Top Pet Peeves about Email Messages
How is it that years (years!) after email came into our lives, people still need guidance on how to use it effectively at work? I’m assuming, of course, that people want their email read and acted on.
One of my pet peeves is a message that is too long. If this applies to the message you write, don’t ramble. Get to the point. If the message really needs to be long—and granted, sometimes it does—at least do some editing to improve its readability.
A related pet peeve of mine is a very long paragraph that runs from margin to margin. Near-endless paragraphs demand an intensive reading effort, and even then it’s easy to miss key points. The solution is simple: Divide your message into shorter paragraphs. I aim to keep mine to four lines max. I don’t always succeed, but having this goal helps me be more concise than I might be otherwise.
And what about vague subject lines, the kind that provide no clue as to what the message is about. For example, a subject line that says “Information” is worthless. A subject lines that says “Important information” is a smidge better provided you know the sender. But a subject line that says “Important information about the analysis you requested” helps the recipient get oriented to the message before viewing it.
By the way, if the purpose of the message is to ask a quick question, one that entails just a few words, why not ask it in the subject line? In a world in which everyone is receiving way too much email, this is a real time saver.
There’s a school of thought that emoticons have no place in business email. If that’s your company’s standard, so be it. Otherwise, an occasional emoticon, where appropriate, may be the simplest method of clarifying your tone and preventing the recipient from misinterpreting your message.
Speaking of misinterpretations, when you receive a message that pushes your buttons, resist the temptation to reply immediately. I know you already know this, and so do I, but sometimes we forget what we know. Responding immediately, especially if you respond in kind, is a sure way to escalate the matter. And then you have to deal with the de-escalation. No fun.
What are your pet peeves about the messages you receive?