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Avoid These 4 Unforgivable Email Grievances

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As young professionals with a full work day and managing side hustles, blogs, and other online hobbies, we deal with a barrage of incoming and outgoing emails. #InboxZero is something to strive for, but for many of us, the emails keep flowing.

For the most part, email is an excellent and time-efficient way to communicate, but when it comes to email etiquette, there are four grievances that are simply unforgiveable.

Do yourself a favor and avoid these email faux-pas to keep your colleagues from immediately deleting your emails:

1. Answer me first! I’m important. I cringe when an email pops into my inbox with the dreaded high importance exclamation mark. The high importance mark actually has the OPPOSITE effect on me; when I see one come in, I want to read and reply to it even less.

Because really, what’s of high importance to someone else just might not be of high importance to me. This mark is best to use only in an emergency, and let’s face it, if you’re having an emergency, it’s probably a better idea to just pick up the phone.

2. Read receipts. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the purpose of a read receipt. I already have enough emails in my inbox without needing an email back every single time someone opens one of my emails, so I can never imagine why someone else needs to know the second I read their email.

I always decline sending a read receipt back to the sender because – Really? You don’t need to know when I read your email. You’ll be the first to know when I reply.

3. Excessive replying all. Besides being kind of risky (take this timely example of a popular blogger being called a pretty brutal name by a PR firm because of a hasty reply all), reply alls can be just plain annoying. Professionals are big fans of the “CC,” but usually replying all keeps people in the loop who probably didn’t need to be there in the first place.

4. Thank you, NO, thank you! You’ve gotten these emails before. Someone asks for something, you send it back to them and they reply with a friendly “thanks so much!” I have to admit, I’m guilty of committing this grievance from time to time, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

In 2010, a study discovered that people receive an average of 74 emails daily. As polite as you want to be, a two word “thank you” email clogs the inbox of someone who is already busy reading and replying to many other emails. As a recovering “thank you” email abuser, I beg you to resist the urge to hit reply.

Rather than going on and on listing other email grievances, I took to Twitter to find out some of my followers’ biggest email pet peeves. Here’s what I learned:

@prvero: using too many fonts and colors in the body of the email and/or signature & new convo from a diff thread

@barbaranixon: Vague subject line (like “Question” or “Hi”), taking too long to get to point, cc’ing in the world… #emailpetpeeves

@lindstr: Marking every email with a red flag. And yes, I know people who do that. Ensures I will do the opposite of read it immediately!

@LaurenCox08: Misspelled words, no introduction, lots of exclamation points, no subject line, I could go on for days. Lol

@thatshortchick: high alert/priority emails. or text language. STAB.

Okay, people… let your frustrations out. What are some of your biggest email pet peeves?

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional in Philadelphia. In her free time, she manages a book review and writing blog and is currently writing a novel.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12800871 Courtney Jessica Murray

    We have some email pet peeves and do’s and don’t’s for Office Communication in a post on our College Advice Blog, The LI$T: http://www.addittoyourlist.com/2011/08/etiquette-for-rcgs-9-rules-for-office.html

    My biggest pet peeve is copying someone’s boss on an email that the boss doesn’t need to see. People do it sometimes because they think its going to get a quicker response but really that boss doesn’t want to be bombarded with irrelevant emails.

    • Serena

      Sometimes due to document retention policies, bosses should be copied. Sometimes the boss should be copied so they know that their directives are being carried out. Like captwasabi said, “if someone doesn’t need to be on an email, they will request to be removed.” And if it helps someone get the job done quicker, because they see their boss was copied, (whether the boss reads it, or cares or not) so be it.

  • http://twitter.com/bberg1010 Brittany Berger

    I hate reply all too, especially on emails with a large recipient list. The feeling reminds me of when commenting on a picture or status on Facebook then getting a million notifications about it that have nothing to do with you.

