Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ten Mistakes You Are Probably Making With Email

Emails are forever.  People use them as a record of their actions, but tend to forget that email is a very impersonal medium.  Consequently, it is very easy to overlook and misuse emails.  Most of us read emails once they have piled up and there are many in our inbox.  As a result, they are very easy to take for granted. I, too, am guilty of breaking some of these rules.
Expecting action based on an email
If you send an email, you must follow up with a personal visit or phone conversation.  Don’t assume that just because you sent an email that the person it was sent to will follow-up.

Using emails to make an assignment
People just get too many emails to pay full attention.  Assignments are best given in person, which allows for questions and discussion. Discussions via email are often disregarded.

Not responding so people know you got their note
A simple response, goes a long way. Saying thanks or that you got it, will avoid another email asking if you got the first one.  It is a discipline that I have had to force myself to learn.

Giving bad news in an email
It is hard to give bad news.  However, sending an email is both rude and cowardly.  Telling someone that they did not get a job via email is too impersonal.  Telling someone that their work was rejected is cowardly.  If you are an effective executive, giving bad news in person is a tough thing, but much more acceptable than sending an email.

Expecting that your email will be read
Many people receive hundreds of emails a day.  Busy people often either skip the stuff in their inbox or put a follow-up flag on it and then promptly forget to look at the flagged email.

Assuming that because it is "only" an email, it can be sloppy
Anything with your name on it is an ad for yourself. Typos and bad grammar are unacceptable and will indicate that you are careless and do not pay attention to details.  Details do matter.

Writing long emails and then expecting that people will read them
Like any other form of communication, emails should be to the point and readable.  I get cover letters with résumés that go on for multiple paragraphs.  I simply don’t read them and go right to the accompanying résumé.  You cannot sell effectively via email.  That is why following up in person is more effective.  Ironically, few people email me and then follow up with a call.

Sending too many emails
Sometimes I receive five or ten emails a day from one person.  They all say the same thing, so after the first three or four, I stop paying attention.  That happens all the time at work. If you have to keep following up or adding information, you did not give the first email sufficient thought.

Neglecting to use the BCC
Everybody does not have to know who you sent your email to.

Replying to “All”
Most of the time, copying people is a courtesy to let them know you have contacted someone or followed up on a previous communication.  However, when you respond, everyone on the list usually doesn’t need to see your response; there are times when this is actually a big mistake.  This falls into the category of sending too many emails. Everyone is guilty of sending a response to someone who should not have seen the communication.


  1. To the opening sentence here, “Emails are forever”, and then to the very next, “Email is a very impersonal medium”, I don’t get the connection. Seems like a classic non-sequitur to me. But hey, what do I know about writing. Meanwhile, in the same opening paragraph, it’s said, “Most of us read emails once they have piled up and there are many in our inbox.” Most people I know in business, at any level, check their emails and texts at least every hour, if not every 15 minutes. What they “open” and how long they “read” depends on who you are, and how important what you have to say is to them … in less than 140 Twitter characters or 100 Microsoft words. Only one simple attachment or instant link to another relevant secondary and supporting source. That’s it!

  2. Another Mistake: Never, never send anything that you would not want as a headline in the NY Times. This was drilled into me by my company's legal counsel.

    Your email can be forwarded by accident, as happened to me as a client and being called an XXXX by an agency low rung employee.
    Or, your email can be used used against you on purpose.

    Responding to emails with a thanks: I did this in the past. But now I feel that it is just clogging up that person's email box. This is from personal experience of getting too many "Thanks" responses. It can be expected that the other person received the email if I don't get a bounce back.

    And, fully agree with bad spelling and typos. There is no excuse for this.

    == Steven Pofcher

  3. Paul, was the typo in your headline intentional??

    1. Thanks, Allison. I was joking around and forgot to change it!


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License