8 things we hate about email

Why You Should Edit Your Writing
Why You Should Edit Your Writing

As most of your already know, I've been writing a lot about email technique, email marketing, and getting your message right the first time. I even have a free weekly newsletter where I critique readers' emails for free.

Not surprisingly, many companies send me data about their emails or research that they've done on emails. I recently received some survey data from intranet provider Igloo about what people like and dislike about emails.

According to their survey, here's what people find really annoying (along with my commentary on why that might be).

1. Receiving spam (81%)

No surprise here. People don't like emails that are directed to all and sundry, which is why I always recommend targeted emails to specific people rather than email blasts.

What IS surprising is that 19 percent of the people surveyed apparently don't mind receiving spam. Either that or they didn't read the question carefully.

2. Irrelevant emails (66%)

Irrelevant emails are sent internally (as opposed to spam, which by definition comes from outside) to prove to everybody how much work the sender and the sender's team are getting done.

While annoying in any case, irrelevant emails only clog your inbox if haven't bothered to take yourself off internal distribution lists.

3. Insincere/obnoxious signatures (50%)

I've written about this frequently. Ending a business email with "Sincerely," or "All the best," is the kind of fake friendliness that marks you as a phony.

The same thing goes, BTW, for beginning an email with "Dear." Look, we're not in the Victorian era any longer. Drop the "Dear" unless you're writing to your great aunt.

4. Waiting for a response (48%)

While it's not reasonable to expect people to respond to unsolicited emails, when you're doing business with somebody, it's reasonable to expect a prompt response.

Right now, I've got a client who owes me money and won't answer emails. If his behavior weren't perfect fodder for a future article about deadbeat clients, I'd be really irritated.

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5. Nudge-o-grams (42%)

In the survey, these were described as "back to back emails from the same person before you've had a chance to respond."

One of the great arts of emailing is knowing when you've waited long enough to send a second email if you don't get a response.

6. Emoticons (27%)

This is one of the statistics I'd like to see broken out by age group, because my kids use emoticons almost as a second language.

My view of the matter is that emoticons are fine in business communications but only when I'm corresponding with people whom I know have a sense of humor. :)

7. Group emails (25%)

Group emails are a good example of pushing email to do something that it's not really designed to do. That's probably why team communications tools like Slack have become so popular.

Oddly, one of the first popular email programs, Lotus Notes, was originally "groupware" like Slack that morphed into an emailer because it was ahead of its time.

8. Exclamation points!!!! (21%)

Never use exclamation points in business writing because if something you write needs an exclamation point to be exciting, it's probably too dull to justify sending to anyone.

While they weren't mentioned specifically in the survey, "!?!?!" annoys people too, not to mention "!$%?##!"

Some Additional Peeves

To the above list, I would add:

  • Emails containing content that's written in ALL CAPS.

  • Emails that require the downloading of huge graphics simply to be read.

  • Emails too long to read comfortably on a smartphone.

  • Anyone else care to volunteer some of your own pet peeves?

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