How to Send an Annoying Email

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Business Communication

The first time I sent an email was in 1995. I was a freshman in college at Shippensburg University and had to go to the campus computer lab and “telnet to the arc.” Remember those days? Anyway, the point is email has been around for nearly 20 years. Therefore you would think that 21st century professionals and job seekers would know how to send a proper email.

This recent Harvard Business Review Ideacast from February 28, 2013 also offers advice on business and email writing and is worth listening to.


Use all caps

Most of us probably know this, but RECEIVING AN EMAIL THAT IS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS IS VERY ANNOYING. I was on the receiving end of an all caps email a few months ago and it literally hurt my eyes. So, I deleted it.

Say hey

If you don’t know a person, well personally, then do not start your email with “Hey, So-in-so.” This is particularly true if you are a job seeker sending an email to a recruiter or hiring manager. “Don’t ‘hey’ me,” as my mom used to say.

Neglect a greeting

The only thing worse than hey, in my opinion, is no greeting at all. If you are initiating a conversation via email with someone, don’t just plow right into it. Offer up a hello, good afternoon or at least kick it off with their name.

Exclaim too much

Don’t you just love when people use lots of exclamations! It makes reading emails so much more fun! Especially when you use more than one!!!! Everything is so exciting today! Ugh, stop it.

Leave the subject blank

The subject field is there for a reason. Don’t write weird Christian Greyish subjects or just include FW: or RE:, write meaningful subjects that provide context to the body of the email. Otherwise, who the heck is going to want to read your email when there are 300 more in their inbox?

Write with errors

Most people are not strong writers. Even some writers are not strong writers. Want to really annoy your readers? Use your, you’re, there, they’re and their incorrectly. And then everyone is an editor and will point out your poor grammar.

Send it with high importance

Everything’s a fire to put out in some workplaces or so some people make it seem. Stop sending every piddling email with high importance. You remember what happened to the boy who cried wolf, don’t you?

Converse via CC

Having a bona fide, back and forth conversation via email with 10 people in the carbon copy field is a great way to annoy the masses. Email is not instant message. Take it offline and have a one-on-one phone call or in-person meeting.

Now, I am by no means the perfect email author. Regrettably, I once sent a nasty-gram that over used the underlining feature and included some excessive bolding; it was not my finest moment. But since then, I feel like I have made marked improvements in my email communication. One popular pet peeve that I will not let go of, even if it makes you cringe, is the use of emoticons. I happen to like them. 🙂

On a personal note: I’d like to send a big “thank you” to my friends on Facebook for chiming in during my recent crowd-sourcing for email pet peeves. You continue to be a source of information and inspiration to me! ~ Shannon

What are your email horror stories?

What are some things you’ve opened in an email and thought…. you have got to be kidding me!?!

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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  1. […] The other day, out of the blue, I received a networking email from someone that I don’t know. When I read through the content of this email, I was impressed. So impressed, that I am going to share it with you all right now. The writer’s name has been deleted for privacy reasons, but the majority of the letter below is in the original format. I’ve also included some notes in bold italics to point out what this person did well. Learn from this well-written email and avoid these annoying emailing mistakes. […]


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