E-mail etiquette for a total executive presence

E-mail Etiquette for a Total Executive Presence

When you read about developing your “executive presence”, you automatically think of your professional attire, your body language, and possibly your voice. Of course, these are all important elements to work on, but quite often, the effort stops there. You figure, if you look and act like a successful businessperson, that’s all you need to be perceived as somebody with leadership potential.

But executive presence is a “total skill”. Your effort to develop executive presence doesn’t stop once you’ve chosen the perfect power outfit or mastered confidence-exuding body language postures. It continues with every interaction you have in your professional life, and that includes your e-mails.

To help you lift the level of professionalism in your e-mails and achieve total executive presence, I want to share with you 5 of my favourite tips on e-mail etiquette.

1. Decide if You’re Writing a Formal or an Informal E-mail

This choice really depends on whom you’re writing to and the relationship you have with that person. For somebody whom you’ve never met, or somebody from a formal culture (e.g., Japan, France, or China), it’s a safer choice to use a formal style e-mail. But if you’re writing to a coworker whom you’ve just had lunch with, a formal e-mail would probably make them feel uncomfortable. Opt for an informal style instead.

2. Choose a Subject Line That Is Short but Descriptive

The subject line is the first thing your reader will see. When I’m coaching clients on executive writing, I often explain that the subject line in an e-mail is their “first impression” of you. You wouldn’t turn up to a meeting in sneakers and unkempt clothing. Just as you wouldn’t send somebody an e-mail with a subject line full of errors or no description at all. Take the time to craft a subject line that answers the question in your reader’s mind, “Why is he/she writing to me?”.

3. Use the Appropriate Salutation to Connect With Your Reader

Sometimes you may know that person well, and a simple “Hi Jane” is sufficient. Other times you might be writing to an important client, or somebody whom you’ve never met. In that case, using “Dear Ms Hutchinson”, or “Dear Jane” is probably more suitable.

4. Know the Difference Between US and UK Style Punctuation

Yes, there is a difference. In fact, there are many differences between US and UK style punctuation. Why is this important for your e-mails? Because you want to tailor your e-mails to your reader and if your reader is not familiar with the style of punctuation you use, they may assume it’s incorrect and a mistake. The most common difference I’m asked about is: do you place a full stop (period) after “Mr” or “Ms”? Basically, in US style, you do. In UK style, you don’t. Follow this link to the Executive Impressions Facebook page where I’ve posted an image you can save to your desktop as a reminder of this punctuation rule.

5. Always Sign-Off

I know we can all get busy with our jobs or our businesses, but it really doesn’t take long to write a simple “Kind regards”, or “Best”, and then type your name at the end of an e-mail. One of my pet peeves is when I receive an e-mail and the sender hasn’t taken the time to include a simple sign-off after their message and hasn’t even written their name. Going straight from the body of your e-mail directly to your signature line without adding in a simple “Best regards” and your name, can immediately make your e-mail seem rushed, impersonal, and often pushy.

What is your pet peeve for e-mails? Leave a comment in the section below.

If you want every e-mail and letter you send to project “executive presence”, then take a look at my virtual coaching program, “The Art of Executive Writing: E-mails and Letters”. Click on the image below to find out more about this program.

The Art of Executive Writing

About Kara

Kara Ronin is an international business etiquette expert and founder of Executive Impressions. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider India, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Daily Muse, Women 2.0, and more. Kara offers corporate seminars and online training programs on business etiquette, leadership skills, and executive communication around the world. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox