The stress you feel from dealing with email would be reduced if you improve your email habits, the company email culture, and basic etiquette. You'd leave work earlier too. Here is a list collected from my seminars and an unscientific survey on my Web site.
Sending or responding to all to CYA (cover your butt).
Stop sending to all if all do not have a need to know. You wanted to make sure you were covered so you’re sending everyone on a list your answer—whether they needed to know or not. Or you’re sending a message to everyone because you’re too lazy to select the appropriate recipients. Hold down your Alt key now and click and drag the Reply toolbar button away from the Reply to All button (in Outlook).
People trying to solve complex issues using email.
You’re part of a new committee, then the email messages start, back and forth, dizzying speed, the more they come, the more confused you get. Pick up the phone!
Dirty email messages.
These are those messages you receive loaded with those darn carets (>>>), or pages and pages of email addresses that weren’t protected using a blind copy feature. Is it too much to ask for the sender to clean dirty emails before sending it? Would you send a letter out on your company stationery like that? You can get rid of carets by pasting the message into Word and using the Find and Replace feature to find a caret and replace all of them with nothing. You can get rid of all the email addresses just by deleting. Clean it up, then send it.
Subject lines that don’t match the message or ones that do little to let you know what the message is about
. Don’t pull up an old message, hit Reply, and send me a message that has nothing to do with the previous one. Suppose you sent an email message two months ago that said, “The monthly meeting has been cancelled. ” You pulled up that old message because the email addresses were already in it. But this time, you wanted to let everyone know that coffee and donuts would be served at this month’s meeting. At the very least, change the subject line, and also add enough information in the subject line so I’ll know precisely what your email message is about (the way newspapers do when they headline an article).
Canceling a meeting at the last minute and letting me know via email. I show up, “Oh, didn’t you get my e-mail?” When did you send it? I left my office two hours ago, and now my whole day is shot.
People who wait until the last minute to ask you to do something as if you had nothing else to do. You know the work was in a pile on their desk, and while they were digging for something else, they found it, and sent you an email message, marking it urgent. Then when the deadline isn’t met, it’s not their fault because they “gave it to you. ”
People who call you instead of checking their email.
You’ve done your job, and sent an email message to people with information they need. They end up calling you asking for the information because, “I’m too busy to check email. Please always call me with the information or at least call me to let me know you sent it. ” Pa‑leaese!
You send a legitimate email message to someone who has requested information. The message clearly needs a response, but nothing happens. If you’re too busy to hit Reply to say “No, ” you need to examine how you’re working. Why did you make me waste your time and mine?
“Thanks, ” “Oh, OK. ” My goodness! You sent an email message to 25 people, and 15 of them sent you a one-liner. Next time, put “No Reply Necessary” at the top.
Don’t underline anything in a message (or on a Web page) that’s not a hyperlink. I always move the mouse toward it thinking it’ll take me somewhere.
My original message not attached.
When someone replies to my message without the previous message below it or attached to it, I’ve already forgotten what I asked them in the first place.
If you wouldn’t put a smiley face or emoticon on your business correspondence, you shouldn’t put it in a business-related email message.
Those email messages from you asking me to update my contact information. Your best customer is getting 10 of these a day! And, I don’t even remember who these people are. I went to the Plaxo Web site and opted out of receiving any of these annoying updates. Make sure you opt out for all your different email addresses.
Senseless auto responders.
How about the one that says, “Thank you for your email message. I will respond to you as soon as I can. ” What a complete waste of my time to open this stupid response. It’s almost like the letter carrier leaving me a message in my mailbox saying, “I picked up your mail today. I’ll bring you more when I get it. ”
Words from grown, business people using shortcuts such as “4 u” (instead of “for you”), “Gr8” (for great) in business-related email. Are you lazy, or just can’t type or spell? If you wouldn’t send a company letter out like that, it shouldn’t be in an email message. (This is different from legitimate abbreviations a company may develop such as NRN for No Reply Necessary. )
As if you’re checking up on me to see if I open your message. I don’t know why people waste time doing this because most people probably have this feature turned off in their email program.
Too many attachments.
You should get permission before sending someone an email message with more than two attachments. Instead of sending five PDFs, consider combining them into one document. (If you receive a message in Outlook with a lot of attachments, save them all at once. Click the File menu, Save Attachments, and save them as you normally would. )
Attachment and no body.
If you send an email message about an event and no explanation in the body, I delete the message (especially if it’s a large file that would drain my ink supply if I printed it). If the details are in the body of the message, I don’t need the attachment. I don’t need to see how creative you were with your flyer. I just need the information and can drag it to my calendar.
Abuse of my email address.
I register for an event, then every week, I’m getting notices of deals, webinars, teleseminars, etc.
Recipient names not private.
No bcc and pages of email addresses in the message. (If you use Outlook, click View, bcc, and put the recipient names on this line. ) And don’t forward this message to your list without clearing these addresses first.
Passing on hoaxes instead of checking them out first.
What would make you believe that Bill Gates would send you $5000 just for sending an email message? And did you know that the Teddy Bear file you so willingly deleted from your computer was a legitimate Windows file? Check it our first before you send.
Who are you?
People I met briefly some time ago sending me an email message without reminding me who they are.
Messages without signature lines.
Your email signature is a great way to let people know more about you, especially when your email address is something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adding me to your email list.
I just met you, barely remember you, and I’m already on your distribution list for your newsletter, thoughts for the day, and news you think I want to know.
Bad grammar and punctuation.
You can’t hide behind an administrative assistant to clean up your act, so go take some classes and learn how to write and spell. Some messages are so bad, it’s like reading a foreign language, and it wastes my time trying to figure out your mess.
Work email abuse.
People sending me non-work-related email from their job. I don’t want my name and email address showing up in company reports. (The majority of big companies monitor email. )
Unprofessional email IDs.
People who would send a business email message using addresses that begin with names such as cutesuzy, beingblessed, or hardliquor, and so on.
Peggy, thank you so much for an absolutely fabulous seminar. . . The tips you shared and your book are absolutely wonderful. It [Inbox] is looking very good and I thank you for the best night's sleep I've had in a long while, Sharlene Thompson, Director of Special Events.
Peggy Duncan is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, author, and coach specializing in improving personal productivity. Her book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2003, will revolutionize how you manage email. Visit her online for more tips and strategies at http://www.PeggyDuncan.com