Have you ever sent out an email note that you wished you could take back? Have you ever received a message that was so confusing, curt or boring that your impression of the sender was diminished?

I’m not talking about SPAM, pop-ups and unwanted email. I’m referring to messages you get from the people you know and respect — colleagues, clients and vendors.

Many of us spend so much time with email that it has become routine. And, if we’re not careful, we don’t give enough attention to what we’re saying or how we’re saying it.

Why Care About Email?

There are two reasons why you should care what your email notes look like:

  1. You want people to understand, act on, and respond to the messages you send.
  2. The impression others have of you is enhanced (or diminished) by the quality of your communication.

Email is no exception. In fact, in many instances it is more critical than other methods as it stands alone. There is no body language, tone of voice, or snappy outfits to temper your message.

“It’s Just An Email”

Recently a friend of mine sent a note out to a long list of people that had several grammar errors in it, sloppy formatting and no signature. When I called and asked if he would like to hear some ideas on improving the effectiveness of his email, he said, “Yes, Definitely!”

After showing him a variety of helpful changes, he remarked, “I normally do those things for a document, but this was just an email – I didn’t think it was critical. It was a quick note,” he added. “It didn’t seem that important. I just wanted to get it out.”

However in his haste, at best, the professional image he was trying to convey to his network of people was not enhanced. At worst, his credibility was questioned.

A Missed Opportunity?

Here’s another first-hand example of what can happen when you think, “it’s just email.”

Someone I did not know sent an unsolicited message to me. My dilemma was deciding whether to open it or not. When I see this type of email, I have to consider two things:

  1. Who does it appear to be coming FROM
  2. What’s in the SUBJECT line.

It looked strange!

Imagine the “From” appearing as: Pat S*DOG Smith

And a “Subject” being only one word: Alliance

Would you open it?

Because I’ve been the recipient of viruses and spam more often than I like, I don’t want to take chances with email that doesn’t look professional. I thought hesitated.

Decisions Are Made Based On The Image You Project – Even In Email

I finally did decide to open the note because I use a company that filters out spam before it reaches my inbox. However, when I read the inside message, I doubted the professionalism of the sending organization. It had at least seven different types of problems. I thought, what kind of company can this person be involved with having these communication skills?

If I had made my decision based on the image the email had created, I would not have responded. In fact, I would have blocked any further messages.

However, my instinct told me it may be worth one response. I indicated that she could call me, and gave her my number. I thought that if she contacted me, I would be better able to judge whether or not her ideas were of value to me.

The Rest Of The Story

As it turns out, it was good to have taken the chance. Here was an individual who was quite well-known for her innovative work combining business and art. She was interested in developing an alliance with us, believing that our visions were synergistic.

This woman was lucky. You don’t want to count on that. There are three things you can do to give a truly professional image:

  1. Make sure you take email seriously as a sender. Consider each one to be important.
  2. Learn how to change your “From” information to be your real first and last name. Be personal; don’t use your company name in this slot.
  3. Always put a message of some type in the subject area. Never, never leave it blank. You need to be sensitive to the fact that the receiver will not have you in mind, so write something that they will recognize.