Email is still one of the most efficient means of communication in business due four main reasons: efficiency, mass communication, universality and record maintenance. We email our boss, colleagues, (prospective) clients, potential employers and well, you get the picture.

Email is simply efficient and convenient. Most people nowadays are connected to their cellphone 24/7 and have their email on their phone. You can avoid phone tag and relay a message much faster. Mass communication is a huge benefit. The ability to bcc (blind carbon copy) recipients saves the sender from the time and headache of reaching out to each person individually.

Email is also universal. Granted, social media falls under this category as well and social media network communication is nothing to ignore, but it is not a mainstream way to do business. And of course, paperless record keeping is always a plus.

That being said, it is very easy to misuse email. Unfortunately, email is sometimes the recipient’s first impression of you. Here are some guidelines to follow when writing your next email:

  • Length of copy: Be sure to brief and to the point. Don’t write paragraph after paragraph. The recipient is then less inclined to read it.
  • Shorthand: “R u free 2morrow? LMK.” DO NOT EVER send a professional email in shorthand. Leave this form of text for your friends.
  • Blind Copy vs. Copy: Use the BCC option appropriately. Don’t use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied. Do use BCC when sending to a large distribution list. Best practice is to only copy those who are directly involved.
  • CAPS LOCK: IF YOU USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS LOOKS AS IF YOU’RE SHOUTING. It goes without saying this is way too aggressive. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t use all lower case letters either. Both forms come off as lazy and uneducated.
  • Tone of voice: Email communication can’t convey the nuances of verbal communication. It is difficult to convey your tone in text, but quite easy to misinterpret another’s tone. Some people use emoticons, but use them sparingly so that you don’t appear unprofessional. Also, don’t assume that using a smiley will diffuse a difficult message.
  • Subject line: If you are applying to a job, the title should be the subject line or if you are sending a meeting request, let that be the subject line. The more specific you are, the more likely it is that your email message will be read.
  • Signature: Be sure to include a signature that has your contact information (phone number, email, website, social media or whatever is relevant for you or your company).

Take your time to write a well-written message. Once you hit the send button you won’t have a second chance at a first impression.