Lets Fix 3 Annoying Email Etiquette Habits

I do lots of email etiquette training and have written extensively about email but there are 3 annoying email etiquette habits that have been on my mind lately.

One came to me as I found myself disagreeing with CBC radio guest contributor Lucy Kellaway of the BBC and Financial Post about email etiquette (I’m sure she’s crushed). The next two were annoying email etiquette habits I noticed others were commenting on in social media.

So – with all of this ‘listening and noticing’ going on, I did what I often do… I write a blog post.

Annoying Email Etiquette Habit 1. Reread Before Sending

If you’re like most people, when we write an email we open a blank screen and start typing. What happens over the next minute or two is that as we type, more information about what we should know and/or ask bubbles to the surface. Email evolution takes place.

When we’re done all the information/questions is likely there, but chances are the logical flow of our email might look like a Family Circus© comic strip. We have to remember that 10 different people can read the same words and depending on their education, experience and objectives they will interpret those words 10 different ways… ESPECIALLY in an email. When we add to the mix that email evolution just happened, we are almost guaranteed to confuse and frustrate our reader, (you know I’m right because you’ve received email like that).

Family Circus ©Bil Keane Inc.

Family Circus ©Bil Keane Inc.

The solution is easy. Write your email in exactly the same way… but PLEASE… take a few seconds and reread before sending. When you do reread, please keep in mind the following 3 things:

  1. Bottom line your email by putting the important information and action item at the top and background / support information after.
  2. Confirm that you wrote with your readers needs and knowledge in mind. If you don’t, they will likely have to make assumptions – and that’s the beginning of a whole list of mistakes waiting to happen.
  3. Is there any information that is not longer needed and/or a sentence you can shorten? The less time they need to read the more likely your message will be read and acted on. 

Annoying Email Etiquette Habit 2. Close The Loop

If I sent you a file you requested, how do I know you received it if you don’t reply? A simple ‘Thanks’ does the trick. You can even save the 2 seconds it would take to type the reply by creating a partially completed email template (see the template I’ve included in this post as an example).

Bruce Mayhew Consulting Email Etiquette

Bruce Mayhew Consulting Email Etiquette

Besides being polite and respectful, sending a thank you reduces risk by closing the loop on our ‘transaction,’ otherwise, I might be (rightly), worried and spend even more time following up with you to make sure my email:

  • Didn’t go into your junk folder
  • Wasn’t mistakenly overlooked because you receive over 150 email each day (like most business people)

Annoying Email Etiquette Habit 3. Use A Signature Block

Always use a signature block which includes a phone number your reader can use to get hold of you. You don’t need to include your private number, but everyone should be able to leave you a verbal message (at least).

I was listening to CBC radio 1 a few weeks ago and Lucy Kellaway was on saying the exact opposite; the last thing she wants to share in an email is her phone number. If you are a public figure that makes sense… but for the average business email that you are purposefully engaged in, phone numbers are important.

Email is a terrible brainstorming tool and as mentioned above, details can easily be misinterpreted or overlooked. There are many times when your reader will realize a 2 minute conversation or voice mail can replace days of back and forth email, frustration and misunderstandings.

Note: If you use an email management system like Outlook, you’ll need to activate a send AND reply email signature block, (many people only activate their send).

Every time you send an email you are advertising your personal and professional brand. What message do you want to send?

Happy communicating and email etiquette.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Family Circus created by cartoonist Bil Keane and currently written, inked, and colored by his son, Jeff Keane. King Features Syndicate.

About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

One Response to Lets Fix 3 Annoying Email Etiquette Habits

  1. Rick Weaver says:

    Number 2 is very frustrating if not followed. As for auto signatures, I agree with your position, forget what the commentator said.

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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