Given the avalanche of email we receive each year — 121 messages per day, on average — it’s no wonder that we have become somewhat desensitized to its impact on our professional brand…

We’ll spend hours polishing our LinkedIn profiles and revising our résumés, but hastily hit send on an unintelligible missive simply because we’re in a rush. “Sent from my device, please overlook typos” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for shoddy communications.

Have you ever thought about the brand you’re conveying through your emails?

You should.

Every email you send affects your professional reputation, or brand.

Don’t make these all-too-common mistakes in your communication:

  1. Your emails are too long for anyone to digest. Do you include all the backstory a reader could ever want to know? While context is critical to guiding the reader’s interpretations, remember that what they need to know is inevitably a subset of everything you could tell them. Given that the adult attention span is a mere eight seconds, it’s important to make every moment count.
  2. You’re including way too many people. Do your Cc habits ensure that a cast of thousands are in the loop? If so, ask yourself who is truly the essential audience for the message. In many organizations, overuse of Cc reflects a political culture in which people cover their tracks by overinclusion. Remember that each message you send contributes to everyone’s inbox, including your own, especially when one of your recipients decides to Reply All.
  3. You’re dashing off incomplete thoughts. While there’s a lot to be said for brevity, there’s a big difference between being concise and being terse. Do you find yourself shooting off one-liners that pick up in the middle of a thought without considering whether the reader can follow the thread? Do you end up with a high volume of clarifying questions in response to your messages? If so, that’s a clue that your emails need more composition and more context.
  4. You’re burying the lead. It shouldn’t take a symbolist to find the important message hidden in your email. Make sure your readers know what to ask and why they should care about responding. If you want your readers to digest your message, and perhaps even take action on it, make it easy for them to do so.

The next time you start to write an email, follow these 4 simple rules:

  1. Use an intuitive subject line that clearly states the purpose of the message. Bonus points if you include a header, e.g., [ACTION] or [INFORM], that helps the reader understand the expected response.
  2. Provide a clearly stated request right at the beginning of your email in case your audience fails to read beyond the preview pane. At least you’ll increase the chances that people will understand the essence of your message.
  3. Bold the names of anyone who’s been assigned a task or asked a question in the body of the email to increase the likelihood of it getting the needed attention.
  4. Take the time to be nice. It will help your audience truly hear what you intended to say. The next time you’re in your email account, take a closer look at your sent folder. Everything you need to know about your email brand is contained within. If you don’t like what you see, tomorrow is another day. There’s always another chance to shape your email reputation.