Email Writing Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid
By Dan Rose
Many people view work emails as a necessary evil … I know I do. But, as much as I sometimes hate getting so many, they’re still the primary way people communicate with each other at work. You can’t do much about the quality of the email you receive, but you can make sure that everyone who sees your name in their inbox will get to every message you send quickly—and maybe even with a smile on their face.
Make yourself the hero of your co-workers’ inboxes by avoiding the following common email mistakes that get in the way of your message and their sanity.
- Forgetting to use a greeting or closing
Unless it’s an email about where you and a co-worker are heading for lunch, always use a greeting at the beginning. Otherwise, you come off as a bit of a jerk. It can be as simple as starting off with their name if it’s only going to one or two people or a “Hey gang” if it’s an informal email going to a department or work team. The same goes for including a closing line. A good rule of thumb is to thank the readers for their time.
- Being too formal
Your email opening should always reflect your relationship with that person. If you normally call them by their first name, do it here, even if they are a vendor, customer or client. If it’s a person you’ve never talked to before, use a Mr., Mrs. or Ms. salutation.
- Becoming too informal too fast
On the other hand, don’t act like lifelong chums after the second email. If you’ve been using “Mr. White” previously, don’t start calling him by his first name unless he’s told you it’s okay. Another tip that it’s okay is waiting until they sign off using their first name before doing it yourself.
- Using general greetings such as “to whom it may concern,” or “Dear Sir”
“Hello, spam folder … it’s me, the person that couldn’t bother looking up who this email should have gone to.”
- Forgetting to change the subject line during a long email chain
When you’re in the middle of an email chain—usually sent to a group of people—remember to change the subject line if the main topic changes to something else to help differentiate the conversations that are going on.
- Hitting “reply all”
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!! Unless your reply pertains to absolutely everyone, respond only to the sender. Boom! Done … easy peasy.
- Not paying attention to detail
Always be sure to spell names correctly and double-check for typos. Do NOT count solely on your spellcheck feature. Additionally, never put names in all lowercase or all caps either because it makes you look as though you didn’t care enough to properly format their name.
- Including too many personal details
If you’re sending an email to inform the recipient about upcoming pregnancy leave, vacation, wedding, surgery or event that will keep you out of communication for a while, keep all other personal details out of your email.
- Trying to be funny
Emails—especially group emails—is not the time to try out your latest comedy stand-up material. Sure, the other seven people might have thought your comment was hysterical, but the eighth person definitely didn’t, and your email is being forwarded to HR and your manager. Keep it professional at all times.
- Asking questions that have already been answered
Nothing says “I skimmed this really fast” more than asking a question that was answered already in the email. Forget about the fact you’re wasting everyone’s time, it’s totally unprofessional.
- Using email as the wrong communication method
Conversations that should be done face-to-face, such as disciplinary processes, or constructive and more formal criticisms of procedures, processes or even other co-workers, should never be done on email. Without body language, eye contact and tone of voice that a face-to-face meeting would provide, too many misunderstandings can happen. Plus, email can fall into the wrong hands which, without context, could cause huge problems.
Of course, there are many more mistakes people make when sending emails, but these were the top comments we received. If you simply avoid making these eleven errors, you’ll stand out for sending highly professional emails.
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