In today’s business world email is the default means of communication, both internally and externally. That’s why it’s so important that you’re doing it right, following the unspoken rules of email etiquette and not annoying the hell out of everyone. Here are a few of the most often violated email offenses and how to avoid them.
1. Saying thank you. It’s counterproductive to reply with just a “thank you” in internal emails with no additional feedback. When you’re working on a team or within the same company you all have common goals. If you don’t have more information to add to the topic at hand, you’re just cluttering up your colleague’s inbox. If a “thank you” is definitely in order, try remembering to give your thanks in the original inquiry email. “I was wondering if you could send along last week’s report again, I can’t seem to find it. Thank you so much!” And if someone at the office is constantly sticking their neck out for you, go the extra mile and buy them a coffee, give them a shout out in the next team meeting, or simply say thank you in person. Trust me, those gestures will be much more appreciated— and productive!
2. Not responding within 24 hours. Don’t leave people hanging! This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often not practiced. It is absolutely necessary to respond to all emails within 24 hours you intend to eventually contact or to keep a professional relationship with. Even if it’s just to say that you will have to get back to them at a later time or waiting for your team to make a decision; this let’s the other party know you’re aware of their inquiry. At the very least, receipt needs to be confirmed. If a project or assignment is pushed to you and you’re too busy to tackle it, don’t ignore the email. Email them back and suggest a realistic time frame when you could possibly do it. “At the moment, my priority is on the XYZ project. But feel free to reach out to me again about this in Q3.”
3. Sending a follow-up email less than 48 Hours. Yes, despite the fact that everyone should be responding to emails within 24 hours, not everyone does or can. With that being said, don’t be a bug-a-boo. Give the person you’re emailing at least 48 hours to respond to a request before following up with an annoying, “just following up on this” email. If it’s something urgent that requires immediate response, specify that in the original email.
4. Not starting with your question. Cut to the chase, the meat and potatoes. Start with the point of your email in the very beginning vs. inquiring what you want within the body or at the end. Skip the unnecessary long-winded background of your request. Start with what you want from the individual you’re addressing. They will digest your request quickly meaning a response will come sooner than later. If a fuller explanation is needed, you can dive into it later in the email or after their response.
5. Starting an email with “Sorry to bother you, but…” No need to apologize for doing your job. You may be interrupting their work flow, but that’s business. Not only should you not be apologetic, but it wastes time and energy on both ends. (And it also breaks the rule of getting to your point!) You have a reason why you’re emailing this individual, so skip the crocodile tears and own it.
6. Using “Reply All” entirely too often. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on an email thread that no longer has anything to do with you. Reply All should be used sparingly, if at all. But if you’re going to use it, be sure that the information is relevant to all parties included. When replying to an email, always remove anyone from the recipients list that does not need to be included in the conversation to follow.
7. Replying to old threads. A close second in rank of annoyingness is replying to old email threads with a new topic. Although it’s super tempting to dig up your old email thread with someone and reply to it with a new question weeks later, don’t. If you need to reach someone about a new topic always start a fresh email with a new subject line. It’s important for optimal email inbox functionality, it makes it easier to find and search for relevant information.
Did we miss any big ones? What email offenses get under your skin most?