Tag Archives: Communication style

Email is great, except for when it isn’t

Email is a nice and useful way to communicate. But a part of me would like there to be a universal email template that everyone is required to use. I long for an email template the way I longed to wear a uniform in grade school.

Uniforms seemed like a way to streamline and reduce all the outfit and dressing problems. Everyone looked the same. Your clothing revealed you were part of something, and the “something” was organized and had rules.

You’re allowed to express your individuality via the small details, such as choice of hairstyle, jewelry, and other accessories. In the universal email template, there would be room to be creative and expressive. You could, for example, reveal a bit about yourself via your font choice, font size, and the way you greet the people you write to.

If there were a universal email template, it would take care of the majority of issues listed below. These are my email pet peeves.


I don’t see the point in using signatures. I can look at my inbox and find out who a message is from. Signatures are redundant. The only exception that comes to mind is when you’re emailing someone outside the company in which you work. If that’s the case, then signatures are a great way to get the 411 on an email acquaintance.

Signatures that are 4 inches long:

If you’re required to have an email signature, or if you simply can’t fathom sending email without including one, please keep it short and sweet.

I don’t understand why people feel it’s necessary to inform me of their:

  • name
  • username
  • email address
  • job title
  • company’s website
  • phone number
  • pager number
  • fax number
  • mailing address
  • country
  • obnoxious inspirational quote

Overkill. That’s all I have to say.

One or two word emails:

The effort it takes to open, read, and delete the message is not worth the sending.

Email exchanges that go on forever:

If  you need to exchange a lot of information, consider picking up the telephone. It’s irritating having to read and reply to 20 email messages in a 30 minute time frame.

Using email to deliver bad news:

If you have to deliver some bad or upsetting news  (especially in the work environment), don’t use email. It’s inappropriate to send an email telling your co-workers that a former colleague’s child died of a brain tumor.

Also, if you’re in a management position, it’s never a good option to use email as the vehicle to inform an employee that they are in trouble. Call the person into your office and have a face-to-face conversation. At a minimum, they deserve this. Don’t be a coward and send an email as a way to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

Email messages comprised of text message short-hand:

I’m amazed at people who compose and send email messages in text message shorthand. When I receive this type of email, I immediately cringe. In the work environment, it’s completely unacceptable to write:

R U bzy now? Pls cll me. Thx.

Excessively long email messages:

Somewhere, there must be a rule that says it’s rude and extremely imposing to send a 4000 word email message. It’s unbearable to read such long thing.

When I receive a message that requires me to scroll and scroll and scroll, I hit delete.

Group editing in email:

When you have a team of 15 people writing and editing an email message that should actually be an official document, it’s time to consider SharePoint or another collaborative environment. Email is not the place for this activity.

I get an instant migraine when I open an email message and find 15 different fonts, in 15 different colors, with a legend at the top of the message that tells me:

Chain letters:

I appreciate that folks want to spread good cheer and fun, but receiving a chain mail message is annoying. And if the message says, “Send this on to 20 of your best friends to avoid a month of bad luck,” it’s curtains for the sender.

Animated gif in email signature:

Having a dancing leprechaun in your signature is cute if 1) you’re under the age of 12 or 2) it’s March 17th or 3) you’re 70 years old and  just learned that email exists.

Otherwise, please knock it off.

Senders who request a “Message Read” receipt 24/7:

I view “Message read” receipts as the equivalent of a certified letter. The only time they should be used is for extremely important matters.

So, when people  request a receipt for every single message they send, I tend to believe they are a) control freaks, b) totally clueless about email options, c) extremely paranoid individuals.

The entire message is in the subject line:


I can’t decide if this is rude, curt, silly, or aggravating. Maybe all of the above. It’s time to introduce these people to instant messaging.

Sending email with “High Importance” 24/7:

There are some people who actually believe that sending every message with high importance will yield a quick reply. The truth is, when people send each message marked as Highly Important, it loses its urgency. And if you use the red flag of high importance to send a message that says something like this, you will lose your email credibility:

Hi Everyone,
Don’t forget to bring your treats for tomorrow’s ice cream social.
Thanks and TTFN!


I appreciate that you have a passion for clowns or horses or frogs or swans or butterflies or the Chicago Cubs.  But I don’t want to be reminded of this every time we communicate via email.