Bad email etiquette

These aren’t necessarily errors, but they’re bound to annoy recipients just the same.

  1. Misuse of subject line. Don’t leave this blank, and don’t waste it on vague descriptors like “Marketing team update.” Instead, include compelling details in the subject heading. “Three volunteers needed for tomorrow’s CNN interview,” not “We’re  going to be on CNN!”
  2. Slow lead-ins. These vary from the personal (“Hope the holidays are treating you well”) to the overly detailed (“Rachel and I were talking on the plane yesterday, and we realized that…”). Business emails should start with a clear statement of purpose.
  3. Missing pieces. Attach your attachments, and don’t forget to include email and telephone contact information.
  4. Unnecessary responses. Do you really need a whole new email to say “you’re welcome?” As for emoticons—just no.

3 Replies to “Bad email etiquette”

  1. I’ve revamped my e-mail practices to accommodate cell phone screens, most notably by a) paying closer attention to subject lines, as you recommend; b) putting the entire content in the subject line, followed by EOM (for “End of Message”) so the recipient can delete or move on without opening the message; c) shifting the friendly happy talk to the closing paragraph; d) lettering or numbering the questions/points to facilitate quick feedback and increase the probability of a complete response, and; e) using “Reply” but changing the subject line to make it more on point (e.g., when only one of five original topics remains under discussion), so the recipient can refer back to earlier messages but is given an easy way to file the exchange.

  2. Re: Misuse of the Subject Line: Yes and… In the interests of clear & good communication, one effective way I’ve employed for years with email text strings is to continually change the subject line by extracting a key thought from the previous response, by simple c&p. That avoids the confusion of seeing the same subject header over and over again when the subject has actually transgressed significantly or shifted completely to a new subject; also moving the thought process of the e-conversation more fluidly. Make sense?

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