How Five Annoying Email Habits Would Appear In Real Life

If you want to simply your writing, read this post: How to Deflate those Inflated Phrases

Email has come a long way in its young 21 years of existence. It is a useful communications tool. On the other hand, as we all know, emails can also be annoying. 

You know the guy who marks everything as urgent, even when it’s not? Hopefully, that’s not you! And, there’s always that one junior staff member who adds multiple exclamation points and emoticons to every email.

Don’t be the Jack in the Box intern, no matter how “chipot-cray!” your day is. (Image 

Poor email etiquette is not just annoying, it can lead to problems communicating with your co-workers, missed deadlines, cause perception issues about your competence, and it could even lead to HR issues. 

I hope this list will make you double check your next message and consider if you are getting your point across the right way.

1)   Poor Grammar

Poor grammar is probably the most common issue in email fails. The right idea, written the wrong way, can completely change the meaning of your message. Common mistakes include spelling and punctuation errors, typos, ALL CAPS MISTAKES, and auto-correct issues.

Using all caps in your messages comes across as loud and self-important. Remember, caps lock = yelling. (Image) 

Make sure to double check common spellings like “your” and “you’re”; “they’re”, “there”, and “their”; and “its” and “it’s”.

Run on sentences are tedious to decipher and show a lack of understanding of basic grammar. (Image)

2)   Misleading Subject Lines

Do not say urgent in your subject line, unless the message is urgent. Avoid subject lines that include 'Re:re:re:re:'. Once a chain gets past about three to four emails, it becomes unwieldy. As a rule of thumb, email correspondence should stick to one or two topics per thread, and email threads should be kept short.

Do not abuse subject lines or people will try to avoid your messages. (Image)  

3)   Emails with the Wrong Attachment

Everyone has been in a situation where they have sent an email that was supposed to have an attachment, but didn't. That’s not good. Even worse, there are situations where people attach the wrong thing. This is detrimental because attaching the wrong document can result in legal action being taken against you, or cause hours of extra work trying to correct the situation.

4)   Signatures that Read like Deepak Chopra Manifestos

Email signatures are an area of contention in many offices. Incorrectly used, they serve little-to-no purpose and reek of self-inflated importance. At most, they should contain your name, title, contact info, and maybe ONE helpful link.

No one likes people who preach, and “deep” quotes often come off as shallow, giving off a forever-alone “cat lady” vibe. (Image) 

5)   Unprofessional Embellishments

Email is an uncomplicated medium. Most people want plain text messages that they can quickly scan through. Adding colourful letters, using multiple creative fonts, and cluttering up your message with a lot of emoticons is a good way to appear tacky and unprofessional. 

This is your email on “flair”. (Image)  

Special thanks to Solar Winds for their hilarious Email in Real Life video series, from which we got these animated GIFs. 

by Taylor Wright

More business writing resources

If you are looking for help with your business writing skills, read these posts:

  1. The One Essential Email Trick Every Business Writer Should Know
  2. The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails
  3. How to Deflate those Inflated Phrases

If you would like to find our more about our business writing courses, email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate
6 responses
Two points I would like to add: I worked with someone who has a vision impairment who did all her messaging in capital letters. I was easier for her to read/edit. Most of us perceive this as shouting but before we criticize it's wise to gently ask if there is a reason for this choice and exercise a little tolerance. Another attachment issue is a document that is in the wrong format. The business world tends to use Microsoft Word but some of us use Pages or WordPerfect that will convert from Word but Word does not always convert from these formats.
You have addressed one of my pet peeves: the email signature. In our company there is mandated language regarding confidentiality that is about two paragraphs long, following the complete contact information of the person. Some people set this as the default signature so that it comes in every email, including being repeated in conversations. Another no-no is religiously-themed signatures. It is very uncomfortable to be in a position to have to either suffer them or be the person to complain about them. People should use better judgment.
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