Avoid These 4 Unforgivable Email Sins

email etiquetteBy Jessica Lawlor

As professionals with a full workday -- along with side hustles, blogs and other online pursuits -- we deal with a barrage of incoming and outgoing emails. #InboxZero is something to strive for, but for many of us, the emails keep flowing.

For the most part, email is an excellent and time-efficient way to communicate, but when it comes to email etiquette, there are four sins that are simply unforgivable.

Avoid these email faux pas to keep your colleagues from immediately deleting your emails:

1. Answer me first! I'm important. I cringe when an email pops into my inbox with the dreaded high importance exclamation mark. The high importance mark actually has the OPPOSITE effect on me; when I see one come in, I want to read and reply to it even less.

Because really, what's of high importance to someone else just might not be of high importance to me. This mark is best to use only in an emergency, and let's face it, if you're having an emergency, it's probably a better idea to just pick up the phone.

2. Read receipts. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the purpose of a read receipt. I already have enough emails in my inbox without needing an email back every single time someone opens one of my emails, so I can never imagine why someone else needs to know the second I read their email. I always decline sending a read receipt back to the sender because – Really? You don't need to know when I read your email. You'll be the first to know when I reply.

3. Excessive replying all. Besides being kind of risky (take this timely example of a popular blogger being called a pretty brutal name by a PR firm because of a hasty reply all), reply alls can be just plain annoying. Professionals are big fans of the "CC," but usually replying all keeps people in the loop who probably didn't need to be there in the first place.

4. Thank you, NO, thank you! You've gotten these emails before. Someone asks for something, you send it back to them and they reply with a friendly "thanks so much!" I have to admit, I'm guilty of committing this grievance from time to time, but it doesn't make it any less annoying.

In 2010, a study discovered that people receive an average of 74 emails daily. As polite as you want to be, a two word "thank you" email clogs the inbox of someone who is already busy reading and replying to many other emails. As a recovering "thank you" email abuser, I beg you to resist the urge to hit reply.

Rather than going on and on listing other email grievances, I took to Twitter to find out some of my followers' biggest email pet peeves. Here's what I learned:

  • @prvero: using too many fonts and colors in the body of the email and/or signature & new convo from a diff thread
  • @barbaranixon: Vague subject line (like "Question" or "Hi"), taking too long to get to point, cc'ing in the world... #emailpetpeeves
  • @lindstr: Marking every email with a red flag. And yes, I know people who do that. Ensures I will do the opposite of read it immediately!
  • @LaurenCox08: Misspelled words, no introduction, lots of exclamation points, no subject line, I could go on for days. Lol
  • @thatshortchick: high alert/priority emails. or text language. STAB.

OK, people... let your frustrations out. What are some of your biggest email pet peeves?


Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional in Philadelphia. In her free time, she manages a book review and writing blog and is currently writing a novel.


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