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How to Keep Business E-Mails Professional

Although sending e-mails from your business e-mail address may feel informal, you need to keep those business e-mails professional. For the sake of your business, set a few e-mail guidelines:

  • Unify all company e-mails by use of a common signature. A signature consists of a few lines of text that show up at the end of every e-mail message. Usually it includes the name of the person sending the message, a tag line that tells what your business does, your Web site address, your street address, and your phone number.

  • Set a tone and style for e-mail messages. Consider e-mail a dressed-down version of your formal correspondence.

    E-mail can be more relaxed and more spontaneous, and it can (and should) be more to the point — but it can’t be impolite or unprofessional.

  • Respond to e-mail within 24 hours. People expect a different level of response to e-mail than to other forms of correspondence. Answer e-mails quickly, even if it’s a one-line note offering a complete answer within a week.

Before you hit the Send button, measure your e-mail policies against these standards:

  • Keep messages short and use paragraph breaks to avoid the visual dread of a long block of type.

  • Add punctuation, but use it sparingly. When in doubt, revert to what you learned in English 101.

  • Keep emoticons out of business correspondence. They’re crudely capable of showing what you mean, but in most cases, they're as appropriate in the business environment as a swimsuit.

  • Limit abbreviations to those in common use. Stick to widely understood abbreviations such as ASAP, FYI, or OK.

  • Stick to the basics when you format e-mail. Avoid using stationery, colored background, or unusual type styles.

  • Use uppercase and lowercase. Typing in all uppercase — using all capital letters — means one thing in cyberspace: You’re screaming.

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