7 Bad Emails You Need to Avoid Sending

Bad Email

Do you ever get an email in your inbox and wonder what the sender was thinking when they hit send?

(Or if they were thinking…)

Email is an amazing tool when used correctly. However, it is also one of the biggest time wasters in most companies.

Are you using email effectively or are you guilty of sending bad emails?

Don’t Abuse the Email

There are many good uses for email.

It allows near-instant communication across organizations and long distances. As well, it permits workers to time-shift their schedules and hours.

However, just as email can be used for productivity, email can also be abused.

For example, the other day I received an urgent email.

The message inside read, “We need an immediate solution to this problem.”

This was a time-sensitive matter and the author was expecting action within minutes, not hours or days. Yet, sending an email was probably not the most prudent communication method under those circumstances.

In this case, the author got lucky. Even though I check my email only a couple of times a day, I happened to catch this email a short time after it arrived. Otherwise, it would have sat unnoticed for quite some time.

Why was this a bad email?

If immediate action was required, this person should have picked up the phone and called.

“Not all emails are bad, some are just written that way.” (Tweet this Quote)

Are you guilty of sending bad emails?

Here are 7 Bad Emails You Need to Avoid Sending:

  1. The Urgent Email – Email is the new snail mail. People are not sitting at their desks awaiting your messages. If something is truly urgent, email is not the medium you should be using. Call, text, tweet, or anything more immediate.
  2. The Reply All – Everyone does not need to see your “Thank You” to the original sender. When thanking someone, “Reply” directly to that individual. Otherwise, 57 people suddenly end up with 57 “Thank You” emails cluttering their inboxes. (True Story: I have seen a Fortune 20 company have to shut down their email due to a company-wide “Reply All” message run amok.)
  3. The Email to Too Many People – Avoid sending emails to more than 2–3 people. Copying the whole gang only creates confusion and clutters inboxes. Only send emails to the individuals that directly need the information. Avoid using CC, and never use BCC (ever!).
  4. The Email to No One – I recently received an email addressed to 8 people. The message said, “Can someone please make sure this gets done?” Yet, the email did not say which person should take the action. In essence, it was addressed to no one and everyone at the same time. As you can guess, everyone assumed that someone else was going to do the task, and it didn’t get done at all.
  5. The Spam Email – People can find enough random stuff to surf on the Internet, they don’t need your topics, as well. Passing along random articles, gossip, and websites only clutters up others’ inboxes.
  6. The Conversation Email – If your email message cannot be conveyed in less than half a page, then it probably shouldn’t be an email. It is probably better handled as a direct conversation. As well, if your email is going to require more than 2–3 back-and-forth responses, it is better to talk to the person than play email Ping-Pong.
  7. The Bad News Email – Never deliver criticism via email. Never. Ever. Never. Bad news should always be delivered in person, not in a bad email. Even constructive criticism can easily be taken out of context or be misunderstood.

Use Email for Good

Email can be an effective communication method and a huge timesaver in many situations.

However, email can also be abused and end up creating communication confusion.

Most problems are better solved by speaking to someone directly rather than blasting off an email volley. And if something is truly urgent, reach out and touch someone instead of sending an email into their inbox.

Use email for good, and resist sending those bad emails.

Question: What examples of bad emails do you see within your workplace? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

18 thoughts on “7 Bad Emails You Need to Avoid Sending

  1. I use email twice weekly to send announcements to the entire congregation or prayer concerns they need to know about. There are about 100 people that recieve the meails and it enforces the bulletin and other communication outlets.

  2. Great post, Craig! I’ve seen examples of all of these, definitely. My most recent frustration has been with the “conversation email” or emails where someone asks more than two questions. I have to write back in paragraph form or short messages like “1. Yes 2. Next week 3. I’ll think on it.” Not good for me or the recipient.

    1. Yup. Let’s add #8. The Multiple Subject Email – Never cover more than one subject in an email; it makes it hard to find, hard to file, and hard to report on.

      1. Good point, Kwik. Similarly, when the topic of an email string changes, but the Subject line never gets updated. Can be hard to locate again when searching.

  3. Every time there is an announcement or some other group email sent out, someone always hits reply to all. I’m sure it’s accidental, since everyone does not need to be in on it, but one seems to learn from it.

  4. Love #2! I did a count back in August at our business. We had 169 Reply All emails to all the entire office staff (~35 email users). Averaged it against the length of the email, reading speed, average burdened wage, etc. etc. and we were looking at a cost of $175,000/year!!! Sent out a light-hearted note to everyone and the next month it dropped to 38 emails. Quite a savings.

  5. I receive on average over 60% of email without a phone number. So calling people requires to send ANOTHER email to get the phone number.
    People using smartphones seem to be more interested for me to read “sent from my BlackBerry Z10 or IPhone ” rather than having a REAL signature.
    People lilke to make us waste time!
    Thanks for the article.

    Thierry Bayle

  6. The “I am out of the office right now but I will send you X in 30 minutes when I am back” email. If you cannot do something right now but can do it in a few hours, send an email only when it is done.

  7. I agree with 2-7, but the first one depends on the receiver’s preferences. Personally, I HATE unexpected urgent phone calls. I react much more quickly, thoughtfully, and coherently to an urgent email because then I can do the necessary quick research, think without someone talking in my ear, and get it handled a whole lot faster. If I need to call the person to clear anything up, I will, but I really appreciate hearing about the issue initially via email so that I can pull my thoughts together.

  8. And I wish people would use good, descriptive subjects. I work as an in-house recruiter and I can’t tell you how many diverse email queries I’ve received from colleagues headed “Recruitment”. Hopeless for filing and searching.

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