Don’t let these bad habits infect your emails

Email is a powerful tool, but it can crush your chances at building relationships if you’re not careful. Check out these pet peeves from a PR pro.

Communicating via email is obviously very different from speaking on a phone or meeting in person.

Email etiquette, though frequently unwritten, is important—but some people ignore these commonsense guidelines and do what they want.

Here are four email behaviors that annoy me. They may not bother you, but chances are they’re irritating to many of the people who read your emails:

1. Abbreviating words that don’t need to be abbreviated

How many emails do you get that end with “Thx”?

Really? You just didn’t have the time to type out “Thanks”? It’s not that I don’t understand what is being communicated. I get it. But it’s almost like saying, “I’m too busy and important to have the kind of time required in a day to type out the word ‘Thanks’.”

In one particular instance an abbreviation really irritated me. I don’t remember who the writer was (and I wouldn’t mention it if I did, obviously), but he was at TVGuide.com. He was going to post a story for me (which I appreciated) and I had asked him to hold it until the following day. I emailed him and asked, “Will you be able to hold onto this until tomorrow?”

His complete and total and full response was “Y.”

Now I’m confused. If I pronounce that letter, it could be “Why?” Or it could also be short for “Yes.” So I had to email him back to get clarity. Do he want to know why I needed him to hold it? Or was he saying, “Yes, I can comply with your request”?

He wrote back, “Yes.” But he couldn’t have just typed that the first time? We had to send two additional emails back and forth, surely taking up more time than the amount of time it would have taken him to just type “Yes” the first time.

“Thx” I can live with. Some of these other abbreviations that just cause confusion aren’t helpful at all.

2. Responding to an email that has three questions and only answering one

This is another email behavior that slows up the communication process and slows down everyone’s workflow.

Many times you need to send someone an email to get answers to several questions. And many times you have—gasp!—multiple questions that have to be answered.

It is beyond frustrating to send someone multiple questions and then see them respond with an answer to just one. Now I have to send another email asking about the other information I requested that’s sitting right in the first email. More wasted time.

3. Forwarding an email ‘as is’ to someone else

Have you ever sent an email to a colleague that was intended for only that colleague? Yes, of course! Every day!

Ever have that colleague forward it completely as is to someone else that you hadn’t intended to read it?

Some people just love to forward emails along in order to avoid any reading, thinking, editing or actual work. Please, please pay attention to what you’re doing. Do you really think I want an email forwarded directly to Jeff that includes sentences like “We have to manage Jeff’s ego because you know he’s very sensitive”? Or “Yes, we’re getting drinks after work at the usual spot. Don’t tell Jeff”?

You can see how I might not have wanted that sent directly along to him. That said, there is also another rule that we should all follow: Don’t put information into emails that you don’t want others to see. I’m very careful about what I say and try to only send emails that I assume the recipient will pass along unedited.

4. A ton of images in your e-signature

It’s one thing to have an organization logo in your email signature. I get that.

But some people insist on including logos of their organization, images of an upcoming trade show they are attending, promotional images of their top-selling items, etc.

I don’t need seven attachments at the bottom of your email! I see your name and think you included an important file. Every. Single. Time.

We don’t need all of that. Let’s take stock of our lives and clean out our email signatures.

Your turn to complain: What would you add to this list?

Micah Warren is a co-founder of Large Media, Inc. and has been a public relations strategist for more than 15 years. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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Topics: PR

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