Have you got a “killer” business card?

“Look at that subtle off-white coloring…”

Have you ever seen American Psycho, the 2000 film starring Christian Bale, which satirizes the extreme competitiveness and materialistic values of Wall Street? There is a scene in which Bale compares his business card with those of his colleagues and becomes intensely jealous of those whose cards are more elegant or refined than his. In fact, he is so envious of one guy’s card that he ends up killing him.  Bale’s character, Patrick Bateman, moonlights as a serial killer, while continuing to make a killing in the world’s toughest financial centre, New York.

Despite several gruesome murders, the business card scene stands out as one of the movie’s most memorable moments, mainly because it captures exactly the kind of petty but deadly rivalry that motivates the “big swinging dicks” of Wall Street. The humour of the scene lies in the businessmen’s fanatical attention to detail and the semiotic intensity the characters bring to the analysis of each card, scrutinising the printing technique, colours and fonts used. They never discuss the actual information on the cards, just the design.

However, unlike the characters of American Psycho, based on the bestselling novel by Bret Easton Ellis, in this article I’d like to focus on the content of a business card. I’ll leave other design-oriented blogs to discuss the best graphics, layout and quality of the “stock” (or card).

What information should you have on your business card?

Well, of course, you should have your name. Most people will have their first name plus their surname (or family name). You only need to add a title if you’ve got a particular qualification, such as Dr or Professor. In some European countries, lawyers, engineers and architects have an honorific equivalent to Dr. I suggest you avoid using these if your card is primarily designed to give to English-speaking contacts. Also, you don’t need “Mr”. Some women might choose to use “Mrs” to show they are married. That’s a personal choice.

You should also add your job title. Nowadays, there are almost as many job titles as there are jobs. For example, if you are a manager you might just use “Manager” as your job title. If you’re a company director with operational responsibilities you can use “Managing Director”. Note that “General Director” or “General Manager” are not typical job titles in English-speaking countries (although the head of the BBC is the Director General and the person in charge of the United Nations is the Secretary General. These are very unusual instances in English of an adjective used after a noun.)

Instead of a title, you might just add your team or department, e.g.

Steve Smith

Sales and Marketing

Of course, you should add the name of your company, although your card could just include the company name in the logo.

The two most important pieces of contact information are your phone number and your email.

You can use the word “Phone” or the abbreviation “Tel” followed by a colon (:) to introduce your number. Remember to include the dialling code for your country:

Tel: +44 (0)365 367614

For your email, you can write Email followed by a colon:

Email: chris.phillips@new-horizons-projects.ca

Some people often abbreviate telephone to T and Email to e:

t: +44 (0)365 367614

e: wendyprice@williams.to

If you include your business address (or home address), follow the conventions of the country where you live. For example, in the UK we put the number of the building or house first and then the street name. Use commas after the street address but not after the company name or the building if it has a name. Remember to include the postcode (ZIP code in the US):

Randall Engineering Ltd

Kelvin House

34 Brangham Street,

Winchester SO22 K4X

If you’ve got a company website, you can include that. You probably don’t need the http:// prefix or even the www. part, but this is a question of style more than anything else:

BigBusinessEnglish.com

riverlang.com

Other options include a tagline, e.g.

Grainger Paints

Keeping the world colourful

You can also include social buttons or icons, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, etc.

Remember that a lot of people now use apps to scan business cards into their contacts list or customer relationship management software, so it’s a good idea to avoid very unusual fonts or images that overlap the text (unless you’re a designer or musician, etc).

Hopefully, your business card will make a good impression on the person you are meeting. The main thing is that they call you or send you an email with a business offer!

(And if someone who reminds you of Christian Bale offers you his card, I suggest you just walk away very quickly – and don’t look back.)