Email Etiquette

Photo courtesy of gorriti

I'm not sure what it is, but bad email practices really make me angry.  I'm always amazed at the horrendous things that I see people do.  Email has been around for long enough now that business people should have no trouble using the medium.  After all, we are just talking about basic communication skills here.  Alas, some people that I work with have terrible email etiquette.  Here are a few of the things that get me rowdy:

  1. USING ALL CAPS.  Damn, this is possibly the worst thing you could do.  Not only is it freaking hard to read, but it looks angry.  When I get one of these, I know the person is either really angry or really lazy.  Usually the latter is true.
  2. writing in all lowercase and in one big run-on blob no punctuation to be seen anywhere.  You've seen these.  It's about half a screen of incoherent babble and a stream of random thoughts with no markers for when one idea stops and another starts. It starts off talking about the sales meeting and transitions to sports.  Next there is something about puppies and then finally back to the sales meeting.
  3. Excessive use of "ASAP". This includes synonyms like "URGENT" and "IMMEDIATE" as well as using that damn importance flag that no one pays attentions to.  I'm sorry, but when you claim that everything is an emergency, I stop caring any more.  It's like the boy who cried wolf except it's the sales that cried ASAP.  I've just become numb to this type of email.  If something absolutely has to be done now I'll have gotten a phone call.
  4. FUBAR Subjects.  I'm not even sure why this one is an issue, but it is.  Apparently it's extremely hard to craft a terse subject that sets a general tone of the email.  Instead, the subject contains the damn body of the email including the person's freaking name.  WTF?  My subject line can only show so many characters.  With a subject 3.73 miles long (that's approximately 6 kilometers for those of you metric folks), you would expect the email body to be a novel right?  Nope, usually it's a simple "see above".  Argh!  That's just laziness and impatience. 
  5. The email then phone call email. "Hey, I just sent you an email.  Did you get it yet?"  It's okay if you just sent me something funny and you want to share the laugh with me.  It's okay if you follow up via phone because I didn't respond in a timely manner for the issue.  It's not okay if you hit send and pick up the phone to dial.  Computers are amazing things that deliver email with amazing reliability.  You can be fairly certain that clicking send and not getting an error means that I'll get the email.  I'll read it when I'm damn well ready to read it.
  6. Poor spelling.  I'm not perfect and I spell things wrong on occasion. I'm no grammar Nazi, but spell check is built in to Outlook.  In fact, you don't even need to click something to perform the spell check as it puts a big red squiggly line under the damn word as you type it wrong.  Those people who make it a habit of having spelling mistakes are just being lazy.
  7. "Reply All" all the time.  There's nothing like getting a broadcast message to announce something at work only to be bombarded by the onslaught of replies.  Here's the scenario, email #1 is an announcement along the lines of "Please welcome our new employee Salesy McSales."  Emails #2-8 are an email with "Glad to have you on board."  Email #9 is an email asking where we are going to lunch to celebrate the new hire.  Finally Emails #10-13 are a brief debate over the location of lunch.  All of this for a person who isn't even in my department.  Nice.

Hopefully none you, my dear readers, are described above.  If I've offended any of you, well good.  Someone had to tell you how bad you suck at the Internets.  If you know someone who does these things, send them a link here.  I'm sure they'll laugh because they're oblivious to the fact that they do these things.  At least you tried.

3 Comments so far

  1. Aaron @ April 23rd, 2008

    i dont know what your talking about none of this makes any since i bet you just hate people whats wrong with the world today politics suck and im glad you got a new sales person


  2. Judith @ April 24th, 2008

    Love your post and your attitude! I got a kick out of how you versed some of your peeves (I’ve had similar thoughts on many occasions) — be careful though, as you’ve seen, speaking about these matters brings out the worst of the worst! 😉

    In running several E-mail Etiquette sites for over a decade, I have the pleasure to run into onliners who react viscerally to being told (no matter how kindly) that there may be a better approach than the one they are currently using when it comes to their e-mail activities. Especially in business — the issues you mention can make or break you! I have a Business E-mail Etiquette Blog you may want to peruse: .

    I always enjoy running into other like minds online!

    Take care ~

  3. brandon @ April 24th, 2008

    Maybe you should starting using pictures of yourself for these posts to add dramatic effect. You could take your picture with the people who are the main offenders in your office and use that. I’d like to see what these crazy people look like.

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