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Tips for E-mail Correspondence

It is important to understand how e-mail should and should not be used when job hunting. In general, following this rule will not lead you astray: Do not write any e-mail differently than a letter you would send by traditional mail.

Rules to remember:

  1. Be brief and get to the point quickly. This is important in all business communication, and even more so in e-mail since it is more difficult to read a letter on a monitor than on a sheet of paper.

  2. For formal correspondence, always write your first and last name at the bottom of your e-mail as if you were signing it.

  3. Do not type messages in ALL CAPS! Caps should be used for emphasis only. In an e-mail capitalized words signify that the author is yelling. Conversely, do not type your e-mail in all lower case. This is unprofressional looking.

  4. Use a short, but meaningful subject title for the message.

  5. Limit your line length to 65 characters. This will ensure that your lines will not be broken up on most e-mail viewers. There is no guarantee of this, but the good news is that people are generally used to seeing e-mail with broken up lines. Therefore, they realize that it is not something that is easy to control, and probably won't hold it against you. However, try to keep it from occurring if you can.

  6. Spell-check and carefully proofread messages before you send them. Print out a draft copy of your e-mail to help you proofread it.

  7. Be cautious when using humor or sarcasm. The reader may misinterpret the tone of your statement because he/she cannot see your expressions. In casual e-mail, this is prevented by using "emoticons" such as :) (happy) and :( (sad) to convey tone. However, do not use "emoticons" in formal e-mail. It is inappropriate for professional correspondence.

  8. Do not use common e-mail acronyms, such as "IMHO" (in my honest opinion), in formal e-mail. It is not professional and you should not assume that the reader will know its meaning.

  9. Attachments should be just that, attachments. Do not send a blank e-mail with your entire message as an attachment. Address the recipient by name, briefly describe what the attachment is, and sign your full name.

  10. Salutations, such as "Dear Sir/Madam," are not necessary for casual e-mail. However, you should indeed use a salutation for formal e-mail. As always, it is best if you are able to address your e-mail to a specific person.

  11. Return e-mail address. It's a good idea to type your phone numbers below your name in case your employer wants to speak to you instead of replying to your e-mail.

  12. Include your resume in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment. Many people, including recruiters, will not open attachments from people they do not know because of viruses. (Even word processing files can contain macro viruses.) To make sure that your resume gets read, put it in the body. Also send an attachment, if you wish, for the recipient does open attachments.

  13. E-mail your resume to yourself first. Make sure that you--instead of your intended recipient--will catch all the formatting mistakes.

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