Monday, August 25, 2008

What does your email say about you?

I'm hardly the Emily Post of the Internet, but I can give you some pointers on how to communicate with people you don't know via email. Why am I qualified? I receive hundreds of emails from people I don't know. Some are trying to sell me something; others have a question or want information from me.

I love hearing from my readers, but I do delete some emails without responding based simply on the presentation. My logic is that I'm in the communication business and I want to work with people who take all forms of communication seriously. I can overlook an occasional misspelling and word left out--we all make mistakes. But I truly do not have time to decipher emails that are riddled with errors and can barely be understood because of poor organization and format.

If you are sending an email to someone you don't know, you certainly want to make them feel you are someone worthy of their time and attention. Here's what I (and most people) love to see:

My name spelled correctly
Minimal typos and no "shorthand" spellings (u for you, LOL, etc.)
Use of paragraphs rather than one large block of type with sentences all running together
An introductory connection such as, "I was recommended by,..., "I read your article in..." or "I'm writing to you because..."
No slow-loading graphics or blinking icons
No large attachments
The writer signs his or her full name
The writer provides contact information in an email signature

An email signature can be set up in any email program. Check your program's Preferences menu. Information to put in your signature can include your full name, title, company name, website and/or blog address and phone number. If you have a book or program, include the title. Providing these items identifies you and advertises for you at the same time, so it is in your best interest to use this feature. You can elect to have your signature in all your outgoing mail, so you don't have to type it out each time.

Most of these tips are simple to apply, yet many writers send out a query or email in haste as if they were dashing off a note to a friend. Good business practice still dictates a degree of etiquette and protocol, even in the fast-paced, instant-gratification, seemingly identity-less atmosphere of the Internet. You may not be doing business face to face anymore, but that's all the more reason to set yourself apart from the crowd and make a good first impression with your email correspondence.

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