Mind your email Ps and Qs

Email has a direct impact on professional image, reputation and success. Here are some tips to remember before hitting the "send" button.

Working as a professional, of course, requires professionalism in everything we do. We take pride in our designation and it’s reflected in the way we dress, speak and act. However, many of us may be forgetting — or simply have not thought about — how we appear to others in the most important and frequently used way that we communicate and present ourselves these days: email.

Business uses this one-dimensional, sensory-deprived tool for extremely diverse purposes: to manage projects, collaborate on ideas, build relationships and coordinate tee-off times. We are using email to replace conversation. Unsurprisingly, then, email has a direct impact on professional image, reputation and success. It is amazing that many companies have not proactively educated their teams on how to use this tool to enhance their image.

Here are some tips to remember when writing all-important professional emails.

Format an email signature on each of your devices. Do not confuse a signature with an image of your autograph. At a minimum, a proper email signature includes your first and last name, company name and a telephone number. It provides an easy way for the recipient to pick up the phone and call you if he or she needs to clarify anything in your email. Think of your email signature in the same way you think of letterhead. A document issued on letterhead rather than plain paper appears more credible even though the content is the same. This is also true of emails with a proper signature. Emails that don’t include this appear unfinished or unpolished and aren’t professional.

Take advantage of the subject line. I cannot begin to count the number of emails I have received with no subject line or the wrong subject line. This field is intended to allow the recipient to easily prioritize your message. But use it wisely and be specific. "Sales Meeting" is poor and ineffective but "Today’s Sales Meeting’s Telephone Number Changed" works much harder.

Email is not texting or #tweeting. Do not use abbreviations and please, absolutely no smiley-face emoticons. Can you imagine receiving a paper document from a professional who printed or drew a smiley face on it? It just wouldn’t happen. If you need a way to ensure the recipient knows you were joking, you really need to rethink whether this is really what you want to say. If it is, be transparent and type "<smile>" or "<joking>" at the end of the statement and skip LOL ROTFL.

Ensure there’s structure over substance. The structure and layout of an email are extremely important. After all, if the presentation is not inviting, it may not be read. And if it’s not read, it doesn’t really matter what you wrote. For example, how likely are you to read an email that is 15 to 20 lines in one continuous paragraph? Better to use complete sentences and short paragraphs that consist of no more than two or three sentences. Don’t indent the first line of a paragraph and leave a space between each paragraph.

Announce attachments. Always announce within the body of the email any file you have attached. Do not apply a policy of including vCards, company logo or signature images on all your emails. This makes the email appear as if it has an attachment and diminishes the value of the attachment notification icon. This abuse is so prevalent that many attached files are missed.

Start right, end right. Begin all your emails with the recipient’s name. Don’t start with the body of the email. End all emails with a simple "Take care," "Thanks" or "With respect." Starting with a name and ending with a simple closing establishes a professional yet friendly tone.

About the Author

Dwayne Bragonier


Dwayne Bragonier, CPA, CA, CA•IT, is president of BAI Bragonier & Associates Inc. and the founding architect of the BAIWay. He can be reached at dwayne.bragonier@bragonier.com

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