Updated: Mar 6, 2020
What are your professional emails portraying you as?
No doubt, you want the answer to be something positive. Personable. Polished. Prolific. Powerful…
The list goes on, and all throughout the alphabet too, not just in the P’s. Depending on your employer and job description, you might want to come across as attentive, bold, caring, definitive, evocative or fascinating.
Those are good goals, no doubt. But if you answered with, “I want my professional emails to portray me as…”, you’re missing the actual question, whether accidentally or otherwise.
The question isn’t what you want to come across. It’s how you do come across. Right now. In established and present reality.
The answer might not be the one you want, but you can change it from this point onward with a few simple tricks.
No doubt, you send more than one professional email a day and for more than one professional reason. So it only makes sense that there isn’t a complete set of one-size-fits-all rules to apply here.
But these are about as close to all-encompassing as you can get:
Read over your email before you send it to make sure you didn’t make any embarrassing errors.
Make sure there’s enough paragraph breaks in your message to keep information from getting lost.
Include just the right amount of information necessary to accomplish your goal – not too much and not too little.
That last one is a big one. Yet “just the right amount of information necessary to accomplish your goal” is exceptionally subjective. That’s why it’s best to first establish the purpose of your professional email.
Is it a marketing email? A follow-up email? Something else?
Each one has its own risks and therefore its own set of strong suggestions if you don’t want to come across as a pointless, time-wasting jerk.
Whatever the exact purpose of your professional emails or email, the larger purpose is no doubt to convey information. That means your goal should be to highlight that information in a way that makes people want to respond. And without ripping your head off.
For instance, with a marketing email where you’re reaching out to an unknown person or entity, you need to keep in mind that nobody has time to read long-winded unsolicited communications. So try to keep it to a single computer screen’s worth of text.
In other words, if your recipient was to read it on a Macbook or PC, don’t make them scroll.
Or are you checking in to make sure that someone is doing what they’re supposed to do or got what they were supposed to get? In that case, make it a phone screen's size.
While you’re at it, start and end on a pleasant note so you don’t come across as terse or unfeeling. For instance...
I hope you’re doing well so far in 2019.
I want to make sure you got the print copy of my intensely well-researched historical fiction novel Maiden America that I sent last week. If not, let me know and we’ll try again.
Have a great week!
Just like that, you’ve established that you need information. Better yet, you did it without wasting your time or “Heather’s.”
Short, sweet and to the point wins again!
Obviously, not every professional email can be so succinct. But applying this general principle to your electronic communications can make them much more effective – simply by portraying you as someone who's considerate of someone else’s time.