We spend almost 29 days a year checking our emails, and send on average 33 emails every 24 hours. That gives us many opportunities to make mistakes.
Although it’s tempting to quickly touch-type an email and ping it off, it’s important to take the time to double-check every email you send, to avoid a dreaded email faux pas.
Here are the top 10 common mistakes you should avoid:
1. Bad grammar or spelling
This one is top of the list for obvious reasons. The odd grammar or spelling mistake is to be expected, but when somebody is consistently using poor grammar or spelling words incorrectly, it can look sloppy and unprofessional. Make sure at the least you proofread your emails once, especially if they are going to your boss!
2. Two words: Reply All
Unless your email applies to everybody in a chain, don’t use reply all each time you hit the send button. One person sending a thank you email to the original sender and everybody else in the office is annoying yet manageable, but imagine 50 other people in the office doing the same thing!
3. Using Emojis or abbreviations
Emojis and abbreviations are generally frowned upon in the business world. It looks too informal and juvenile to write “LOL J” to a potential client or your boss in an email; it’s best to keep a level of formality in your emails to everybody, so you don’t fall into bad habits.
4. Marking all your emails as 'important'
If you make a habit of consistently tagging your emails as important and needing an urgent response, you can find yourself in a ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario. People will get frustrated and switch off whenever they see your ‘important’ emails, potentially ignoring emails that really do need an urgent response.
5. Misdirected emails
This is very important when sending emails, especially if you are divulging confidential information or contacting a potential client or customer. If you send an email addressed to the wrong name, it looks like you don’t care, and isn’t likely to win you many fans! Always take a few minutes to check you have addressed your email to the right name and email address.
6. Saying things over email that should be face-to-face
Personal conversations, such as offering a colleague criticism, cannot be done over email. People can misinterpret the tone and message of emails, so it is best to pick up the phone or have a face-to-face chat to add that personal touch and not offend.
7. Being impolite
We get it, you’re busy and you want to quickly fire off that email, but your recipient may be offended if you do not include your P’s and Q’s when asking for a favour. Always wish your colleagues well at the end of your email too, even just writing a simple “many thanks” is enough to be seen as polite.
8. Using nicknames
If you are emailing somebody with the name Matthew in their signature, it’s polite to refer to them by their full name. Calling the recipient by a nickname could be seen as overfamiliar and arrogant, so try to avoid it.
9. Writing an unformatted novel
Keep your messages short and succinct, and make sure you use headers and bullet points if you wish to convey a number of topics. People tend to skim read their emails, so writing paragraphs is a waste of time. If you have too much to say via email, pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.
10. Writing bad subject lines
This point is especially important if you are sending out sales emails. Emails without specific or interesting subject lines have a notoriously low open rate. You are far more likely to get a response if your subject line includes a call to action, deadline or question.
A bonus point: always start new email chains for new topics. This will make it easier to search for notes on specific topics without driving yourself crazy looking through hundreds of emails!
Published: 21 October 2021
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