In our world of fast-paced communication, it seems like the social niceties are ever-changing. What was perfectly appropriate even just five years ago can be considered a no-no in today’s back-and-forths. While the dreaded “reply all” blunder remains the king of all email mishaps, there are some subtler gaffes that you might be committing...
You know the feeling: someone asked you a question and totally disregarded the fact that it was already answered in a previous communication. In your frustration, you type those four magic words. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it really means: “See below, you idiot.”
It’s natural to want to point out that you’ve already clearly communicated the information. However, the reality is that it doesn’t benefit anyone in the exchange – and it can come off as a bit petty. So just go ahead and copy/paste the
answer and hit send.
It’s often very difficult to communicate sarcasm properly through email. If the recipient doesn’t catch your sarcasm, they end up taking you at your word, leading to miscommunication. If the recipient does catch your meaning, they might find you unpleasant rather than funny, as you probably intended.
While this may feel like an outdated practice to many from the younger generation, email signatures can help in many situations. Including your name, title, business, phone number, address and website at the end of your communications allows the recipient to quickly refresh themselves on who you are and some alternative means of contacting you if email isn’t sufficient. Leaving out that information would force them to Google you – which can be a pain.
Just as bothersome are email signatures that are unnecessarily long. While compliance disclosure text may be unavoidable for some industries, your email signature really shouldn’t be more than a few lines long. “inspirational” quotes, unnecessary text or photos become noise.
This is an awkward add-on in just about any situation because it does two things: assumes the recipient doesn’t already know the information (they might) and it leaves out the “why.” If you’re forwarding an email that provides some context you think is needed, state why. An example might be if a coworker’s client is in an important news article, forward it with a line like, “In case you hadn’t seen this.” If you meant that the recipient might need to reference the included information later, state that.
This might feel like a lighthearted, casual way of nudging someone about an email that hasn’t been responded to. But
it’s important to consider what message that nudge sends; you’re taking up more of their attention and indirectly asking for your project to jump to the top of their to-do list. While some people may need those reminders – and it may make you feel better to be sure your original email was seen – there are better ways to go about it. Instead, set your expectations: “Hey! I’d love to get a status update on this by [date]. We need to have this project completed [by date, or for what reason].”
The exclamation point is best used sparingly. When used judiciously, it can convey a friendly, playful tone or urgency; when used with abandon, it can accidentally make you seem unprofessional, immature or even angry.
While there is no set rule for how many exclamation points are appropriate for email, I’ve heard some HR professionals recommend no more than once per paragraph, and no more than thrice per email. While that may feel a little rigid, it’s probably sound advice.
Also note that you should never use more than one exclamation point in a row. “Come see me!!!!” reads very differently than, “Come see me!”
This phrase is one that is contentious, but hear us out: you’re essentially saying “please respond to this email.” If you have to say that, there’s a bigger breakdown in communication at play. Instead of leaving what could be interpreted as passive-aggressive prompts, make your emails more concise, and put questions you want answered on separate
lines, so anyone skimming the email will catch them right away.
While you may want to emphasize part of your email, ALL CAPS text ain’t the way to go because it’s almost universally considered aggressive, angry and rude. Instead, bold OR highlight important text. If it’s incredibly important, place it on a line by itself so it can’t be missed – no need to change the font size, case or color.
The best thing you can do to be a good email communicator is to take a second to re-read your email before hitting send. This gives you time to check your tone, edit the text, check if you’ve forgotten any important points and double-check your attachments. •