Ask Pat Bemis

by • September 1, 2007 • UncategorizedComments Off on Ask Pat Bemis1734

Question: What is the best practice for e-mail communication?


1. Use the sentence completion format in the subject line such as, “This message is about….” E-mails can easily be overlooked if the subject line does not clearly state the reason for the e-mail.

2. Consider that the e-mail is a mini-letter and use the same principles that apply when writing a business letter. Virginia Shea, author of the book Netiquette, suggests that you behave the same on-line as you would in real life: respect the other person’s time and privacy, and forgive the other person’s mistakes.

3. Start out with a salutation such as, “Hi Mary.” This lets the reader know the message is sent personally to them.

4. Use proper English (correct capitalization, punctuation, grammar). You are judged by how you write your e-mail message and not always by what you have to say.

5. Use the spell checker before sending the e-mail. Misspelled words speak volumes about your professionalism.

6. End with a complimentary close, such as thanks or regards followed by your first name.

7. Use signature lines to identify yourself below your first name at the bottom of the message. The signature lines take the place of the letterhead customarily found on traditional letters.

8. Add a personal touch by placing your professional photo (HTML messages only) in the signature lines.

My pet peeve is an e-mail message without proper signature lines. When I receive an e-mail signed, “Mary.” My response is Mary… Mary who? Maybe I can be of immediate assistance or have some hot news we should discuss. But alas, Mary, I don’t know your phone number. I don’t know which time zone you are in. I want to know more about you, but, you did not include your web site address. Mary, Mary, Mary….

If you want to portray yourself as a professional, include an e-mail signature at the bottom of each email. E-mail messages are sent by HTML or as TEXT. An example of a TEXT signature is:

Best regards,
National Nurses in Business
Association, Inc.
Patricia Ann Bemis, RN CEN
PO Box 561081
Rockledge, FL 32956-1081
Telephone: 321-633-4610

An HTML signature can include an image such as a logo or business card. An example of a business card image as a signature is given [left].

For help setting up a signature in your e-mail software, go to the help section of your program and search for signature. The setup information will be readily available. Make sure to click the box that says to include automatically on each e-mail so you don’t have to type it each time you write an e-mail message.

After the signature lines, don’t be hesitant to include a tag line. The tag line might include a business descriptor such as a phrase, logo or an advertisement for a new product or service, for example, “Check out my new book!” In an HTML e-mail message you can link the tag line directly to the web page where the reader can purchase your book.

I used Plaxo ( to create my personalized e-mail signature with my photo. This is a free service that securely updates and maintains the information in my address book. It is available for Outlook, Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, Mac OS X, Mozilla Thunderbird and for most mobile technology handhelds. You simple download the Plaxo toolbar for your e-mail software and follow the instructions to import your existing address book.

When a Plaxo member (who is listed in my address book) updates his or her contact information, I am notified and the information is automatically updated in my address book. As an additional benefit, Plaxo can be used to look at your address books, calender, tasks and notes on-line. It will even notify you of birthdays.

E-mail me at if you want assistance formulating your signature lines.

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