Email continues to be our primary means of communicating, both personally and professionally.
Because of this, it needs to be an important consideration as part of our personal brand, reflecting in every email we send who we are and how we want to be seen.
Unfortunately, we seem to be getting worse rather than better when it comes to email etiquette.
Each day, over 200 billion emails are sent and received around the globe, and U.S. workers spend an average of 6.3 hours on email daily. Add to this the constant flow of information and content from countless other sources, and it is easy to understand how we might be suffering from email fatigue and getting lazy.
With that said, here are a few common email mistakes you can avoid.
1. Including vague subject descriptions. We all look to the “sender” first when deciding whether to open an email, then to the “subject” line.
Clearly describe the purpose of your email, so that if you aren’t cool enough to pass the first criteria, at least you can win them over with the second.
2. Not introducing yourself. If the recipient may not remember you right away, save them the hassle of searching their contacts for your email address by providing a brief introduction and explanation of how you met or know each other. If alcohol was involved, you may want to make the introduction longer.
3. Not introducing your topic. Ditto for your message. If the email recipient may not understand why you are writing, introduce and briefly explain the reason for your email (ditto for the alcohol).
4. Abusing the “urgent” setting. Avoid being the “boy who cried wolf” by using the urgent button on every email.
The only topics that qualify as urgent are impending deadlines, disciplinary actions or free food in the break room. Everything else can wait.
5. Attaching large or questionable files. Avoid large files that take up space and are a pain to download. Learn how to minimize file sizes and avoid including compressed “zip” files, which may get bounced for security reason and any “selfies,” which may get bounced for social reasons.
6. Including improper links. With the growing awareness of cyber security challenges, hyperlinks, unknown website links and shortened URLs can create an uncomfortable situation for your recipient. Be transparent and include the full link for them to consider, and never include links to improper or compromised websites (including dreaded YouTube “blackhole” links).
7. Asking for personal or sensitive information. Regardless of how well you know your recipient, never ask for personal or sensitive information to be sent by email, including logins or passwords (or favorite Kenny G. albums).
8. Discussing sensitive matters. Confidential or sensitive matters should never be sent via email, unless you are attempting to establish a trail of responsibility and liability—which just makes you annoying.
9. Sending inappropriate content. Never assume that what you write in an email is private. It is not, and more importantly, that inappropriate joke or comment just inculpated the person to whom you sent the email.
10. Failing to use “BCC” with distribution lists. When sending an email to numerous recipients, always include email addresses in the blind carbon copy line. Failing to do so will expand other’s email distribution lists and shrink your reputation for privacy protection.
11. Using “CC” inappropriately: Never include a supervisor or other party unrelated to the conversation you are having. Some people do this to attempt to claim credit or pass responsibility. All it does is elevate your level of douchebaggery.
12. Ignoring proper grammar and etiquette. Emails are reflection of you, so failing to proofread every email before you send them validates your ignoramus status.
13. Getting too familiar. Unless you are writing to a best friend, spouse or other close acquaintance, do not assume that your recipient wants to be treated like your frat brother.
14. Not deleting email trails. Emails you forward or respond to usually include the trail of previous emails. Often, those trails may include sensitive or inappropriate material.
Play it safe and delete the trail—or start with a new email. If you choose to include the trail to assist with explaining your email, check it, and delete anything that is unnecessary or redundant.
15. Confusing gender. Unisex names can cause real confusion—and tremendous embarrassment—so clear up anybody’s gender before you address them in your email.
16. Sending angry emails. Nothing ever good (for you) comes from an angry email.
If you must get something off your chest, write the email and stash it in your “Saved Drafts,” then read it later to discover what a tremendous disaster you just avoided.
17. Sending pointless messages. Avoid long diatribes that have no point and add no value to the recipient. Save those for term papers.
18. Playing date tag. If you need to schedule an appointment, give specific options in your request. Consider using services like Doodle or Sunrise if you are dealing with numerous participants at once.
19. Not including a specific call to action (if one is needed). If you need someone to do something, be specific and tell them. If you are emailing multiple people, be clear who is responsible for which action.
Failing to do so will almost assuredly mean that you will get stuck with the task.
20. Getting in the last word. If no call to action or request is included in an email you receive, resist the urge to get in the last word with a response. We all have enough email already.
Email is not dying anytime soon, which means we need to continue to be on our toes. Adopt and practice a few good habits and adhere to polite and useful mail etiquette, and you will avoid being filtered into everyone’s email blacklist.