I was digging through my inbox, looking for an email from a client the other day. I have about 20,000 emails in my inbox right now, so finding one can be a little daunting depending on when the email arrived, who it was from, and what it was in regards to. Before you ask, no, I don’t use folders. My Mail search function is good enough that I don’t need them any more, unless your email etiquette sucks. Which is exactly why I was having trouble finding this particular message. I was searching by subject and this email didn’t have one.
It turns out that a lot of people don’t understand email etiquette, or maybe they just don’t care. Bottom line is that email is a huge part of our communication and it should be taken seriously. Emailing a customer? You’d better be sure you’re communicating professionally and effectively. The expectations you set and the perception you’re helping to create depend on it.
Below are my top five email etiquette annoyances and what you can do to avoid them.
I Don’t Know Who This Email is To
Have you ever received an email from someone that had more than one person in the To: field, but nobody was addressed in the body?
If you’re asking for something, or looking for a response, be sure to address only one person and then personally address them in the body of the email as well. Messages that are sent to more than one person without specific identification of who it was intended for often end up in a special folder called the Trash.
Also, don’t carbon copy 15 other people on your email. I will only reply to you…or I’ll cc 15 more people and make you look even dumber for writing the email in the first place.
I Don’t Know What This Email is About
We all get a lot of email. Processing it into specific places (I use a system I’ll detail in a later post) is key to staying on top of that endless inbox stream. When you don’t include a subject line in your email, it makes it harder for me to process and find later on.
Inaccurate or overly general subjects are also bad. Titling your email, “Update” doesn’t really help me identify what the email is about. That would be like me titling this post “New Article.” You wouldn’t be reading this if I’d titled it that way. Same thing holds true for email.
Someone sent me an email the other day that was titled (in caps), “HELP!!! SOFTWARE PROBLEM!!!” Perfect example of a terrible email subject. I already know you need help; you wouldn’t be emailing me if you didn’t. Using all caps, multiple exclamation points, and a subject line that does nothing to describe your issue are all very good ways to get moved to the bottom of my priority list.
When I finally did get to that email I found out that it wasn’t a software problem, but a user problem. I replied back with a simple solution and changed the email subject to, “I’M HELPING YOU WITH YOUR USER PROBLEM!!!!!!” Ok, I didn’t, but I really wanted to.
It Looks Like a Fairy Crapped All Over Your Email
This one is pretty easy. Don’t use templates, or background colors, or weird fonts, or colored fonts, or stationery, or anything else that makes your email look like it came from that crazy aunt who still uses dial up and has an AOL account.
HTML emails are ok, but don’t go overboard. I’m using plain text in all of my emails now; it keeps the experience consistent regardless of the email client.
Emails that look like the one below will be laughed at, shared around the office, and then filed away in that special Trash folder.
You Mistakenly Inserted a Novel into the Body
I understand you have a lot to say, but email might not be the best place for it. Nobody likes long and drawn out emails. Get to the point quickly by stating:
- What your question/problem/issue is.
- What you would like done about it.
- When you would like to have it done by.
If you have multiple requests or issues, then break them up into separate emails. It makes them much easier to process and respond to.
Your Signature is an Autobiography
There should be only basic information in your signature. The chances of me needing your work address, company website, personal website, company logo, favorite quote, favorite bible passage, company disclosure information, Facebook page, Twitter page, LinkedIn page, and what you’re currently reading are slim to none.
I was guilty of including too much in my deliverbliss.com emails for a while, but I’ve seen the light and pared it down to the basics.
My work signature looks like this:
GM | ABIS, Inc.
It’s simple and doesn’t take up 75% of the email body. No pictures, links, crazy fonts, or requests to not print my emails. Just the basics.
What Do You Think?
Sorry for the rant, that’s been building up for a while. Am I being too strict here? Do you have some email annoyances I didn’t mention?
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