  • http://twitter.com/captwasabi captwasabi

    1 – Email is not about you or the sender catering to you. Email is about communication. Judicious use of the high importance setting is proper when that email should take precedence over other run of the mill emails but is not so vital that it needs an immediate discussion.
    2 – You can’t figure out the purpose of being able to determine when a person read your email? Also, I would love to see you refuse a read receipt from your boss. That would go over well. Typically I send read receipt requests on emails with a deadline on them. This is due to having to deal with other lazy co-workers who read the email but decide FB or Scrabble are more worthy pursuits.
    3 – It’s far better to over-communicate than under. I’ve learned this personally. I’m quite sure that those high level executives didn’t get to their place by being meek. If they don’t need to be on an email they will request to be removed.
    4 -Beyond being polite this simple email also let’s the respondent know that their message was received and that they can mark this issue off their too do list.

    Personally I found this list rather useless. I would put things like vague subject lines, meandering emails that take forever to get to the point (if at all), horrid spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. as better examples of an unforgivable email grievance but that’s just my $0.02.

  • Ann

    I like getting email receipts only if the information is timely and involves receiving critical, time sensitive information! So there are some of us who respect them and like other to respect them as well.

  • Anonymous

    I used to have a coworker who would send an email and then literally walk to my office and say “Did you see the email I just sent?” Give me a few minutes to read it, and if I don’t respond right away, assume I’m thinking over the best answer!

    • Frustrated

      I HATE this and have a coworker that does it to me all the time. I just needed to find this posted so I could vent and know that there is someone else out there that feels my pain!

      • Anonymous

        Oh yes, pain felt! All of our other coworkers used to complain about it too. :)

  • Anonymous

    Hmm I still like the “thank you” email. It confirms the other person received what you sent them and it’s a quick, simple gesture to show you appreciate someone’s help/work.

  • http://twitter.com/mycolleges MyCollegesandCareers

    Brevity is best. As Brad Pitt’s character says in Ocean’s 11, “Don’t use 7 words when 4 will do.” -Sarah

  • Hengjun363

    Give me a few minutes to read it, and if I don’t respond right away, assume I’m thinking over the best answer! http://www.cn-shibo.com/
    Electric Power Tools Catalog, China Electric Power Tools Products Directory

  • Hengjun363

    Especially on emails with a large recipient list. http://www.sino-suppliers.com/
    China yellow pages, manufacturers, directory, suppliers, exporters, companies

  • Jordan Thomas

    I would add that the continuous paragraph emails are problematic as well as excessive background on a subject. I like email that has a greeting and asks something specific states why and how he or she will use the email. I read all emails in the following order what do you need and how can I help. The easier I can answer those questions, the sooner I am likely to respond.

    • http://www.yourstylematters.biz/ Maria

      Very true. Some emails become so long winded that I often scan and miss important details that are buried in the excess.
      Also, in response to those who don’t like sending “thank you” emails, may I suggest just putting the “Thank You” in the subject line so the recipient knows they are being thanked without having to open the email?

  • http://www.theitjobboard.co.uk Nick@ IT Jobs UK

    Agreed with all these apart from the ‘thank you’ e-mail. It is sometimes nice to get the thankyou so you know that the other person has received what they wanted and appreciated it. I especialy agree with the read receipt. It’s like they are saying ‘I know when you have read this so I expect an instant reply’.

    • Seekingbeauty

      I agree and I disagree with the read receipt option. I rarely use it, but when I do, its for a darn good reason. Such as, networking/email issues and I don’t know if my emails are going out or being read (which has happened more than once in my workplace), if the email is very important, and I want to be sure the person had read it – hence the point of the tool. Often, the people I am emailing are not on their computers everyday, so its helpful for me to know when they got it. I don’t think of it as a stalker too, but as helpful for me to follow up or ensure information is being communicated. However, I don’t use it often because I, too, hate the inbox clog of read receipts. So, I save it for when its important.

  • http://twitter.com/katehuebler katehuebler

    Is the thank you think really bad?

  • http://twitter.com/rshill37 Renee

    Copying people unnecessarily. My coworker copies me on so may things I sometimes delete emails without reading them from her.

  • Dave

    If the average person only gets 74 e-mails a day I wish I was average! Still, assuming that is true, if it took 10 seconds to read and delete a “Thank You!” e-mail, which is probably grossly overstating how long it really takes, that amounts to *12* minutes a day wasted by an average person–if every single e-mail was a “Thank You!”

    It’s probably less than a few minutes a day “wasted” by those e-mails, while the flip side of not saying “Thank You” when someone does something for you is being a rude asshat. I’ll keep sending them, and gladly receiving them, thank you.

