Even the most likable and well-mannered among us can still look like jerks in an email.
Writing an email that comes across just like you do in person is a fine art.
During a conversation, you adjust your tone, facial expression, gestures and posture in order to fit the mood of what you’re conveying. You do this because people tend to be much more responsive to how you say things than to what you actually say.
Email strips a conversation bare. It’s efficient, but it turns otherwise easy interactions into messy misinterpretations. Without facial expressions and body posture to guide your message, people look at each word you type as an indicator of tone and mood.
Most of the mistakes people make in their emails are completely avoidable. The following list digs into these subtle mistakes and hidden blunders.
1. The Compulsive CC And Reply All
CCing people all the time is one of the most annoying things you can do via email. I’d say it’s the most annoying, but this honor is bestowed upon the excessive “reply all.” If someone sends an email to you and a bunch of other people, do you really think every recipient needs to get another email from you saying “thanks”? They don’t, and when you do this, it sends people climbing up a wall.
The trick for knowing when to CC someone is to treat your email as if it’s an in-person meeting. The question then becomes this: “Would it be necessary or helpful to have this person come to the meeting?” If the answer is no, then don’t waste his or her time with an email. As for reply all, just don’t do it. Even if someone else in the thread replies all, you’re still annoying everyone to death when you join the fray. If you have something to say, it’s better to send this directly (and privately) to the original sender and let him or her decide if the group should know about it too.
2. The Way-Too-Brief
All too often, the cause of email conflict is an imbalance between the effort in the initial email and the effort in the response to that email. When someone types up a detailed paragraph outlining important issues, they expect you to respond carefully. Sending back “Got it” or “Noted” just doesn’t do the trick. Without knowledge of your intent and tone, brief responses come across as apathetic and even sarcastic to the receiver. This is unfortunate because this is rarely the sender’s intent.
The best way to avoid being misinterpreted in a brief response is to share your intent. Even responding with “I’m a little busy but should be able to read it later this week” comes across much better than “Got it,” which a lot of people will interpret as indifference.
3. The “URGENT” Subject Line
Subject lines that say “URGENT” or “ASAP” show complete disregard for the recipient. If your email is that urgent, pick up the phone and give the person a call. Even in the rare instance when an email actually is urgent, labeling it as such in the subject line is unnecessary and sets a strong, negative tone.
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