The English had an amusing common phrase to describe the shunning of a person for a variety of sins against their fellow man. Being “sent to Coventry” implied a total ignorance of the victim’s existence and it may be what happens to some of your email correspondence every single day.
We can all relate to dealing with bad email manners – everybody has at least one correspondent whose emails cause an involuntary sigh or eye roll when the new mail notification pings. It is definitely a possibility that if you do not recognise this problem, it could well be you that is the culprit in this case!
Although email is an all-pervasive part of business life for a generation at this point in time, it is worth noting its origin as a convenient replacement for the business letter. Whilst many are glad to move away from the starchy formula of this old type of communication, the concept of basic manners and effective communication remain as important, maybe even more important at a time where the attention span is so easily distracted by the clamour of other notifications. If you want people to actually read your emails, make the effort up front to ensure that you avoid the most common sins that could see you sent to a virtual “email Coventry”.
Spending an average of 1 to 10 minutes of your time composing an email before sending it into virtual oblivion is not an attractive one and if you want to increase your response rate, then avoid these common “sins”.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Email
- Sloppy Communication – not everybody is a stickler for grammar but it can be very easy to slide in reputation with your target audience if you make basic errors in spelling and grammar. Wrong capitalised words come across as shouting and with a basic spellcheck program in all major email platforms, there is no excuse for rushing out an email if you are aware that poor grammar or spelling is a personal weakness.
- Flooding inboxes – Consider your audience with every email you send. Are only the relevant people being sent the message or indeed is there a more appropriate way of delivering certain messages – in person or on a telephone call or Skype for example? Email is the communication of record in business and a correspondent who bombards inboxes loses impact on the target audience quickly.
- Being (inadvertently) rude to your audience – There are many aspects to this particular sin which we have covered in detail in a past blog when to cc and bcc but the basic rule is to consider your audience at all times – who needs this information? Using exaggerated characters such as multiple exclamation points, odd type fonts, smiles and especially emojis are certainly a no-no in business communication.
- Being “off tone” – gauging the audience accurately is very important in all communication and being either too casual or too formal can certainly land your email in the “ignore” category. This may sound redundant in a more blurred, egalitarian office environment but being overly familiar or curt will reflect badly and possibly curtail the impact of the message.
- Misrepresentation –the subject line is meant to be a concise summary of what the receiver expects to read in the actual email. Aside from wasting the recipient’s time, it is all too easy to lose emails that have important content buried under the title of “Meeting Update” or similar, so definitely avoid doing this if at all possible. This is one of the most frequent sins!
- High Importance – waving the virtual red flag too often will inevitably result in the genuinely important emails that you send either being ignored or at least given the same level of priority as everything else you erroneously flagged as important. This is the email equivalent of “crying wolf”.
- Avoid Clichés – we dedicated a whole blog to this irritating peccadillo recently and it is one that is guaranteed to turn off a portion of your intended audience so time to stop it!