In the hot seat: Are you guilty of these insanely annoying email habits?

Email is an indispensable form of communication. It’s fast, cheap and direct.

Sadly however, many people abuse the medium – sacrificing their professional credibility in an instant.

Poof. Gone.

We all know to treat the CC field with caution. We know that ‘reply all’ can lead to life-long embarrassment. And we know that forgetting attachments is never a good look.

So in this post I want to cover six other annoying email habits.

1. Pointless… and excessive…… punctuation!!!!??!!!

Consider this email:

Hi Tracey! I hope you are well……..?

How are you going with those year-end figures you are working on???? Please update me as soon as possible!!!!

Cheers 🙂 !!!

Classy stuff hey?

News flash! The full stop may be unoriginal. But it’s still a bloody brilliant way to end a sentence. Don’t get me wrong. Exclamation marks have their place – mainly in these three situations:

  • To convey high volume or emphasis: Please don’t be late!
  • For writing quoted speech: She shouted at him: “Go away! I hate you!”
  • For indicating strong feelings such as surprise, anger or joy: I am so in love!

The exclamation mark is not interchangeable with the full stop. Without! Good! Reason!

And unless you’re suffering from some form of hysteria, use only one exclamation mark or question mark at a time.

One more thing. The ‘ellipsis’ is a series of three – and only three – full stops to mark missing words, an uncertain pause or an abrupt interruption. Don’t use an ellipsis just for fun. And don’t use five…. six…… or 12………… when three will do. It looks amateurish.

2. Stupid email sayings

We often write emails on autopilot. And with so many emails coming and going every day, sometimes that’s fair enough.

But there are some sayings that are so overused in our email exchanges that we’ve stopped thinking about what we’re actually writing.

Here are two sayings that I find particularly irritating.

  • Thanking you in advance. What’s wrong with just ‘Thank you’? Adding ‘in advance’ sounds as if you won’t be bothered to express your gratitude later. The expression can also be viewed as presumptuous: ‘I’ve just thanked you for doing this, so you better actually do it, okay?”

  • Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns: Blah, blah blah… boring! Go on, admit it. You’re in love with this ever-so-pretty-and-polite sign off, aren’t you? If so, you’re not alone. It’s just so delicious and warm and fuzzy. But hear me out. Why bother telling someone not to hesitate – unless of course they have explicitly told you they are hesitating? Remember, never use 14 words when seven will do. Just write: “Please call if you have any questions.” It’s still professional and polite. Yet shorter and simpler.

3. Using email for lengthy or difficult discussions

Need a deadline extension from your boss? Need to tell your client that their invoice is going to be higher than expected? Need to let a colleague know that they’re latest report… sucks needs work?

If you have something to communicate that’s likely to elicit an emotional, uncertain or long-winded response, consider this.

Look away from your computer screen. (Go on. Do it now. Just for practice.) Remove your fingertips from your keyboard. Now, pick up that handheld device next to your computer. The one with numbers on it. It’s called a telephone.


Although it seems easier just to send an email, calling the other person is a more professional and personal way to handle sensitive situations. A phone conversation gives you a clearer sense of how the other person is feeling. And it gives you the opportunity to handle objections immediately – without ongoing correspondence.

Give it a go.

4. Buried requests and actions

If you require any type of action from your recipient – a question answered, a meeting confirmed or a report written – bring that request to the top of your email. Then clearly state when you need it by.

Don’t sandwich your request between other unimportant pieces of information.

And because you’re writing an email – not an Agatha Christie novel – don’t save the most important stuff for the end.

Consider the difference between these two emails:

Email 1:

Hi Tracey

How are you today? I hope the Client Christmas Party plans are coming along well.

I have been thinking about possible venues for the event and would like to line up a few appointments with reception centres. It would be great to get your input and, if possible, for you to join me on these appointments. If that suits you, please let me know if you are available all day on Tuesday so I can schedule them in. I think we need a venue close to the CBD that can cater for approximately 150 people. It’s going to be so great, I can’t wait.

Email 2:

Hi Tracey

Are you available on Tuesday 19 October? I would like you to come with me to check out possible venues for our Client Christmas party. It may take all day.

Please let me know by 5pm today if that suits you.

5. Big FAT paragraphs

Big fat paragraphs scream hard work. They’re an instant turn-off.

The information within your email could be life-changing. Yet after just once glance at its thick chunky paragraphs, your recipient will have already lost interest.

Remember, we rarely read emails. We much prefer to skim so that we can pick out important information quickly.

So don’t write five or six sentence in one chunk. Split it up. Aim for no more than three sentences per paragraph – and consider bulleted lists wherever possible.

And when you have an important point to make, try a one-line paragraph. Like this.

6. Blank or vague subject lines

A blank or vague subject line tells your recipient that you can’t be bothered. And that you don’t value their time.

The purpose of a subject line is to tell your recipients what your email is about – immediately. So steer clear of subject lines such as: ‘FYI’, ‘One more thing’ and ‘hey!’.

And don’t be afraid to make your subject line specific. A great subject line is one that encapsulates the main point of your email:

  • Christmas Party venue visits – this Tuesday
  • Sales progress meeting delay: now at 1pm
  • You have a gift waiting for you at reception

On a separate note, if there has been a long forwarding and replying party going on, consider taking a moment to delete this kind of rubbish from the subject line:

Re: Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd

And finally, know when to start a new email rather than replying to an old one. No one expects to read about your romantic weekend in Palm Beach when they open up an email entitled: “CEO shock termination’.

Want to ensure your emails are error-free — everytime? Download our FREE cheat-sheet ‘Golden Rules for Email Writing‘ now.