  • http://www.liveandlovework.com Chrysta Bairre

    The only “grievance” I’m guilty of is replying with thanks. I try not to do it excessively, however I find working with people across the country I can’t always express my appreciation in person and I feel it’s important to let people know I appreciate them.

    That said, one of my pet peeves is replying all to say “thank you” to the sender. When I want to thank someone for their information or contribution, I reply with thanks to the sender only.

    Chrysta

  • erica m

    It sounds weird but I hate it when people call leave me a message and 2 seconds later send me an email saying, ” I just left you a voicemail but I thought I would email you as well.” It’s just rude, pushy and gives me this feeling as if you don’t trust me to get in touch with you. Don’t bombard me!

    • Inkscrible28

      They should wait at least a day or two, and then follow up with the call, in my book. That does sound aggressive.

    • Missjanep21

      I agree! OMG!

  • WW

    Email enables passive aggressive behavior. Do the right thing. Pick up the phone or see someone in person if there’s a beef. Don’t hide behind this tool. That’s not what it is for. Some cowards will say things in an email that they would NEVER say in person or on the phone.

  • Harry

    Some of these depend on your role / industry

    As an Actuary, well organised and extensive records are very important for me. If I make a mistake, it could easily cost tens of millions of dollars to fix. So it is worth hitting reply all and getting a few extra emails, if it means no mistakes. A thank you email might let me know that someone has got my email and acted on it, so I don’t need to follow up on them (though not all of them are helpful I suppose).

    So we should be careful to adjust our email style depending on context

  • Pingback: Job Search Email Mistakes :: Career-Resumes® :: Former resume expert for Monster.com()

  • http://www.reallybigpeach.com Katrina Miller-Fallick

    I hate the “Thanks” e-mail, and therefor never send them. (Unless called for, sometimes if someone goes out of their way to do something for me, I’ll send them a note letting them know I appreciate it.)

    However, I learned that in the culture of my current workplace, not sending them is seen as VERY RUDE. I had no idea until my boss mentioned this too me in a yearly review. (Yes, it was THAT big of a deal). I send them now, but I DO resent having to constantly thank people for doing their job.

  • LLR

    My experience with email etiquette is dependent on two main factors: 1) business culture and 2) personal judgement.

  • John

    Quite honestly, y’all sound bitchy to me. If I have a peeve, it’s all this whining about email etiquette. One person’s complaint is another person’s appreciation. There aren’t really rules that apply to all. Your best bet is to let the person in question know directly what your particularities are. Or maybe just LTFU!

  • http://www.twitter.com/tressalynne tressalynne

    Okay, some of these are not unforgiveable, but rather personal pet peeves. As most of the commenters stated, #4 (thank you’s) are completely dependent on the company culture and guidelines. I will say that excessive text slang in emails (unless it’s coming from your iPhone or BB) is unprofessional. And, definitely agree that excessive “reply all” is a time waster. Good post, Jessica! :)

  • Nathalie Winch

    if you send an accidental email (you replied instead of forwarded, for example) would a follow-up email apologizing for that be excessive emailing, i.e. rude, or polite?

  • Moo

    Sadly you are wrong on #4. A little politeness and courtesy is never a bad thing. People like being treated well and acknowledged.

  • Elinor

    People typing emails in all caps. I cannot believe that adult people do this. I recently got an email that had no text and in the body and just said in the subject line: ARE YOU WORKING ON THIS??. First of all, you just asked me about it a half hour ago; second, I *am* working on it and I’ll get back to you when I have something to tell you. It wasn’t even an emergency. This just makes you look like you’re shouting and does not make me want to cooperate with you!

  • Juneparis31

    forward-forward-forward-forward emails that have things that are cute but tell you to send it to 10 people or you won’t get blessed or whatever. Those usually get deleted first.
    And also, emails in all CAPITALS…they are screaming at me and I don’t like that.

    • IsaacShowell

      Truly. I do not do chain letters (well no one does chain letters anymore), and i do not do chain emails. Straight to trash.

  • Khsamuels

    Read receipts can have a purpose – try using it on someone you need to TALK to but haven’t been able to reach. This works if you send the note and they hit receipt right away.

