5 Email Pet Peeves to Stop Doing ASAP

E-mail pet peeves. All of us have them. None of us think we’re guilty of them.

But my guess is that with a closer look at our email habits, we all might find at least one or two things we could stop doing to improve our professionalism over e-mail.  And as the primary mode of workplace communication these days, stepping up your e-mail game is critical to putting your best foot forward on the job.

Recently I actually had an opportunity to ask a group of young professionals about their biggest e-mail pet peeves. Hands shot up in the air, eager to share their all-too-common pain points with one another. Read on to find out which faux-pas you’re a culprit of doing and how to improve your email communication.

1.     Sending sloppy messages.

Sending sloppy e-mails indicates that you are sloppy with your other work as well. How does this show up? Spelling someone’s name incorrectly, addressing them inappropriately, forgetting attachments, or including lots of typos or grammatical mistakes in your message. While no one expects you to never make a typo, becoming a repeat offender signals a lack of attention to detail. Take the time to proofread your messages before hitting the send button. Know your audience and address them in a way that showcases your cultural understanding and professionalism. For example, when I address someone within my office, I’ll use “Hi Sarah” as my greeting but when I address a professor or Dean on campus that I have not met, I always use “Dear Dr. Smith.” It’s best to read your industry and organization to understand what people expect.

2.     Including too much information.

In my first job out of college, I tried to drum up corporate sponsors for an annual fundraising event over e-mail. I spent hours writing paragraphs of overly wordy text, explaining the various sponsorship packages. Did I land a sponsor this way? No way. I quickly learned two things:

  • It’s often best to share complex information over a phone or in-person meeting first, then follow up with an email recapping the basics.
  • It helps to create a PDF or document of some kind that presents this “recap” information in a simple, visual way.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or set a meeting to discuss complicated items before relying on e-mail to do the job. You likely won’t get a response, or if you do, it won’t be as detailed or helpful as it would if you could talk it out together.

3.     Hitting “reply all” instead of “reply.”

We all know how irritating it can be to get an e-mail that was meant for the original sender only, but instead got sent to everyone on the thread. Before you reply to an e-mail with multiple people involved, ask yourself who really needs to see your response. Be thoughtful about using “reply all” so as to not clutter your colleagues’ inboxes.

4.     Holding sensitive conversations over e-mail.

It’s best to hold sensitive conversations in-person, not over e-mail. If an in-person meeting is not an option, again schedule a time to talk over the phone. E-mails can be easily misread, particularly when there is emotion behind the message. Do not revert to email to reprimand someone, apologize, or discuss anything confidential.

5.     Taking too long to respond.

There are times when we’re simply overloaded at work and don’t have time to reply to an e-mail the same day. If a message needs your urgent attention and will require further work on your part, send a short reply that says something like “Thank you for your message. I will (fill in the blank) and get back to you with more information.” If you can provide a time-frame for your next response, even better. Let the sender know you received their e-mail and when you plan to address it so they aren’t left hanging.

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Remember that your e-mail is a reflection of you. What does your e-mail communication style say about you as a professional? Anything you plan to change about the way you correspond over e-mail in the workplace?