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Top Ten Lazy Email Habits
We’re all busy. We all have overflowing in boxes. But lazy email habits could lead to misunderstanding, frustration, non-action, wasted effort, wasted time, damaged relationships and ruined reputations. Are you guilty of any of these lazy habits? If so, it’s time to take action now, before it’s too late.
- Using a vague or outdated subject line.
An email with a subject line like ‘Update’ or ‘Hi’ or ‘News’ is not likely to inspire me to open it. Similarly an old subject line like ‘Meeting on Tuesday’ is useless when the meeting happened last week and today’s email is attaching a proposal. Help yourself and save your reader’s time by making sure every subject line is clear and specific.
- Not using a greeting or sign-off.
Internally I can understand if you sometimes drop the ‘Hi John’ at the beginning, but externally there’s no excuse. Please remember the simple courtesies of an appropriate greeting and sign-off. And that doesn’t mean “Thanks and regards”!
- Not proofreading.
Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person? Have you ever misspelled the reader’s name? Have you ever mentioned the wrong date for a meeting? Imagine my embarrassment recently when I read back an email sent from my i-Phone saying: “Hell get a $50 credit toasted or annual conference.” (Hell instead of he’ll, and toasted instead of towards). I’m much more careful now when I send messages using my phone. If you regularly make errors in emails, people will question your attention to detail and your ability to handle your work.
- Using abbreviations or acronyms.
You may think these will save time, but they can lead to confusion for readers. While FYI is globally recognised as ‘for your information’, FYA could cause chaos because some people think it’s ‘for your action’ while others think it’s ‘for your approval’ – there’s a big difference. Only use acronyms that the reader is sure to understand. By the way, a word of warning with FYI. So many people complain that they often spend time trying to figure out why they received an email with FYI, when one sentence from the sender would have answered that question.
- Clicking ‘reply all’ when not everyone needs the reply.
We are all complaining about it, but we are still receiving ‘Reply all’ emails that we don’t need to read, then we have to open them, read them and delete them. Please, think carefully before you ‘Reply all’.
- Writing everything in one long paragraph.
When I receive an email that’s all one huge paragraph, it’s impossible to focus, to pick out the main points, to find any action items, or to respond effectively. Make it easier for your readers by structuring your messages logically and by leaving a blank line between your (short) paragraphs.
- Missing out essential details.
If you’ve ever read an email and wondered what you’re supposed to do, you know how frustrating this can be. Make sure you include all essential information: dates, times, places, names, action points. Otherwise that inevitable ‘ding-dong’ will begin, wasting time and causing frustration. Again it comes back to proofreading carefully to ensure everything is included and nothing is missed.
- Using unfriendly tone.
People often type out exactly what they would say without thinking of the tone of voice they would use to signal their emotions if they were speaking. If your tone is not quite right, readers could easily be hurt or offended. Take time to read messages carefully and add some extra words if necessary.
- Not answering with the requested information.
If your sender asks you two questions and you answer only one, you are not only creating more work for everyone, you are also causing frustration and damaging the relationship. Before you click ‘send’, scan through the sender’s email again to make sure you’ve answered all points.
- Not answering email.
A major annoyance is not receiving a reply to a business email. This means senders have to keep sending “Did you receive this?” messages, plus it will surely damage your reputation because people will say things like, “She never answers her email.” Take some time to make sure every email receives an appropriate response.
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Shirley Taylor is a recognised leading authority on business writing and communication skills. For almost 30 years she has presented keynotes and training programmes that help people and organisations boost communication skills and develop great relationships both orally and in writing. Shirley is bestselling author of 12 books, including Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business Documents, which has sold half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into many languages. If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit shirleytaylor.com.
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