    Back in the day, Read Receipt was a user defined feature, the receiptent was out of loop which made it great to catch up with folks you needed to reach!

  • Madeline

    Stop texting. Learn to spell and use proper grammar.

  • http://www.emraccountants.co.uk MRowe @ EMR Accountants

    I hate being copied into vast amounts of information as a method of circulating large documents. I find my inbox becomes full of PDF files that I never get round to reading and have little impact on my job!

  • http://www.getmyexboyfriendbackfast.com/ Steff@breakupadvice

    People ending their emails with “retards”, instead of “regards” :)

  • http://www.brautkleideronlineladen.de brautkleider

    it is ok sometimes

  • Lkict

    Please consider changing your “Reply” Signature to something short and sweet, not the full-blown name, title, address, 2-3 phones,email, logos for your fave sports teams.
    Don’t use texting shortcuts. I don’t have time to figure out what your abbreviations mean. And, with all of us, time is a limited commodity and I need to use it wisely.

    • icewhips

      LOL! I love what you hate. It irks me when there is NOT a full blown signature with full contact info. Otherwise, I would have to waste my time doing the extra steps to look it up in a contact list within a separate software program. I work in shipping logistics, so I always need addresses and contact info.

  • http://twitter.com/LTGMonkey Life’s Too Good

    Great article, I love list posts and 4 is a nice easy # – too many people have really annoying email habits and it’s something that is a staple of the workplace these days so we could all do with being a little more professional, efficient and most of all polite in our emails,

    best regards,
    Alan

    p.s. another favourite of mine at my company was senior staff signing off with just an initial like they were too busy to even write their name (when all of them knew how to use an email signature)

  • http://www.carvelocity.com seb@ Used Cars Florida

    I also like the thank you email. It is polite for one thing – something that seems to be becoming a rarity – and it shows that the email was received and the recipient satisfied with my input.

  • IsaacShowell

    Stationery. Anything other than a plain white page and dark text is a nuisance and likely to go straight to delete.

  • http://www.rnurseinfo.com rn

    thanks for your imformation

  • Scented Candles

    Completely agree with the read receipt comment. It’s like I need to know when you are reading this and expect an instant reply. Why? Send it and if it had something worth responding to then expect a reply at some time! When we get inquiries for our scented candles, we try to respond as quickly as we can. It’s good business but I really don’t need to tell you I’ve read your mail. As you can probably tell. It gets on my goat! Great post by the way. comments made me chuckle. All the best. N at http://www.busybeecandles.co.uk

  • http://www.teethwhiteningsuperstore.com/shop/Teeth-Whitening-Kits/1/ Teeth Whitening Kits

    funny, it gets to me too when people simply reply with a thank you, knowing they recieved the message by notification is all i need!

  • Mreneedesign

    I agree with all of these but I do think a thank you email is ok if not used in excess. The most annoying email habit to me is when someone copies themselves on the email. What a pointless practice. It doesn’t make me email any faster or make me feel obligated to respond.

  • Missjanep21

    I like the one about the “High Importance.” It comes off arrogant if it’s from outside the company and is a major turn off. Also, what do you think about people who more into e-mail correspondence than phone correspondence?

  • http://twitter.com/cameralady Henrietta Jones

    Read receipts are important to cover yourself. Someone will look stupid saying that he/she did not receive an email when you have a read receipt from him/her for that very same email.

    As an admin, I appreciate a “thank you” email, especially since this is the type of position that is prone to being taken for granted.

    What if someone someone seemed to have copied everyone in the world calling you out in an e-mail (when it isn’t necessary)? You better believe that I am going to hit “reply all” in response.

  • Diane Shelleby

    I loathe when people send me an “chain” email that I MUST forward to 7 or so people including the sender. They are always corny and superstitious. Nothing makes me hit the “delete” button faster.

  • http://www.teethwhiteningkits2you.co.uk/Teeth-Whitening-Kits/c2/index.html teeth whitening kits

    Manners maketh the man – nothing wrong with saying thank you

  • http://www.teethwhiteningkits2you.co.uk/Crest-Whitening-Strips/c6/index.html crest whitening strips

    I haye being told to forward an email or else ………………………..