature, it should be hosted remotely and loaded with CSS, not included as an attachment to the email.
Auto responders are useful, but only when used correctly. If you are going to be unable to reply to your e-mail for an extended period you should setup an auto responder to explain the situation and provide emergency contact information if applicable. You should make it clear that the message is automated, you should not try to deceive people into thinking that you are actually replying to an e-mail when you aren't.
Before you Send
When you're ready to send the e-mail you should first proofread it and fix any errors. If you have to proofread it multiple times you may want to resize your viewport to shift the words on the page, this gives you a fresh look at the content and makes it easier to catch errors you may have missed the first time through. You should double check that you've included any attachments. Check that you are sending it from the correct e-mail address. If you use a mail client that supports multiple addresses it is easy to accidently send a business e-mail from a personal address and vice versa. Also check that you included the correct e-mail address of everybody you meant to send it to. You should not fill out the recipient addresses until you are ready to actually send the e-mail, this will ensure that you don't accidentally send it before you're ready.
If you follow the above guidelines your e-mails will be more professional, and you will earn more respect. The written word is slowly becoming a lost art. Your attention to detail in this regard will certainly have a positive impact on any of your online endeavors.