You’ve always wondered, right? Just what kind of mistakes are you making every day with your emails?
Well, don’t worry, I’ve put together this list of 75 common email mistakes so you can see what you’re guilty of. Let’s get started:
- You don’t use basic greetings. Don’t forget to start with “Hello”, “Hi”, “Dear”, etc.
- You use ambiguous subject lines or avoid them altogether. State exactly what you want in your subject line and make it easier for people to find your emails later on.
- You send every email with the high-priority flag. Only use this when it’s urgent.
- You expect people to reply to your emails immediately and send them follow up emails when they don’t. Remember, email is a slower form of communication.
- You hit Reply All when you meant to hit Reply. Always check before you send.
- You mix up the difference between To and CC. To is for people who need to take action; CC is for people who need to be kept in the know.
- You CC hundreds of people when a BCC is more appropriate. Be sure to use BCC when you’re sending general emails to people who don’t know each other.
- You close emails abruptly. It doesn’t hurt to say thank you, sincerely, best regards or some other polite close.
- Your email doesn’t include contact information. Add this to your signature as soon as possible.
- You’ve got a really long signature. Shorten your email if you can, and consider if all that legalese is really necessary.
- You send incomplete emails. Take a few more minutes to finish what you’re writing.
- You ask people open-ended questions on email. This can cause discussions that are best had elsewhere.
- You use complicated sentences and words that recipients have to look up. Use everyday language.
- You use TXT speak, poor punctuation and bad grammar in your emails to your boss. Instead, type full sentences that make sense.
- You send emails in ALL CAPS to your colleagues. Stop shouting at me!
- You include content in the body of an email when the subject line is a closed-ended question, e.g., “Lunch at one?”
- You ask an open-ended question in the subject line and don’t include explanatory content in the body of the email, e.g., “I’m hungry. What will we do?”
- You don’t spellcheck or proofread your emails. Hint: those red squiggly lines normally mean there’s something wrong.
- Your write lengthy paragraphs and expect people to read them. Instead, write summaries and use bullet points whenever possible.
- You think unusual fonts keeps things interesting. Stick to Arial, Times New Roman or your company’s default font. And just use a variation of black; it’s easier to read.
Helping Your Colleagues
- You send large attachments and then wonder why other people don’t get them. Save them on the network, use cloud storage or compress them instead.
- You don’t send people updates about important projects that they’re involved in. Keep your colleagues in the loop.
- You send too many updates about unimportant projects that people aren’t involved in. Just keep relevant colleagues in the loop.
- You send emails when you need information urgently. A phone call, instant message or a conversation are all better and faster.
- You return to your desk after a break and reply to your emails one by one without checking them all first. You can save everyone time by reading all your emails first.
- You send the person beside you an email and then ask them verbally if they’ve received it yet.
- You spend hours filling an email with helpful information. Instead, write a blog post or update the company wiki so everyone can benefit.
- You send along chain emails because they’re a good way to pass the time. These are best kept for personal email accounts and even then, I’d avoid them.
- You hate email chains (that’s fine), and you don’t respond to important ones because you missed them (not fine).
- You don’t respect the time of the people you’re sending emails to. Keep your emails short and to the point.
- You use email Read Receipts. Most people find this annoying and even rude. Avoid!
- You use email to ask people questions, when the answers are available through a quick Google search.
- You forget to tell recipients what you want in your email. Say what you want in the subject line or the first line.
- You send steamy emails to colleagues that you’re having an affair with. You know the company can probably access your emails, right? Word will get around, so don’t be so unprofessional.
- You send steamy emails to colleagues that you’re not having an affair with. Ditto for point 14, with an added serve of sexual harassment charges.
- You don’t reply to your boss’s emails. Always reply to your boss.
- You swear or forward inappropriate attachments to colleagues via email. Remember that you’re at work before you send.
- You mix up personal emails with business emails. Keep them in separate accounts.
- You answer emails immediately and outside of office hours. Don’t give people the impression that you’re always available.
- You send emails when you’re drunk. Sober up first!
- You mistake long emails with being thorough.
- You mistake short emails with rudeness.
- You send an email to your team and CC the client on it. Keep client communications separate.
- You love sending pointless attachments like pictures of your cat, where you went on holidays and what you’re having for dinner. If you must, only send these to friends.
- You respond to emails when you’re angry. Count to 10 and take a deep breath first.
- You receive dozens of (unnecessary) notification emails every day from the various services that you use. Turn these off wherever possible.
- You haven’t read the Email Charter. Yes! There’s a charter.
- You pursue a Zen-like working environment, within which you focus on one task without stopping to check email. Like it or not, work will arrive through email; have a system for managing it.
- You phone notifies you via an audible ding every time you receive an email. Turn this off if you want to keep focused.
- You use email as your To-Do list. Keep your To-Do lists separate using apps like Wunderlist, Reminders or Asana.
- You constantly stop what you’re doing to see if you have new email. Instead, check email every hour or every other hour.
- Your inbox says you’ve 13,463 unread emails and you’re OK about it. Learn inbox zero or go bankrupt.
- Email is where your work goes to die. Stop it!
- You haven’t implemented inbox zero. This takes an hour or two to learn, but it will save you time.
- You practice inbox zero when you’re sitting on the toilet. No, stop that too!
- You send passwords and other sensitive information via email. If you have to do this, encrypt the information first.
- You use the same password for your email and for all of your other accounts or …
- You don’t change your password regularly. Instead, get into the habit of changing your passwords once a month. And track them.
- You haven’t enabled 2-Step Verification on your public email accounts. Do this now.
- You’re excited to find out you’ve been pre-approved for a US$10,000 credit card that you didn’t apply for.
- Despite being warned by your colleagues, you write back to spammers just to be sure.
- You forward other people’s emails when there’s sensitive information at the bottom. Read the full chain before you forward.
- You don’t use a spyware, virus or adware blocking program. Ask your IT department to install one if they haven’t already.
- You give out other people’s phone numbers and addresses via email without their permission. Always check first.
- You log in to your email account on a public computer and forget to log out. If you’re going to use your professional email account outside of the office, make sure you are secure.
- You rely on autofill to populate the address field. Instead, check the contact details are correct before you send.
- You send an important email, close Outlook before it finishes syncing with the server and then complain that nobody replied to your email.
- You respond to group emails by replying to everybody. Before you send, consider if a reply to one person will do.
- You use Gmail and don’t bother learning the keyboard shortcuts. They’re easy to use.
- You send file attachments that other people can’t open. Find out what the default applications and file formats in your office are.
- Your email isn’t organized into any folders, and you don’t know where anything is. Folders aren’t necessary, but they can help. However, if …
- Your email is organized into dozens of folders and you still don’t know where anything is; again, inbox zero can help.
- You email around large attachments. Instead, save them on the network, using cloud storage or another collaboration tool.
- You make a cup of coffee, put on a set of headphones, close down all your applications and spend an hour typing out that killer email. Don’t treat email like art.
- You print out emails and file them carefully in your drawer. That’s what your email archive is for.
Wait, I Thought of One More
You write a list of common email mistakes and realize you still make at least 53 of these mistakes!
What common email mistakes do you make? Please let me know in the comments section below.
Featured photo credit: kimubert via flickr.com