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As professional web developers and business people, we tend to expect a lot from our clients and colleagues – a passing acquaintance with spelling, the correct use of “your” vs. “you’re”, some indication that emoticons and acronyms have not replaced actual brain cells.
It’s a tough world for the functionally literate, especially when it comes to email, where rules that were slapped into us by adamant grade school English teachers suddenly come undone in an endless variety of mind-numbing mutations.
Composing a coherent email is not a lost art; it’s a never-found-in-the-first-place art. Email is less about language and more about expedience, get-it-done-yesterday, and CYA. And it’s a great way to get yourself laughed at, sighed over or fired.
Far from being a definitive list, here are 5 easy ways to make yourself look like an idiot in writing.
Abuse The CC Field
No, your entire address book of friends, family and business colleagues does not need to see the funny cat picture, read about your political persuasions or look for the missing child. They should probably be working instead of clicking through Bill Gates’ fortune one forwarded email at a time. And nothing “really cool” ever happened to anyone who sent this message to 20 of their friends.
Part of the problem with the CC field is that you’re probably using it to forward some completely worthless spam message. The other part of the problem is that you’ve just exposed your entire address book to everyone else in your address book… not a problem if you’re in college and trying to set up Saturday’s frat party, but kind of a bummer – er, complete disregard for privacy – if you’re sending a business communication.
write in all lowercase letters
We realize that those extra keystrokes add up, and before you know it, your email has taken, like, three whole minutes to compose.
If only we could do away with those annoying conventions of writing, life would be so much simpler. We could all go on living the american dream in the good old us of a. Until then, and as long as we’re here in New Jersey, you’re stuck making a passing attempt at sounding like an educated business person.
Wading through a poorly capitalized email is distracting and makes the sender seem unprofessional, as if taking time to write and proofread two sentences is more than we should ask. The only thing more annoying than an email in all lowercase is one that you…
WRITE IN ALL CAPS
Seriously, if you’ve mastered the opposable thumb, there’s no reason to write in all caps. Is it just too much work to hit that caps lock button and turn it off?
For those who have composed more than one email in their lifetimes, here’s a quick lesson: writing in caps means you’re shouting.
Or an idiot, but we’ve covered that.
Be professional and honor capitalization rules. How eager would you be to work with someone whose email style makes your eyeballs bleed?
Reply With A Single Word
As the person in the company who gets to spend many, many minutes writing useful, explanatory and informative emails to clients, few things are as annoying as crafting well-thought-out and organized emails for the client’s benefit only to receive a one-word response.
Sometimes, even in all lowercase or all caps! And not even “cool, thanks.”
If an email requires a response, there’s a really good probability that it requires more than one word. And if it doesn’t, then no reply would suffice in place of “cool”. That one little floating word makes it sound like you’re just too busy to care and probably didn’t read the email anyway.
Some people feel obligated to reply to every single email, whether or not it warrants a reply. An email isn’t always a call to action. Someone has to stop, and it’s ok if that someone is you.
If you’re going to reply, at least make it meaningful.
Hit Reply Reply Reply Reply Reply Reply
If your subject line has more than one re: or if somewhere along the line the topic has changed and what started out as “meeting agenda” has now become “Tuesday’s product launch”, then write a new subject line.
Have you ever tried scanning your email for something specific only to be confronted by pages of subject lines that read like a stutter? Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: that thing.
How about getting an email Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: that thing only to read it and find out it’s about that other thing, because the sender was too lazy to start a new email and simply replied to an old one? If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a perpetual reply, then have some sympathy for your recipients and make your subject lines clear.
It doesn’t take much to compose a professional email worthy of a business communication. An acquaintance with spell check, punctuation, third-grade grammar and the caps lock key will just about do it.
Because chances are you’re not an idiot and it would be too bad if your emails told a different story.
Do you have a specific pet peeve when it comes to email? Please share!