Writing Style – Readers’ Pet Peeves Regarding Emails

I recently asked people to send me their pet peeves with regard to emails. My pet peeve was — and is — people who don’t put their phone numbers on their emails. Several BizWritingTip readers supported me.

Marina H. went one step further. Her peeve was people who not include the extension, forcing people to go through a corporate directory. Press one for …

However, the number one complaint — as expected — was receiving too many unneeded messages because senders either “replied to all” or copied people on messages. Kim H. summed up many readers’ thoughts when she wrote: “I can’t tell you how many emails I have deleted that have no interest to me whatsoever, professionally or personally. This just wastes my time!”

The second most frequent complaint was in regard to people who sit near you but insist on sending emails. John W. wanted to know “why would someone walk to my desk and ask me why I hadn’t responded to his message sent five minutes earlier?”

The third most common pet peeve was a surprise. Beverley M. echoed several respondents when she complained about “People who send a thank you for every little notice. This means I have yet another e-mail to open and then just delete.”

Two other common peeves can be linked together: people who reply to emails leaving on the original attachments or failing to remove lengthy earlier messages. Laura E. advised: “When responding to an email, delete the attachment. The original sender and all recipients have a copy already.”

On the other hand, two people complained about getting short answers without the original message so they weren’t sure what the message was regarding. BizWritingTip’ advice: Leave the original message on if the reader will need it. Otherwise, get rid of it.

Other complaints in no particular order were:

No subject lines
Subject lines that were too vague
Bright, articulate people who send undecipherable messages
Lengthy paragraphs
No spacing between paragraphs
Email blasts saying you will be out of the office (instead of using the out of office feature)
Not using the out of office feature if you are away
Lengthy emails with the action request buried at the bottom
Motivational thoughts or proverbs as part of the signature
Colourful fonts and backgrounds
Misspelling of my name (and anyone else’s)
Any email longer than two paragraphs
Not copying secretaries who manage executives’ calendars when setting up meetings
Using emails to relay sensitive information
Not deleting sensitive information from emails that are being forwarded to a third party
Unrecognizable short forms and acronyms
Out-of-date signature boxes