As a content writer and SEO specialist in the Twin Cities I communicate with my clients almost exclusively through email. I do this for several reasons but mostly because an email is a rich resource for me when building a site or providing any maintenance for a website. If someone asks me to change a slider on the front page of their website I have it documented in the email. If someone asks me to provide blog posts for three weeks instead of four I have it documented in the email. An email is an easy to access document that might not be as good as a signed contract but is enough to show the team what has been provided and what hasn’t.
It goes without saying I prefer email to any other form of business communication because of its ability to track progress and because any information in a text is usually truncated and difficult to follow. Additionally a text message (which I get many of as well) can be challenging to decipher if emoticons and shorthand is used. Voice mail is better than a text but still can leave room for interpretation. I’ve also lost more voice mail messages than I have emails.
While I love using email as a business tool there are some issues I have with it. Email is great if you’re an organized and possibly obsessive person but for those who are unorganized and scatterbrained it can be nothing but a source of great frustration for the recipient.
What follows is a list of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to using email. If you’re guilty of any of these please consider making an effort to rectify your bad email habits — you’ll save time, frustration and ultimately money if you’re communicating with someone who is working for you or providing a service.
1. Put the Subject in the Subject Line
This couldn’t be any more simple and yet so few people do it. One can’t search for the contents of an email easily if the email isn’t labeled properly. If you’re trying to communicate about the color of your header consider using the words “header color” in your subject line. If you want to really be efficient you might try including the name of the website or your business as well. For those of use who build many websites at one time this helps us keep things organized and reduces confusion between clients.
Examples of a good subject line include:
Tuesday meeting changed to Wednesday, Suggestion for website theme, Blog content attached in Word Doc, etc….
The point it to use your subject lines wisely, concisely and as directly as possible.
2. Don’t Start Your Thoughts in the Subject Line
Similar to rule #1 if you use the subject line to just start your narrative you’re going to have your email message get lost amongst the hundreds or even thousands of emails received every day. It might seem like a great way to grab my attention (and assuring that I read your thoughts before actually opening the email) but when I need to reference the real meat of the email I have no way to search for it because you wasted the subject line with “I was also thinking we could ….” and then continuing in the body of the email with “maybe change the color of the top part of the page by going with a hue similar to my old Ford Mustang… It was a light blue, not quite pale but not baby blue either”. I get what you’re trying to say but when it comes time for me to figure out the blue you want I have to search based on the whole text/thought rather than the gist or meat of it. If I can’t remember it word for word, or at least close to the same verbiage I might not find the email and you could end up with a sky blue instead of the one you envisioned. FYI – here’s a color wheel if you want to choose the precise color give me the hex code.
3. Refrain from Excessive use of Capitalization and Exclamation Points
And while you’re at it don’t even consider using emoticons unless you’re sending an email to your mom or BFF. If you’re sending a professional email write clearly and concisely. Get to the point as quickly as possible and if you have an urge to type in all caps then maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and have a person to person to conversation. Better yet, wait until you’ve calmed down to have your discussion.
4. Use Reply All with Caution
Reply All is a handy way to keep everyone up to date on a group project but unless you need to make sure the project manager is aware of what is going on (and this is a really bad way to manage a project) or you need to update everyone on the list you don’t need to fill up everyone’s email inbox with emails that have little to no relevance to them. Either reply to the necessary recipient or start a new email thread (with appropriate subject in subject line) to keep the conversation going.
5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
This should go without saying but please take the time to proofread your messages. Nothing says you’re phoning it it quite like a poorly written email message. Auto correct can be a godsend and it can be the devil incarnate if you don’t pay attention to what it replaces your prose with. Worse you sound unintelligent and yes, people will judge you for poor spelling – silently for sure but swiftly as well. Worse if your message gets forwarded you run the risk of become a meme.
6. Unsend an Email
Yes, you can actually unsend an email if you use gmail. If you’ve written an email that either lacked information you wanted to add or was sent in the heat of the moment you can get it back if you act quickly.
Go to Settings in your Gmail account.
Click on Labs in the top tabs.
Scroll down to Undo Send and click to enable it.
7. Add the Email Address Last
If you have an important message to send but need extra time composing it consider waiting to add the email of the recipient. By adding the email address of the recipient only after you’ve finished composing and proofing the email you won’t accidentally send the message before it’s ready.
8. Keep it Brief
If you’re sending an email to a coworker or client keep it brief. If you’re sending an email to a friend or significant other consider keeping it even more brief.