Most of us spend a large part of our working lives typing, reading and sending numerous emails a day.
Most of us have rolled our eyes when we received a poorly written email filled with errors or experienced the pang of regret after accidentally hitting the Reply All button instead of Reply.
The fact is that despite the modern business world revolving around email communication, a number of common mistakes are all too common.
Continue reading below to see our top 10 email mistakes to avoid to ensure you don’t embarrass yourself in front of your boss or newest client the next time you hit the send button.
Due to the fact that we spend so much time sending email, we often put little thought into the content. Typing emails on a laptop during a meeting or on a smartphone during the morning commute can quite easily lead to mistakes.
Spelling mistakes, forgotten attachments or even emails sent to the wrong recipient are something most of us are guilty of at times. Next time, put some thought into the email you are sending and take the time to craft an effective and error free mail.
2. Poor Subject Line
Along with your email address or display name, the subject line is the first thing that your recipient will see. Often, the subject line can make the difference between your email being opened and actioned or simply filed away for later.
Try to give your recipient a good overview of the contents of the email in the subject line rather than a generic subject such as “Update” or “Meeting Request”. If the email requires urgent attention it makes sense to add a degree of urgency to your subject line to make sure it is actually opened.
3. Incorrect Greeting or Closing
Choosing the correct way to open and close an email can often be a difficult task. In our professional lives, we are often put in situations where we have to email people who we barely know or sometimes we have never met before.
When in doubt, it is best to keep things professional. Avoid overly familiar greetings such as “Hey” or “Hi John” and instead opt for something like “Dear Mr Smith”. Also, use a standard sign-off such as “Best regards” rather than more personal phrases such “Thanks” and “Bye for now”.
4. Poor Formatting
As email has become ubiquitous and replaced traditional mail some of the formalities and etiquette of business writing have fallen into disuse. However, that doesn’t mean that you emails should be sloppy and eschew some basic rules of formatting.
Your mail should be easy to read for the recipient and formatting helps achieve this. Use correct sentence and paragraph structure at all times and ensure your mail has a clear beginning, a middle and an end. You should also avoid bizarre fonts and the overuse of color to keep things easy on the eyes.
5. Incorrect Use of Reply and Reply All
This is one mistake that can range in consequence from a mild annoyance to a fairly serious problem. You receive a mail from your boss with a client CC’d. You intend to reply to your boss with a private email but accidentally hit the Reply All button. Suddenly, your client has some information which they really shouldn’t.
Always remember to check all of the email addresses on the CC line before you hit Reply All and make sure you don’t simply click the wrong button while trying to respond in a hurry. On a more general level, before replying to everyone in the email chain, consider if the information is really relevant to all users in the chain.
6. Too Formal or Informal
The type of email you send to your boss is likely very different to the one you might send to a client or supplier – not only in content, but in tone and style too. The level of formality expected in your email is likely quite different depending on your industry too.
If you work for a White-shoe firm and are sending an email to an important client, a highly formal and professional email is probably expected. A quick mail to arrange a meeting between you and your colleague can probably be more informal. The important thing is identify the right level of formality for each email.
7. Incorrect Use of To, CC or BCC
This is a common mistake for two reasons. Firstly, many professionals aren’t really sure of the difference between these three fields. Secondly, there are some unwritten rules of etiquette to the use of To, CC and BCC which not everyone is aware of.
As a rule of thumb, people addressed in the opening line of you mail should be added to the To field. Use the CC field for users who you do not address but wish to keep in the loop. The BCC field is similar to the CC field, except the recipient will not be aware that addresses have been added to this field.
8. Not Including a Signature
Have you ever received an email from someone and had absolutely no idea who that person is? Or even if you recognize the name, thought to yourself that a call might be more appropriate than responding via email, only to realize that you don’t know the sender’s phone number?
In addition to addressing these issues, including an email signature has become a standard part of professional email etiquette. So, make sure to set up an automatic signature for both outgoing mails and replies and ensure that the details are always correct and up to date.
9. Sending Email in the Wrong Situation
As email has become the most popular form of communication in offices across the world many of us have become overly reliant on email. Most of us have received an email from the colleague who sits at the desk next to us and probably don’t consider this unusual at all.
The problem with this reliance on email is that sometimes another method might be more effective. It is often quicker and easier to pick up the phone for five minutes rather than send ten email over the course of the day. Actual face time is also a better way to build a rapport and relationship than email.
10. Sending Too Many Emails
Let’s face it, at some point we have all bemoaned the huge number of emails we receive and experienced the feeling of dread when we return to a bulging inbox on Monday morning. The fact is, most of us simply receive too many emails.
Before you hit the send button or add everyone in the office to your next email, consider what value this particular communication adds. If there is no action required and the information doesn’t really add any value, there is probably no reason to send the email in the first place.