Do You Make These Ten Terrible Email Mistakes?


Do you send emails only to regret them later?

Do your colleagues send emails that make you cringe when you open your laptop?

Email is a powerful tool, but it easy to misuse.

Let’s look at some of the worst email mistakes to avoid.

How Are You Using Your Email?

Email continues to be a burden and time waster at most companies.

A recent study showed that corporate employees spend 28% of their time in their inbox!

At most companies email is used for a combination of wasting time, shuffling work to appear busy, and flaming colleagues.

Email is a powerful tool, but misused it quickly becomes a black hole of non-productivity.

I have previously questioned whether email proficiency should be a minimum job requirement.

Here are Ten Terrible Email Mistakes to Avoid:

  1. Sending Angry Emails – Flame wars are the unspoken truth in many companies. I watched one company become engulfed in a week-long flame war that involved much of their executive team. How productive do you think they were during this time? Additionally, relationships suffered long-lasting collateral damage.
  2. Thinking That Others Won’t See Your Email – All it takes is one “forward” and your email is in the wild. Never write something in email that you wouldn’t want others to see, especially your boss.
  3. Sending Too Many Email – Some individuals think that the more emails they send, the busier people will think they are. These are the digital era’s electronic paper-pushers. I once got over 200 emails in a day from a co-worker. Volume does not equal getting work done when it comes to email.
  4. Sending Criticism Via Email – This one is particularly important in the age of virtual teams. Never… ever send criticism via email, even if it is coaching or constructive. This type of feedback needs to delivered one-on-one, not in a typed email that can be misconstrued at 1AM by the receiver.
  5. Responding to Every Email You Get – Don’t be tricked into playing email Ping-Pong. Not every email requires (or deserves) a response. Only respond to those that need an action or more information.
  6. Giving Out Your Email to Everyone You Meet – I guess once upon a time this was cool. “I have email, here’s my address.” It’s no longer cool. Just because you say hello to someone or receive their business card, does not mean you should give them your direct email address.
  7. Using Your Email as Your Todo List -Don’t keep messages in your inbox as “tasks.” This is an accident waiting to happen. Soon, your email piles up and your inbox has become an electronic landfill. One recent client, had 6000 emails in her inbox. Oh, no…
  8. Writing a Book – I don’t want Wikipedia in my inbox and neither do you. Keep those email messages short. Attach links to references if needed.
  9. Using BCC – I think most companies should disable BCC. There is only one appropriate use and that is to prevent individuals from mass responding to a wide-distribution email. If you think that you are being sneaky by “hidden copying” someone, then you need to read #2 above.
  10. Sending an Email When It’s Urgent – In the past week, I have gotten two meeting requests via email with less than an hour’s notice. People then wonder why I don’t show up. When something is on fire, don’t send an email.

Don’t Make These Mistakes With Your Email

We can all be a bit more disciplined with our email.

Avoid these mistakes and you’ll spend less time dealing with your inbox each day.

And if in doubt, please don’t send that email today.

Question: What is your best advice on email mistakes?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “Do You Make These Ten Terrible Email Mistakes?

  1. Awesome tips, Craig!

    I’ve both used my email as a “to do” list as well as in urgent situations. Both times, I got burned and had to learn a valuable lesson.

    Now my emails are short, sweet, to the point and handled appropriately.

  2. Let’s address the 20+ message email thread. If you’re all in the same office, get up and have a five-minute powwow or stand up meeting. Face-to-face communication can also help clarify information and prevent losses in translation.

    Also, emails with multiple participants: not all messages require a response via ‘reply all.’ This is where email threads go on and on.
    And on.
    And on.

  3. Excellent advice! My most hated email habit is when someone sends out an email to a large group of people (say 15 to 20 people) with each person’s name listed and a request for each person to perform one or more tasks and you have to carefully read through everyone else’s stuff to find out if there’s something in there for you to do. I had one particular colleague who would do that to me repeatedly and they would put my work at the very bottom of the email – I would even get copied in when there was nothing for me to do so I’d read everything for no reason ‘just in case’ because quite often my task would be an urgent one.

    It may have saved them time to do it that way but there were a couple of assumptions built into that model I found a bit insulting. In regards to the BCC I use that for copying myself in on emails I send out – when the email comes back it goes into my ‘waiting for’ folder.

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