Friday, May 4, 2012

7 Most Common Mistakes in Email

I remember when email went from a fun pastime for geeks and nerds to an invaluable tool in businesses to a necessity of life.  Suddenly, paper memo and letters turned into rapidly sent electrons as the speed of communication rose exponentially. But with the advent of email also came the inevitable mistakes. After talking with several people, I compiled the list of the seven most common mistakes seen in email:
  1. Misspelled Words: In a day and age where every text editor and email program offers reasonable spell checking capabilities, nothing in an email should be spelled incorrectly. Misspelled words tell the recipient, "Hey, you're not important enough for me to use spell check."
  2. Grammatical Errors:  While most people can get away with a dangling participle, mismatched plurality of words, mismatched verb tense between sentences, and misuse of commas irk most people, and send the message that the writer is either a recent immigrant or ignorant of basic grammar.  
  3. Inappropriate Word Choice:  Word choice effects the tone of an email, which leaves room for plenty of misinterpretation.  Emails need to be tailored to the audience, including any attempts at humor or levity.  I heard several stories about hurt feelings and miscommunication stemming from poor word choice.
  4. Inappropriate use of the cc: or bcc: Fields:  In the days before email, people used carbon copies to ensure that everyone got the exact same copy of a letter or other document.  The idea of needing additional recipients to a message transferred from paper to email - hence, the cc: field.  Additionally, the bcc: field (blind carbon copy) sends a message to anyone listed there, but that person's name is left out of the email header.  Proper email etiquette is to include anyone mentioned in an email in the cc: field, unless that person is in the to: field.  As for using the bcc: field, I almost never use that field because I personally do not trust people who consistently bcc: other people on emails.  But for situation where you need to document what happened with your manager or other authority, bcc works quite well.
  5. Changing font, font size, or text color:   Fonts need to be readable at a reasonable distance.  I know that this sounds like a "no duh" type of statement, but I have received a number of emails where I need to either squint and more closer because the text is so small or move back because the text is so large.  Or, the text is colored something other than black on white.  Seriously, I hate white on blue, pink on tan, and every other color combination - none of them are as easy to read.  
  6. Missing Information/No attachments:  Occasionally forgetting to attach a file or include important information, such as the date and time of an event, is understandable.  But do this too much and it leaves the impression of incompetence.
  7. Signatures:  "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup."  I love this signature and chuckle a bit when I read it, but this particular signature is inappropriate on business emails unless you happen to be a fantasy author.  Likewise, I really do not need all of the contact information and disclaimers from a business in personal email.   Matching signatures with intent sends the message, "You are important enough for me to attach the proper signature".


  1. The first three of those apply to snail mail too, but those are good points! I'm guilty of 6 and 7 occasionally when I'm particularly brain dead or send stuff off in a hurry. :}

    What bothers me a lot, as a homeschooling parent, is when I see e-mails (via Yahoo Groups e-lists) from homeschoolers or homeschooler-wannabes with tons of grammar and spelling errors. Those immediately make me think "how can you be capable of homeschooling when you can't even compose a grammatically correct message??"

    Now I know I shouldn't have that bias since many homeschoolers do farm out courses to others to teach their kids, but, unfortunately, it does make me think less of those people when I see error-ridden e-mails.

    Ok, I'm done ranting now...LOL! See what you made me do? ;D

    1. Sorry about that, Teresa. ;-D

      I do agree with you about the misspellings and grammatical errors. Every time I receive an email with mistakes, I cringe and wonder how someone could send it out looking so bad.


Feel free to agree or disagree, just be polite.

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...