5 really terrible ways to start an email

The Unwritten Rules of Email
The Unwritten Rules of Email

How to make sure your message will get a swift kick to the delete bin.

I receive several thousand emails per month.

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A few of them are worth reading. Many are pitches about a new product or service. Since the goal is to get my attention, I've noticed what works and what doesn't work. Getting right to the point, catching me up on how we have known each other, or commenting about a recent trend or one of my articles helps.

However, I almost always skip emails that start out on a bad note. They use a tactic that just doesn't work anymore or makes me think the sender is a bit too desperate. Here are a few that seem to always make me want to click the delete button.

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1. "I know you are busy, but..."

This phrase just reminds me that I'm busy. It makes me think: "Thank you! I need to get back to work and stop reading email." It's better to skip this intro altogether and get right to the point.

2. "Dear sir/madam..."

A few marketing friends start out by saying "dear sir" as joke, and that's fine. If it's someone I don't know and they haven't bothered to type my name, it's a put-off.

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3. "What are you working on now?"

This is another reminder that I should not be checking email. I should be doing real work. I'm already in overload mode--I'm checking email. So whatever is communicated in a message will only give me the impression that involves more work.

4. "This might not apply to you, but..."

This intro doesn't make any sense. It is like flagging your own message for deletion. There must be some way to make the email more applicable. Otherwise, don't send it.

5. "In case you revisit this topic..."

This lead in is more common that you'd think. It's basically admitting that the topic is something I've already considered. It's not something I will revisit anytime soon.

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Originally published