Professional Development

7 unprofessional email habits you need to avoid

Written by Peter Jones

No matter what level you are within your career, chances are you feel overwhelmed every time you sit down at your computer and check your inbox. Email is not just something to check in with once in a while and ignore—triaging and responding to emails is a huge part of the workday. In fact, a survey done by Adobe found that almost half of the 1,000 people surveyed expect people to get back to them within the hour!

You have to read and respond quickly, which leaves room for careless errors to creep in. Much of the impression you make with colleagues will be digital, so you need to remain sharp and focused—even if you’re working on your 30th email of the day. Read on for some very common errors that tend to occur when you let your guard down.

Replying all for everything

Before you hit replay all, pause. Always pause. Ask yourself, “Does everyone on this thread really need to see my reply?” Spend an extra minute culling down the list of recipients, or just respond only to the sender. You’ll be responsible for keeping everybody’s inboxes clutter-free for at least a day if you do this. There’s always the option of forwarding something along if later down the line you realize he or she needs to see it.

Careless CC-ing

This is in the same vein as the “reply all,” except the stakes are higher and you could actually land yourself, your boss, or your client in hot water by adding a name to an email chain without asking first. Don’t share info that isn’t yours to share—never assume it’s okay to forward or share an email with a new recipient (especially one outside of the company) until you’re sure all parties are on board. Take the time to confirm if you ever have any doubt.

Forgetting the attachment

This is one error that isn’t the biggest deal the first time it happens. But if it becomes a habit, you’ll start to look silly. You might think it’s okay, even cute, to send the follow up “Ooops!! Attachment attached!” email to your entire department when you’ve forgotten to attach a necessary document to the first email. But it isn’t—it just makes you seem careless.

The theme that keeps coming up applied here, too: take your time. Do the last-minute check to make sure all recipients are correct, necessary, and that you’ve attached your attachments before you send.

Unnecessarily crying “Urgent!”

Do you get too many red-flagged emails, only to realize when you open them that they really aren’t that big of a deal? Don’t abuse the “urgent” function—if and when you do need to send an email with a true crisis, no one is going to believe you.

Rambling on and on

Think about the last time you opened up an email to see a wall of text. Be honest: did you really read the whole thing, every word? Probably not. There is no reason for your two-page email. Be as clear and concise as possible and save your coworkers (and yourself!) a whole lot of valuable time. People are more likely to read and digest your email if it’s short, sweet, and to the point. Bullet points are your friend!

Misspelling someone’s name

There’s a very good chance that your recipient’s name is literally in his or her email address. Do the extra two-second check to make sure you’ve spelled it right. If you’re mentioning other people within your email, take the time to double-check their names as well. Don’t assume that because someone has a common name that it takes the common spelling: Michelle or Michele? Gennifer or Jennifer? Geoffrey or Jeffrey? It matters.

Writing bad subjects (or no subjects)

Your recipients should be able to tell what your email is about simply by glancing at the subject line in their inbox. Don’t be vague. For example, “Follow-up” is a very vague email subject, but “Follow-up Notes from 9/15 Board Meeting” is direct and clear. Weeks, months, or years down the line, will your recipient be able to tell what’s in your email? Write your subject lines with that goal in mind. And please, please always include a subject—leaving the line blank is just lazy.

About the author

Peter Jones