Presenting Yourself Via E-Mail

As a web manager for several educational sites I receive a lot of e-mail requesting "assistance" with various topics. Most all of the mail comes from people I of course don't know. My "first impression" of the person at the other end of the wire is created from the presentation of content in his or her e-mail posting.

My correspondence has caused me to think about the presentation of self through one's own e-mail postings. I recently read an e-mail cover letter sent by an individual applying for a job. It read something like, "Hi, I'm applying for that job in today's paper. My resume is attached." No Dear Sir, Madam, or even a To Whom It May Concern. Just, "Hi". There was no indication as to which job for which she was applying and no discussion about her qualifications. This hastily written note was destined no to make a good first impression.

Here are ten things one might consider before posting an inquiring about a job, sending out a resume, asking for assistance, seeking resources for a project, or any other situation in which your professional image is formed by the way you present yourself by e-mail. Remember, chances are that the person on the other end of the line has no idea who you are,

  1. Use a formal greeting in your professional correspondence such as Dear Sir, Madam, or To Whom it May Concern. Use last names such as Dear Mr. Brown.And don't use first names informally like "Hi Bill!"
  2. Compose an e-mail letter off line and set it aside for awhile before you post. Chances are you'll go back and find you've omitted material or said too much, used poor grammar, or included awkward wording. Remember when to use capital letters and when not to.
  3. Spell check all your documents.This may be obvious but I'm surprised how many people don't. Always spell check - even when writing personal correspondence.
  4. Avoid adding attachments unless the person you are contacting expects to receive one. Attachments have become the recognized virus carrier in cyber space and are often deleted along with an unopened message.
  5. When you do send an attachment make sure you've attached it! (See the Charles Berman article in the reference section below.)
  6. Don't type your message in caps. It makes you look like a government agency demanding back payment on taxes. A message in caps is the equivalent of yelling.
  7. Include your telephone number and both your surface and e-mail address.
  8. Be brief and to the point in your correspondence. The journalist's mantra of who, what, where, when, and how applies to good e-mail postings as well.
  9. Keep a copy of your e-mail for future reference.
  10. Remember that nothing can substitute for face to face communication when it comes to letting others know about yourself.

When it comes to general professional e-mail etiquette.

  1. Don't forward a colleague's e-mail without his/her permission.You wouldn't want your messages passed on without your knowledge and others don't either.
  2. Humor is sometimes a nice addition in a personal message. But don't use computer emoticons.(i.e. smiley face) in your professional correspondence.
  3. Check your address field to see to whom you are posting your message. Don't be embarrassed when your e-mail goes to someone to whom you don't intend including in your post. Errors in Reply often happen when you Reply All and not Reply to the originator of the message.
  4. Be sure to check your e-mail often and respond if you are in a work setting where e-mail is a primary tool for communication.
  5. Finally, don't forward those messages warning about viruses.Most are hoaxes.

References:

Here are some additional readings that provide insight into good practices in the writing of e-mail for professional purposes.

A Brief E-Mail Primer. To help you stay on the good side of the Internet community, this primer tells you everything you need to know about the Netiquette involved in sending e-mail. To put it simply follow the three B's": be good, be brief, be gone.

"The Claris Guide to Email Etiquette" with the use of email comes a whole new language, set of unspoken rules, and responsibilities - what is commonly known as Email.

Do You Know Your Email Manners? Whether you're filing a complaint with an organization, a businessperson writing to a client, or a job seeker sending an application letter, it pays to know your email manners. Here are some basic tips.

E-mail Etiquette: Training & Staff Development Resources. Even with the best of intentions, misunderstandings are likely to occur in almost any type of communication. It is possible to repair glitches in a face-to-face dialog or even a telephone conversation before any lasting damage occurs. And so, it is hoped that the guidelines offered herein will help reduce the misunderstandings and other communication challenges that email brings.

E-mail Etiquette (Netiquette) By Chris Pirillo Certain unspoken conventions are very important to keep in mind when you're composing e-mail messages. If you were a novice before, you need to be a
professional now. (part of the chapter )

Email Etiquette Includes four parts: Part 1: Why Is It Important? Part 2: Manners and Tone Part, 3: Be Concise and Be Professional, Part 4: Spelling, Grammar, and Attachments

Good email practice This University of Bristol Computing Service set of guidelines is designed for professional correspondence. It has many things to keep in mind in our own correspondence.

Mr. E-mail Manners offers some advice by Charles Berman. According to a recent Microsoft survey people too often forget to actually connect attachments to a message, seriously confusing the recipient by referring to the missing attachment in the body of the message.