Email Attachments: Learn Best Practices
Email attachments are a major component of business emails these days because they allow complex and large ideas, information, and instructions to be conveyed easily and quickly.
But because they’re external files outside the traditional bounds of email messages, most professionals don’t realize that email etiquette applies to email attachments too.
One of the reasons why emailing is such an effective means of communication is that it allows attachments. The ability to attach files is particularly useful in business communication as detailed information, complex procedures, and elaborate processes can be shared conveniently.
But because attachments make it so easy to share information, most people take them lightly and casually. They forget that attaching files is another aspect of sending an email that they need to pay attention to. Even people who concentrate on their subject lines, main content, and signatures often neglect their attachments.
There’s a lot that can go wrong with email attachments leading to professional embarrassment. The worst part is that you may not even get to know that you’ve made a major mistake in your email because most recipients don’t share negative feedback related to email etiquette.
So, the best thing you can do is learn about email attachment etiquette and try to stick to them every time you’re sending an email with an attachment. This lecture will help you learn email attachment etiquette.
Always Attach the File First
The most common mistake that people make while sending an email that should contain an attachment is that they fail to attach the file. So, throughout the email, the sender is talking about an attachment that has not been provided. By not attaching the file you intended to send, you’ve made two things happen.
The first is that you’ve made yourself look forgetful and unprofessional. The only saving grace is that this mistake is common and most people have, at some time, made it themselves.
The other outcome of not attaching the file you want to send is that you’ve ended up wasting some time. First, the recipient reads the email and realizes that it doesn’t have the attachment. The recipient then replies asking for the email attachment, before you send another email with an apology and the attachment.
The back and forth may be interspersed with even more time because both you and the recipient are too busy to always watch your respective inboxes. So, if the subject of discussion is time-sensitive, then the damage can be more than just a minor delay.
This is why if you intend to send an email with an attachment, it is always better to attach the file first and then write the main content of the email.
Mention the Attachment in the Body of the Email
When writing the main content of the email, it is important that you refer to the attachment clearly because people don’t like to open attachments unless they’re completely sure that it is safe. This is a good policy to have because there are many threats on the internet such as viruses and phishing attacks.
It is especially important for you to mention the attached file in your email if the recipient doesn’t know you personally. You can use several different ways to let the recipient know that you’ve attached a file to the email.
Here are some examples.
- “Please Find Attached” or even “PFA” is the most commonly used method. It is safe and neutral for the same reason.
- “I’m attaching XYZ file” or “I’m sharing XYZ file” is another option,
- You can refer to the attached file by saying, “In the attached file, you’ll see” or “the attached file includes,”
- If you’re replying to an email, you can say, “I’m attaching the requested file for your reference”
- Finally, you can also close your email by saying, “Please let me know if you have questions about the attachment”
Review your Email Attachment
It is also important to review the attachment file itself before you attach it to the email. The most important thing to review is to see that the file you are attaching is the file you intend to send. But there are other things you need to pay attention to as well. These are:
You need to make sure that the file name of your email attachment is consistent with the subject being discussed in the email. It cannot be something generic like “Untitled,” “New,” or “document 1.”
It needs to be relevant and as specific as possible to make sure that you don’t inconvenience the recipient. If you send an attachment with a generic file name, you’ll be forcing the recipient to rename the file.
Another thing to keep in mind while sending attachments is that if there’s a lot of back and forth or revisions in the file, you should make sure that it reflects in the file name. So, if the file you sent was named “ABC” and it went through revisions, then it should be renamed “ABC v1.1,” “ABC v1.2,” “ABC v1.3,” and so on. You can use simpler versions of this as well such as “ABC-1,” “ABC-2,” and “ABC-3.”
The file format is another thing you need to consider when sending attachments. The format of the attached file needs to be commonly used so that the recipient can open the files. This means using file formats like “.DOCX,” “.PDF,” “.XLS,” “JPG,” “JPEG,” “MPEG,” and “.MKV.”
Even so, the file you need to send may be in a file format that is not commonly available. A good example of this is what illustrators and graphic artists go through. Professionals who work on Adobe Photoshop usually work on .PSD files and prefer to submit the completed work in the same format.
When sharing such files, it is always best to specify which software or app can be used to open the file.
The third thing you need to pay attention to while reviewing your email attachments is size.
In simple terms, you can’t send attachments that are too big in size because most email platforms have size-related limitations at both, the senders’ and receivers’ ends. This means that there’s a limit to how large your attachment can be (Gmail has 25MB) as well as how large attachments in incoming emails can be (Gmail has 50MB).
One way around this size limit is to compress the attachment file with software like WinZip. Another way is to use third party file storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive and send links to download the files.
The attachment size limit is a purely technical restriction. Another etiquette-related restriction is the number of files you can send as attachments. Sending too many files as email attachments can inconvenience the receiver as their email platform might require them to download each attachment individually.
The workaround to this problem is the same as when your attachments are too large. This means using a compression software or a third-party file storage service.
It is very easy to make mistakes with email attachments but you can’t do without them because they’re very important in the modern business setup. Attaching the files before writing the email, mentioning the attached files in the email body, and reviewing the files can help avoid potential mistakes.
CustomersFirst Academy offers comprehensive customer service training designed to help you grow your skills and advance your career.
To keep learning and developing your knowledge of customer service, we highly recommend the additional resources below:
How to Address Multiple people in an Email: Using ‘To’, ‘CC’, ‘BCC’, ‘Reply’ And ‘Reply All’
What to Write in Response to Rude Emails
How to Write Really Good Emails at Work
Effective Writing: Using the Right Email Sign-offs And Signatures