Shirley's Articles / Email Essentials

Annoying Habits On Email

Do you get annoyed when reading emails in your inbox? Do you feel frustrated when the writer rambles on and doesn’t get to the point? Do you feel confused when the writer doesn’t use paragraphs? Do you have to read messages several times to decipher what the reader is trying to say? If so, you’re not alone!

Every day we all encounter many annoyances in our emails – and yet we rarely say anything about them to the sender. Instead, we let the errors and etiquette blunders build up until they become a real bone of contention. So, the question is – how can you avoid people thinking the same thoughts about your emails?

Here are a few commonly-expressed annoyances that we must all take note of:

  • Capitals. The word alone may be sufficient to describe this common source of annoyance. I’m sure that you will have received an email at some point, with the key points highlighted in capitals, yet it’s a mistake that people make time and time again. Here’s an example:“I look forward to receiving your proposal by THURSDAY. As mentioned before, this project is VERY URGENT”. It is quite clear that the proposal is urgent and required by Thursday, so there really is no need to capitalise the key words. Anyone with a little common sense will be able to decipher the request without any obvious prompts. Capitalising words can appear to be condescending too.
  • Underlining. Have you ever seen some text underlined in an email and then put your cursor over it because you thought it was a link? Me too! Never underline anything on email. If you want to emphasise something, use bold or italics.
  • One paragraph messages. Emails that are written in one large paragraph are difficult and frustrating to read. It’s hard to focus and pick out the main points. Readers have to go over the message again and again to take in the various points and figure out how they are expected to respond.
  • Information overload. Email is great for messages, but it’s not good for a 2,000 word project brief. Unless you want the reader to acquire RSI from repeated scrolling, lengthy documents should be sent on a separate attachment, displayed appropriately.
  • Wrong words. In recent years, just about every kind of email software has a spell check option, so there really is no excuse for bad spelling and grammar. Common irritants include using there instead of their, your instead of you’re, loose instead of lose and its instead of it’s (or vice versa). I’m sure you’ve seen lots more.
  • Text language. The place for SMS-acronyms is in text messages, not in emails. It’s unprofessional and can be misunderstood.
  • Is email the best option? Be honest. How many times do you send an email when you know it would be better to pick up the phone? I’m sure we are all guilty of this. It is often better, and will save time too, to pick up the telephone and talk, rather than trying to describe in-depth events or issues in an email. And you’ll probably avoid a lot of email ding-dong and get your answer much quicker!

These are just a few examples of annoying and irritating email habits to avoid, but no doubt you will have encountered many more. The key is to check your emails carefully before you send them. Would you be happy to receive them? If not, – pause, re-think and rewrite!

All articles are copyright © Shirley Taylor. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described here.

Permission to reprint all or part of any article in your magazine, e-zine, website, blog or organisation newsletter is granted, as long as:

  1. The entire credit line below is included*.
  2. The website link to is clickable (live)**.
  3. You send a copy, PDF, or link of the work in which the article is used when published.

This credit line must be reprinted in its entirety to use any articles by Shirley Taylor:

* Credit line:
© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

** The website link to must be clickable to receive permission to reprint the article.