Office Etiquette: The 8 Email Mistakes You Might Be Making

Seeing as this month’s editorial theme is Work It April, we’ve been feeling more inspired than ever to cover a few work-related topics here on the site. Earlier this week, we shared the five things we suggest removing from your resume, and today we’re here to chat about email etiquette. If you communicate for work over email (which we are going to go ahead and assume pretty much all of you do), then you can probably remember a time when you’ve made an email faux pas that results in that cringe-worthy feeling of instant regret. Well today we’re here to tell you eight major email mistakes you can work to avoid the next time you’re at your keyboard. Keep in mind that most of these can be avoided by taking a second to step back, take a breath, review what you’re writing, and have patience. Rushing through anything is never good, especially work-related communications!

1. Not replying all when you should… and vice versa.
‘Reply all’ can be a very powerful tool, and it can also be a dangerous one. On the one hand, if you’re receiving an email with several colleagues Cc’d who need to stay in the loop, then you’ll want to be sure to send your response as a reply all to keep everyone involved on the same chain. On the other hand, if you’re intending to reply to just one or several people on a large chain and you’re sending sensitive information, double and triple check that you are not replying all to the entire group. For example, if a company-wide email goes out about a new policy you’re not too happy about and your intention is to vent to your work bestie by just replying to her, be sure you’re not replying all before you hit send.

2. Making cc and bcc mistakes.
It’s a good rule of thumb in general to always check and double check your Cc and Bcc lines when emailing, just to make sure your message is going to the correct people. Let’s start with the basics here: the difference between Cc and Bcc. Cc stands for “carbon copy” and you’ll use it when you want someone to be looped in on the email chain and visible to everyone else on it. Bcc stands for “blind carbon copy.” Putting someone on Bcc means that they will see the original email, but won’t be looped in on the remainder of the email thread. Additionally, if someone is on Bcc, the other recipients on that email will not see who is on Bcc on the thread. Use Bcc when you want to save someone’s inbox from getting flooded with tons of emails after a preliminary email they might be on, if they don’t have to see all of the other emails. Use Cc when you want someone to be looped in on the entire email conversation, beginning to end.

3. Not having a signature.
We can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve been communicating with someone via email and have needed to call them or send something in the mail… Only to check their email signature to find no contact information. Having these details in your signature helps people to be able to contact you, and it makes you look professional. It’s a good idea to also include your company, title, and any other work details that will give your contacts this information at a glance.

4. Letting your emotions get the best of you.
There’s nothing worse than being in the heat of the moment, getting it out in an email, and pressing send before you have time to realize it was a mistake. If you’re in a heated email conversation or have a strong opinion and feel your emotions creeping into your words, take a moment to step away from your computer and focus on another task for a few minutes. You’ll be grateful you did when you can come back to your email with a rational point of view and a thoughtful, emotion-free response.

5. Coming across as too casual.
While texts to your girlfriends can be as casual and emoji-filled as you’d like, work emails are not the time and place for colloquial conversation. At least, not until you’re at that comfortable and casual of a level in your work relationship. “Hi ____” is always the better way to start an email versus “Hey ___”; periods are a better choice than excessive exclamation points; and save the emojis and smiley faces for your friends. Remember that keeping your emails professional will help your coworkers, superiors and colleagues to view your message as important, therefore allowing you to look professional and composed in return.

6. Getting too wordy and forgetting to proofread.
Remember to keep your email itself, as well as your subject line, clear and to the point. In a time of crazy busy schedules and endless to-do lists, wordy emails are simply time consuming to read, especially if there’s a clearer and more concise way to word what you’re saying. Also, think of your subject line as the window into your email. It should give its recipient an at-a-glance idea of what your email will be all about. Keep this part of your email short and precise as well. The concept of basic proofreading goes hand-in-hand with this tip too. Have you ever received an email that simply doesn’t make sense or has lots of spelling errors? It’s a dead giveaway that someone is working too quickly and rushing through their emails. Instead of typing super quickly to get an email sent out ASAP, take those extra 20-30 seconds before sending to proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, and to make sure your email makes sense in general.

7. Not checking your attachments.
If you’re sending an attachment, make sure that you’ve actually uploaded it. It’s also a good idea to double or triple-check that you’ve uploaded the correct attachment, and even the correct version of the document you want to send. There’s nothing worse than sending someone the wrong attachment that could potentially have sensitive or proprietary info in it. Spending the extra time here is way worth it.

8. Not specifying your time zone.
If you’re scheduling a meeting or phone call in your emails, make sure to specify time zones (EST, PST, CST…). Even if you think the person you’re scheduling with can assume what time zone you’re talking about, it’s always a good idea to include it in case one person is traveling or working in a different time zone. Making a habit of adding this detail to your emails when scheduling phone calls or meetings will save the extra step of clarifying later on.

Do you have any email etiquette tips to add to this list? 

We’d love to read all about them in the comments below, so please share!

XO Team LC


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