5 Annoying Email Habits Visualized in Real Life

5 Annoying Email Habits Visualized in Real Life

Email as we know it has come a long way in its young 21 years of existence. It’s finally old enough to legally drink. Email’s a very useful communications tool. On the other hand, as we all know too well, emails can also be really 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, like Lisa Frank stickers.

Poor email etiquette isn’t just annoying, it can lead to problems with communicating to your coworkers, missed deadlines, cause perception issues about your competence handling workplace tasks, and it could even lead to HR issues. If you’re guilty of making these mistakes (and haven’t we all been, at some point?), hopefully this list will cause you to double check your next message and consider if you’re really getting your point across the right way.

1. Poor Grammar

Always check the grammar of your emails before you hit send

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.

Make sure to double check common spellings like “your” and “you’re”; “they’re”, “there”, and “their”; and “its” and “it’s”. Remember that “should’ve” spelled out is “should have”, not “should of”. Avoid run on sentences: check for periods, make sure to use Oxford commas, and drop in semicolons where necessary.

Using proper punctuation and spelling is vital to communicate your message well and maintain a professional image.

Improve your email grammar to streamline your communication

2. Misleading Subject Lines

Has this ever happened to you?

Subject line: “Re:re:re:re: Client meeting next week”

Message: “Hey, I need that report from last month that detailed the 3rd quarter improvements, as well as the full year-to-date numbers. And, I need them before the call today in 2 hours! Do you have those ready??”

If you’ve ever been the recipient of an important email buried under a pile of unrelated emails in a chain, then you know just how frustrating this practice is. How were you supposed to know that there was an important assignment due today, amongst all of the unrelated emails from last week?

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. If an idea or task needs more detailed information, it should be broken off into its own thread. This helps keep the message clear and ensures everyone can find the relevant email messages later.

Also try to avoid dire headlines coupled with unimportant messages. We’re all busy professionals, and no one likes to have their time wasted. Don’t earn a reputation as the girl who cried wolf, because your really important emails might get ignored later.

Only use urgent subject lines when necessary

3. Emails with the Wrong Attachment

Everyone has been in a situation where they’ve sent an email that was supposed to have an attachment, but didn’t. That’s a problem of its own. It’s gotten so bad that if you are a Gmail user, Google automatically picks up on your writing and notices if you’ve used words like “attached”, “attachment”, “included”, and other similes that indicate you meant to attach a document, and then it reminds you before you send the email if you haven’t attached a document. It’s a nice feature that’s saved me embarrassment and headaches more than a few times.

On the other side of the coin are situations where people attach the wrong thing. This is really detrimental because attaching the wrong document can cause hours of work on the wrong project or even legal documents being processed for the wrong person or situation.

This scenario usually occurs when people communicate in long email chains (see above) and send similarly-named documents back and forth. The best way to avoid this is to start a new email chain after you’ve sent a couple of documents, in order to avoid confusion. If this doesn’t work for you, try renaming the document with the author’s name and the date of the revision: “Client Project – Ryan – 9-15-14”.

Finally, make sure to never rely on your email provider’s “preview” function for checking documents. It’s designed for a quick glance, but it doesn’t show you notes and annotations in Word documents and it messes up the formatting in spreadsheets. Instead, make sure to download the full document to ensure you’re not missing critical information inside the document.

4. Signatures that Read like Deepak Chopra Manifestos

Avoid over complicated email signatures
Email signatures are a thing of contention in many offices. They often serve little-to-no purpose, reek of self-inflated importance, and sometimes are an automatic function of our mobile devices or corporate email clients, which we have no control over. At most, they should contain your name, title, contact info, and maybe a helpful link (like your LinkedIn profile).

For my money, the worst signatures are the over-inflated, ego-stroking lines and the flowery, preachy speeches. If your email signature proclaims you “King of the World” or reads like a motivational book on destiny and “quantum happiness”, you need to revise your signature. Immediately.

5. Unprofessional Embellishments

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

Borders and other digital analogues of old desktop stationary are also a good way to present an out-of-touch “grandma” image to your colleagues. Do you use borders, Comic Sans, and wacky colors? I bet you still use Hotmail, too, don’t you? If Apple’s doing away with digital analogues of real life objects, it’s probably time you moved on too.

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

Image by Kaboompics


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Ryne Landers

Ryne Landers works with clients across a variety of industries. He lives near Dallas, Texas, writes for eBay, and would eat Torchy’s Tacos every day if he could. In his spare time, he’s a technology enthusiast, idealist, and sometimes traveler. Find him on LinkedIn.

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