Email Mistakes That Irritate Smart People

There are a lot of ways to send an email, and given that it is a tool that many of us spend a large chunk of our day using, I thought I would share some of the annoying things I come across when reading email.

1. Reply All

This is one of those buttons that we like to hit so that everyone is kept in the ‘loop’, but the problem is not everyone needs to be kept in the loop — nor do they want to be. It is fine to hit reply all, but be sure to edit the list of people that you are replying to, keeping only those needed in the conversation in the email chain. If you are even in doubt about when to use reply all, don’t use it. Better to forward an email to someone later then to waste 50 people’s time reading email that they don’t care about.

2. The “I CC’d You” Emails

Let me tell you about the CC field, it is used to keep people in the loop that need to be kept in the loop. What it is not for is to be used as a way to show me that you are doing your job, or to ask me to do something. When I get an email that I have been CC’d in and somewhere in that message there is a task you want me to do — 90% of the time I miss that task. The reason is simple: I don’t read emails I am only CC’d in past the subject line. If you want me to respond or act on an email you send me, make sure I am in the ‘TO’ field.

3. Look at a JPG of My Company Logo

It is really awesome that you figured out how to embed your company logo in your email signature, but I know who you are and what your company logo looks like. I still hate it. Don’t waste bandwidth sending me email attachments of your logo. Further, it really screws me over when I go to look for emails that you sent me a file in as every email you send me has a damned attachment. Don’t even get me started about downloading that crap over AT&T’s sucktastic data service when I read your emails on my iPhone.

4. Yes I Have Your Contact Info, Thanks

Raise your hand if you just have one email signature that you use on all your emails — now drop your hand really fast on your head. We all have those fancy email signatures that include our contact info and maybe even a vCard 1, they definitely say our name and title. These are great for people who don’t know you, but when you are corresponding with other people in your office and regular contacts – your first name will suffice.

Think of it like a phone call: if it is someone, who when you call, you need to introduce your full name and company to then use the big fancy email signature. However, if just saying your first name on that same call will do the trick, use that same etiquette for email. I have my email set to default to the signature: “`-Ben`”. If I need the other longer signature I can switch to it, otherwise the short and sweet one works best.

5. Stop With the Cryptic Subject

Think of your subject line like a title of a book — would you buy a book called “RE: Report”. Nope. We need to tell people what the email is about in the subject line, so that they know if they need to open it now or not. For instance instead of saying “Report” as your subject how about put the actual subject in – “Please Review My TPS Report” – oh snap now I know whether to read that now or later. 2

6. Sending Large Files

Most people I suspect never look at the file size that they are sending to people, they just know that if it bounces back they can’t send it as is. I would ask that if your email is over 3mb please send me a file link so that I can download it faster. There are a ton of services out there that do this, many that are so fast and easy you will be amazed. Sending and downloading large files over email is not what the protocols were designed for, and they are agonizingly slow – help yourself out and use a service like Droplr.

7. Capitalization

If you send me an email in all caps I will assume you are yelling at me and take my damn sweet time responding. Likewise if you send me an email in all lowercase I will assume that you couldn’t care less about the email you sent — resulting in me taking my damn sweet time responding. Typos and grammar problems abound, but we all know how to properly capitalize an email, so don’t be lazy.

8. Keep It Short

It is really great that you like details, but I don’t have time for them. Tell me what I need to know and what you need from me. Don’t waste my time asking about the weather or how business is going. Being concise in emails can often lead to people thinking that you don’t have the time for them – I am not talking about one line email responses (ala Steve Jobs), just say what you need to say in a clear and concise manner. This helps people better understand you and makes you look smart.

9. Legal Notices and Printing Notices

Drop the legal notice, it is just dumb amd makes you look paranoid. Drop the “be kind to the environment and don’t print this email” notices because it is just rude. You wouldn’t walk up to someone at Kinkos and ask them if they are sure they need those copies. If I need to print the email I will, otherwise assume it is filed away on my computer never to be revisited.

10. Addressing People

You don’t need to address me in the beginning of the email (e.g. ‘`Ben,`’ ) I know you are sending it to me because I received it – just get on with the email. The only exception to this is when you are sending it to multiple people in the “To:” field and you want to call certain peoples attention to different areas of the email (e.g. Ben: Can you please take care of the TPS report cover sheet issue. Janet: Please take a shower before coming to work.).

11. The ‘Thanks’ Emails

If I send you some information that you requested, there is no need to respond to me by saying just ‘Thanks’ it clutters up my inbox and is useless. I assume that, unless you keep asking me for information, you received it when I sent you, any problems and you will contact me. I sometimes write “no response necessary” at the bottom of my emails, but that just confuses most people. Just stop with unneeded emails and we will be good.

12. Telling Me Versus Asking Me

Unless you are my boss then you need to ask me for things, telling me to do something will get you no where. Don’t send me an email saying “I need you to get me this information ASAP” – ask me to get you that information and let me know if there is a time constraint. In doing this you will find people are far more helpful – even if you are their boss.

13. The Follow-Up Call

This is not strictly and email irritation, but I hate it when people call me to discuss an email chain, or in lieu of responding via email. If I sent you an email I did so for good reason – please respond in the format that I initiated the communication.

14. Sent from my…

Guess what no one cares where you sent your email from, and what device you are using. No one. It was cool for the first few weeks of iPhones, then Blackberry users started adding it and it naturally became lame. 3 Further I don’t get the thought process in having such a line attached to begin with – should I thank you for responding while you are not at the office? I am confused.

  1. insert OOooos and Ahhhhs here
  2. probably later
  3. BlackBerry had this first but it said something like: “Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless” before the iPhone.
Originally posted for members on: July 14, 2010
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