Because I conduct the majority of my business on the Internet, the majority of my business communication is through e-mail. I do use instant messengers from time to time, but phone calls and in-person meetings aren’t terribly common for me. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to use email in the most effective and efficient manner possible, taking into considering the different communication preferences that different clients may have.

Some people prefer the shortest and most succinct email messages possible, whereas others would prefer for you to be as in-depth as possible with your explanations. Either way, the five tips listed below still apply and they should be useful for both service providers (like freelance writers) and clients. And these are in addition to some of the handy Gmail tricks you may already be using.

1. Use a Descriptive Subject

Most of us get bombarded with dozens of email messages each and every day. We need to be able to skim through the inbox and already have an idea of what we’re about to read. This becomes even more important as messages get archived, because I might need to refer to an earlier email for details about a project. I’ll have a really hard time finding that if the subjects are something like “Hey Michael.”

2. Start a New Thread for New Topics

This goes hand-in-hand with the first tip. We may have started one conversation about “writing for a lifestyle blog,” but what if you’re interested in hiring me for an entirely different project too? Instead of simply continuing that thread and changing the topic, start a new thread for a new topic. This tip is mostly for users of Gmail and other email clients that “thread” conversations, but you should keep this in mind even if your email client doesn’t do that.

3. Reply in a Timely Fashion

There is a certain type of immediacy that comes with phone calls, text messages, and instant messages. They happen in “real time,” as it were, so people expect you to get these forms of communication instantly. That’s not necessarily the case with email, but the sender doesn’t want to think that the message got lost either. That’s why you should be prompt with your email. Even if you don’t have a full response, acknowledge that you’ve received the message and will act accordingly when you have the time.

4. Format for Skimming if Possible

As mentioned above, some people prefer more succinct messages whereas others prefer more detailed messages. Even in the case of the latter, you should avoid having an endless body of text. At the very least, break it up into logical paragraphs and, if appropriate, use bullet points or defined sections. This is really not that different from composing a blog post like this one. See how I used the headers?

5. Complete Your Email Signature

When someone receives an email message from you, he or she has necessarily captured your email address. Even so, they may not necessarily remember your company, your title, or your relationship to them. They may not remember your other contact information either, like your phone number, Twitter handle or website.

While an excessively lengthy signature isn’t a good idea, your email signature should be reasonably complete. This is particularly useful if you use other email addresses in Gmail, because you can define a different signature for each of those accounts.

Do you have any business email tips that you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below with your ideas.