Worst Email Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Tech has provided us with many ways to exchange information, yet email still ranks at the top when it comes to communicating in the professional environment. Previous statistics have suggested people spend more than a quarter of their workday using email, and a study last year found workers spent an estimated 6.3 hours a day checking email, with roughly half of those being business emails.

With so much time dedicated to emails, it can be easy to make a mistake. We've probably all made them at one time or another. Have you made any of these common bloopers?

Treat work email like personal email.

As the study highlights, people divide their time equally between work and personal email and, as a result, the line between the two can sometimes blur a bit. It's important to always remember to consider your audience before sending an email.

  • Watch the accidental "text-speak"
  • Know when to be casual vs. formal
  • Avoid emoticons (although, in some instances, a "smiley" is considered to be OK in business emails)

Consider if the message is internal or external - if going to a department head of another company, you'll probably want a different tone than one you'd use with colleagues. Don't go too "stuffy" though, you want to strike a good balance between professional and friendly.

Hit "reply all" when you should use "reply."

One common mistake people often make is automatically responding "reply all" instead of replying directly to the sender. When this happens it creates an annoyance for other recipients who are bombarded with emails stating "got it, thanks", "I agree with you" or other quick acknowledgements. Before hitting "reply all" ask yourself:

  • Does the comment add value?
  • Is the response part of an ongoing discussion?
  • Does it state something others need to know?

If you say "no" to all of these, you probably don't need to respond to everyone. Also, if you are the sender, if people don't need to see who receives the email, consider using BCC instead of CC to avoid clogging up other people's inboxes. This ensures recipients get relevant information, but are not overwhelmed with responses that don't pertain to them.

Using mobile email.

Mobile has proved to be a great convenience, but it has created some new types of email etiquette issues. People often check their work email off-hours, leading to impulsive replies, which may create some awkwardness. A phenomenon called "sleep-texting" is a real thing these days, and some people "sleep email" as well. To sidestep making these kinds of blunders, shut the phone down at night and/or wait until morning to reply. This way you'll also avoid potentially causing late night alerts that might wake a recipient up. Most things can wait until morning.

Also, using auto-correct can create some mortifying situations. Hubspot recommends adding a signature stating "Sent from my" [insert name of device] to all mobile emails - recipients are more likely to cut "some slack" if they know the message was sent from a mobile. Or, better yet, avoid a potential goof in the first place, if possible, wait until you can get to your PC or laptop to respond.

Other good email practices

  • Use a direct and succinct subject line.
  • Don't shorten anyone's first name unless you know for sure he or she goes by a nickname.
  • Include salutations and closings where appropriate.
  • Use professional-looking fonts.
  • Avoid using exclamation points (unless really necessary).
  • Proofread your email before sending. Some recommend filling in the "To" field last, this way emails can't be sent prematurely.
  • Think twice before hitting the forward button. Is there anything confidential or other proprietary information that could be exposed?

One big email goof can create a lot of embarrassment or give a poor impression, but if you get yourself in the professional groove before hitting that send button, you can avoid most of the common email mistakes.

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