These are six things that will make you look stupid in email. In some cases, breaking these rules will make you lose your job. In others, they will simply annoy your readers. If you have any suggestions that should be added, please leave a comment.
1. Put Your Entire Message In The Subject
Just because you can see the entire subject as you type it, doesn’t mean it will show up for your recipient the same way. Depending on their email program, it might even truncate it.
2. CC A Bunch Of Unrelated Recipients
If you need to send something out to a large number of people who don’t already know each other, don’t put them in the CC field. That broadcasts their email address to each other. There was a case a few years ago where a real estate agent did this to a group of people who were all looking for apartments in New York. People who received it were able to sell the email to other agents for thousands of dollars because it contained the email addresses of qualified leads.
You can use the BCC field if you need to send messages out to a bunch of people. Put your own email address in the TO field. That way recipients can’t see each other’s email addresses and no matter what they hit, any response will come back to only you.
3. Hit Reply All Instead Of Reply
I don’t really know how you could do this accidentally, but I’ve seen it happen many times. I’m guessing that some people have mail programs where the Reply and Reply All buttons are very close together. Other times, I think people are just being lazy and hit Reply All (to 100 people) instead of taking the time to add the three people who need to see their reply.
4. Send A Message To A Superset Of People Who Need It
Lets say you have a group called “Administration” that contains the CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, CSO, and all the other “C” executives. Don’t send a message to the group when it really only needs to go to a smaller number of people in the group.
Sometimes people are too lazy (or don’t know how) to figure out who is in the group they are using. With Outlook, you can click on the + by the group name to show a list of everyone in the group.
5. Leave Out Punctuation
writing in all lowercase with no punctuation doesnt make you look intelligent take the time to use correct punctuation it will make your message easier to understand
Arghh. That was painful to write. Email is often considered informal, but punctuation rules are there for a reason. They really do make it easier for people to understand what you are saying. In some cases, leaving out punctuation can give your sentences an entirely different meaning.
6. Leave Out Paragraphs
Similar to leaving out punctuation, writing one big blob of text does not make your email easy to read. In fact, many people will skip over long messages that they can’t easily scan–especially if they happen to get your message on a cell phone or Blackberry.
Okay, there are my six suggestions of things to avoid in email. If you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments.
Originally published January 31, 2008.