Tricks of the Trade: E-Mail Etiquette

Communication has changed over the years, and I’m pretty sure that everyone would agree that most of our daily communication is over e-mail. I think sometimes people forget that they are still talking to people even when they are writing to them. A lot of things irk me in life, but when I get an e-mail that has some of the following features, I really lose it:

Two Colored/Different Fonts – Okay, I get it, you were copy and pasting something that I asked for, combining two documents, whatever. Dear colleague, please take the two seconds that it takes to hit CTRL+A, click the black font button, size button, and font. I want it perfect when it comes into my inbox and shouldn’t have to deal with your clerical laziness.

The overuse of Emoticons – 🙂 😛 😉 NO NO NO. Stop. Not every e-mail that is sent to a client or colleague needs to have a happy smile next to it. It’s not cute, not fun, and really makes someone come off being a perky flake. “Dear Client, I’m on deadline and need this ASAP! :-)” NO. it doesn’t work, and isn’t going to make someone hurry their response up.

The Exclamation Point The New York Times rarely uses exclamation points in articles, I’m almost positive that it is a guideline for certain articles, so you probably shouldn’t use it when you are writing to someone. Read this sentence, “I look forward to working with you.” and now read this, “I look forward to working with you!” You just made yourself look like you had a bit to much coffee.

Abuse of HIGH IMPORTANCE – Not every e-mail is important. Let’s be honest – most of them aren’t. If you over abuse this feature no one will think anything you’re sending is actually important. You’ve just became the boy who cried wolf with a single click.

Read Receipts – Another feature that shouldn’t be abused. Incredibly annoying, sometimes useful, but if you’re spamming me I really don’t care if you know I read something or not. Let me delete the e-mail and not worry about a pop-up please. Thanks, byeeeeeeee

E-Mail Bullies – Say it to my face, dirt bag.

What irks you when you get e-mails?

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  • Anonymous

    Great post! I’m slightly surprised and disturbed that people over-use emoticons when sending work emails to their clients. An office buddy, maybe okay? But to a client, not the most professional. That’s a major email no-no.

    One additional pet peeve of mine is the people, who use the “reply all” button as a form of CYA (Cover Your Ass). It doesn’t work that way. All it does is spam everyone’s inbox.

    • Phil

      I agree with points presented, as well as, and especially nothing in the subject line.

      I also don’t like abbreviations or texting format.

  • anon

    Hey guys – if you’re going to write a blog about email etiquette, why don’t you stay up to date on your AP style? All I’m saying.

  • No subject line or subject lines that preface the e-mail but provide no clarity. For instance, I wanted to talk to you about something. I cringe EVERY TIME.

  • Stcroix

    I agree on the multiple fonts. And it’s even worse when two or three different colors are added to the mix. My first reaction? DELETE.

  • I’d add to this list the overuse of “lol.” I have a coworker who said it twice in a two-sentence email to me. I was thinking, “SERIOUSLY?”

  • It REALLY irks me when people place me on an email I didn’t ask to be on and then send out an email and CC everyone instead of BCC….

  • Don’t CC me on e-mails that have no relevance to my responsibilities – past, present, or future. I’ll develop something I call ” selective e-mail immunity.” After CC’ing me on tons of nonsense – usually in the form of a ‘Reply All’ to an e-mail that, also, should never have been addressed to me – I learn the painful lesson that it does take two to tango; in this case, one idiot to send out an arbitrary e-mail blast and a second to click ‘Reply All.’

    Do the “CC-everyone-and-their-mother” dance in your basement, but not in my inbox.

  • Becki C.

    I’m totally guilty of overusing exclamation points. Is it OK if most days I really have had too much coffee?

  • I hate it when people reply about a different topic but don’t change the subject line–so frustrating when you’re trying to find the email later.

  • McKenzie

    I once had a professor that said you have 7 exclamation points to use during the course of your entire life. Choose the occasions wisely.

  • Oh man, this post cracked me up.

    I have to admit, I’m guilty of overusing exclamation points, but only because I usually end emails, “thanks so much!” if it requires it.

    However, I definitely dislike two different fonts in an email. And Holly below made a great point about changing the topic in an email but not the subject line.

    Oh, and read receipts?! WHAT is the point? I can’t stand them, and I always hit ignore.

  • Sharon

    Okay, I’ll rein in the exclamation points. Other pet peeves: people who have fancy stationary or fonts or pictures in their “signature” that takes forever to load when I am accessing email remotely. Also, people who type the entire email in the subject line and then demand a read receipt.

    • I’m totally guilty of typing the majority of an e-mail in the subject line haha

  • Dcole

    My pet peeve is emails with no subject line. I don’t know whether I should open them and then I have a hard time finding them later if they need to be saved.

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