Making good first impressions via Email

11 Ways to Improve Email First Impressions

  1. Subject Line: In your subject line, give the recipient a reason to read your message. When replying, change the subject line if the topic changes. Make it easy to forward.
  2. Be specific: Know what you want and communicate it clearly. Ask yourself “what do I want the reader to do immediately after reading this email?”  Be prepared for the question: “How can I help you?”
  3. Ask for Action: Others cannot always guess what we want. What specific action are you looking for?
  4. Gratitude: If someone agrees to help you, show your appreciation. If the person declines, for whatever reason, thank him or her for considering your request.
  5. Human-ify: Set up your e-mail software so your name appears with your address.
  6. Domain communicates: It is more professional to use a business domain (@iese.net or @[myname].com) than generic services like yahoo, hotmail or gmail.
  7. Example of a professional signature

    Signature: Use a professional signature. Here are some good signature examples over at Wisestamp.)

  8. CC: Use “cc” only when all recipients know each other. Use “bcc” when sending to a group, to maintain individual anonymity. After “to” put your e-mail address and then put all recipient addresses in the “bcc” line.
  9. (Please) Follow up kindly:  I would love to go to bed knowing that I have responded to every email. I would not sleep much if I did. Please follow up with a copy of the previous email…  not “sent email over a week ago and still waiting for response”.
  10. Keep it Short: If you find yourself in a fourth and fifth paragraph maybe email is not the right medium.  Perhaps you could pick up the phone.  If you find you are making 2 or 3 different requests… perhaps, ask for the one most important (or easiest for giver?).
  11. Don’t Send:
    1. If it is to schedule a meeting. Use doodle or a calendar management application such as google calendar.  10 people looking for a mutually convenient date via email will generate 50 responses, frustration and no meeting.
    2. If it is in anger.  The words will still be there years later when you are no longer angry.
    3. If it is to criticize. Best by phone or in person. Or not at all.
Any other ways we can improve email?  What is your bugbear when it comes to use or mis-use of email?

4 Comments

  1. Nicely put Conor and thanks for sharing this.
    The only thing I would like to add is when is best to use email. I work with Clients to improve process and system effectiveness. One of my clients was in a complicated situation as the Quality Manager missed a email that he was only cc’d on, however there was action for him. He was receiving between 200 – 400 emails per day so it’s very likely that some emails would be missed.We came up with some very interesting solutions, the long and short of it, how to keep emails quantities down so when they are used, they are effective and powerful and especially along the lines on how best to communicate with, which you have shared above. I also find the same with too many meetings.

    1. I’ve been away from email pretty much all week until now (Friday 5pm) and there is an accumulation of requests, changes of dates, interesting info… and it is overwhelming… too much email…

    1. When I begin my communication classes I often start by saying that the single most important step in communication is the move from “what I want to say” towards “what you need to hear”. Beginning to see your message and your medium as the audience is going to perceive it is a big step for many. Email is same – I know what I want, but I need to articulate it and frame it in a way that reaches you 😉

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