8 Easy E-mail Tips That Make You Look Good

I get an awful lot of e-mail. Sometimes, people are looking for help with their computers.  There is also the barrage of press releases, sales offers, and an occasional blast from the past when someone I’ve lost contact with drops me a note.
After facing this tidal wave of electronic words for several years, I’ve developed some strategies I’d like to share with you.

Here are eight easy tips you should be aware of to keep your image and inbox in tip-top shape.

Follow e-mail etiquette

  • Don’t write when you’re angry. Wait 24 hours. Calm down. Be reasonable. Have someone else edit your e-mail.
  • Don’t use sarcasm. You may think you’re clever, but the recipient will be put off. Or worse yet, think you’re serious.
  • DON’T USE ALL UPPERCASE! That’s the e-mail equivalent of yelling. Your recipient won’t be appreciative. Go easy on the exclamation marks, too. Overuse dulls their effectiveness.
  • Use clear subject lines. That will help people decide whether to read the e-mail now or later. We’re all busy. Your correspondent will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  • Keep it short. If your e-mail is more than two paragraphs, maybe you should use the telephone.
  • Change the subject line if you change the topic of a thread.
  • Unless the recipient has previously agreed, don’t forward poems, jokes, virus warnings and other things. You’re just wasting valuable time and bandwidth.

Remember you are not anonymous
If you are sending nasty missives, you might think no one will be able to figure out that the e-mail came from you. After all, you set up a phony Web address. Think again. E-mail contains invisible information about the sender.

That information is in the header. All major e-mail programs can display header information. Here’s how:

  • In Microsoft Outlook, double click the e-mail. Then click View > Options.
  • In Microsoft Outlook Express, click the e-mail. Then click File > Properties and select the Details tab.
  • In Eudora, double click the message. Then click the Blah Blah button.
  • In Netscape, click the message to open it. Then click View > Message Source to display the header.

The sender’s revealing information is in the sections that begin with “Received:.” There may be several of these, depending on the number of computers the e-mail traversed. The originating computer is in the bottom “Received:.”

That section will have an Internet Protocol (IP) number, such as It can be traced on a number of Web sites. I use InterNIC (www.internic.net). The number is probably assigned to the sender’s Internet service provider, rather than the sender. But the ISP will be able to identify the sender using that number. Remember the header if you’re tempted to send an anonymous e-mail. You may be less anonymous than you think

Send e-mail to the correct person
Today’s e-mail programs want to make it easy to send e-mail. This means that when you start typing the address of a recipient to whom you have previously sent mail, the “To:” field may already be populated. Be careful. Always double-check the recipient is the intended one.

In addition, if you’re writing something ugly about Joe Smith, you’ll have Joe’s name on your mind. Don’t send it to him.

Use more than one e-mail address
I recommend four different e-mail addresses: private, public, one online mailing lists, and another for shopping online. These addresses attract mail for those specific areas.

If you own your e-mail server, you can have as many e-mail accounts as you like. If you are using an Internet service provider, you still can have several e-mail accounts. Most providers will give you a half-dozen e-mail accounts. You can also use addresses on the Web for personal accounts. Both Hotmail and Yahoo! are good. You can reach those accounts from anywhere, assuming you have Web access.

Check all of your e-mail accounts
Checking several online accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo! can be a chore. ePrompter (www.eprompter.com) can check 16 different password-protected accounts. Best of all, ePrompter is free. There are other programs that will do this for a fee, including Active Email Monitor (www.emailmon.com).

Wait to Click “Send”
Reread every e-mail before you send it! I actually get e-mails from job applicants with misspellings and missing words. They all go to the same place: the garbage. This is a pet peeve. I’m not going to hire someone who is careless.

Even if you’re not looking for a job, you want to be careful. People will judge you subconsciously on mistakes. No one is perfect. But you can catch 99% of these problems by rereading the text.

And don’t depend on the spell-checker. It will catch misspellings. But if you use “four” instead of “for,” or “your” for “you’re,” it won’t tell you. It also is not likely to catch any missing words in a sentence that you inadvertently failed to include. So take a minute and reread your text.

Remember the attachment
This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received an e-mail with a missing attachment. Since we all do it occasionally, it shouldn’t be a huge deal.

However, if you consistently make this mistake, people (perhaps important people) may think you’re over-extended. They might even hesitate to do business with you in the future. When you get ready to send your e-mail, think: “Is this complete and polished?”

Use your domain name
Make your company look professional. You can buy a domain name separately for $20-$30 per year from a company such as VeriSign (www.netsol.com), or as part of a package from a Web hosting and e-mail service such as that offered by Microsoft Small Business. Assuming someone else hasn’t already grabbed it, you can have your company in the domain name.

Let’s say you run The BoolaBoola Co. If you use an ISP’s address, you would have something like JoeBoolaBoola@SomeISP.com. But if you buy your own domain name, it could be Joe@TheBoolaBoolaCo.com. That’s much more likely to impress your customers.

E-mail is almost like talking. We use it so much that we don’t really think about it. But there are rules and courtesies, just as there are with talking. And there are other considerations involved in communicating by written word only.

Giving them some additional thought could make your e-mail experience more satisfying and your recipients much happier.