10 annoying email habits to break today

Email has revolutionized the way we communicate at work, bringing us a long way from the days of mimeographed memos or stenography. But it has also introduced a whole new array of annoyances into the workplace – some of which you might be guilty of yourself.

Here are 10 ways your use of email might be annoying your colleagues.

1. Not answering. When people email you a direct question, ignoring it as nearly as rude as ignoring a direct question in face-to-face conversation. And yet, offices everywhere are filled with people who don’t bother responding to emails, often even after repeated follow-ups. If you’re an email ignorer, realize that you’re likely to develop a reputation for being unresponsive and possibly disorganized, unless you vow to begin getting back to people. Even a simple “I’m working on it” is better than silence.

2. Requesting read receipts. You might love the idea of knowing exactly when someone has read your email, but requesting read receipts is likely to rankle your recipients. It sends the message that you don’t trust them to respond unless you build in some accountability, or that you don’t trust them to respond quickly enough for your liking. If your coworkers aren’t professional enough to respond to emails without the threat of a read receipt hanging over them, you should address that problem – but sending out an “I don’t trust you” signal with every communication isn’t the way to do it.

3. Sending “urgent” emails that aren’t urgent. Like the boy who cried wolf, if you abuse the “urgent” marker in email, soon no one will pay any attention to it – and then when you send that one truly urgent email at some point, no one will spot it. So hands-off the “urgent” notification unless an email truly qualifies.

4. Emailing and then calling or coming by in person to repeat your message. If it’s crucial that your message be received immediately, then email isn’t your medium; you should call or show up in person. This “double delivery” is so annoying that if you’re in the habit of doing it, you can be confident that your coworkers are grumbling about you right now.

5. Sending replies that make it obvious that you didn’t read the email. Responding “OK” to an email that asked an open-ended question, asking a question that was answered in the email, only answering only one of the three questions asked will make it obvious that you didn’t actually read the email. And while this might be a time saver for you, it’s going to require the sender to email you back for clarification and ultimately take up more time from both of you.

6. Vague subject lines. Subject lines like “question” or “hello” squander the potential of the subject line, which used correctly can help your recipient find the info in your email in the future.

7. Using colored text, creative fonts, or email “stationery.” Email isn’t intended to be a fancy medium; most people want and expect plain text and nothing more. Mucking about with the fonts or colors is more likely to appear tacky than classy or creative. And using borders of flowers around your email text or other forms of email “stationery” looks frumpy and unprofessional.

8. Email signatures that go on for paragraphs. There’s rarely a need for an email signature to contain anything more than a few lines of information – that’s enough space for your name, title, company (and/or website), and phone number. And sure, it’s fine to add an additional line with a link to subscribe to your email list or order your book or find you on Twitter. But multiple phone numbers, quotes, slogans, and lengthy descriptions of the company are unnecessary, generally unread, and clutter up the message. When your signature is longer than the average email, that’s a bad sign.

9. Requiring recipients to jump through hoops to email you. If you have anti-spam software that requires senders to prove they’re not spam-bots by filling out a captcha form before their messages to you will go through, you’re (a) annoying people and (b) diminishing the chances they’ll bother.

10. Pay attention to the email norms of the environment that you’re in. If you have a concise, to-the-point email style but everyone else in your office uses friendly openings (“Hi Beth, how are you?”) and closings (“Thanks so much for your help”), you risk coming across as curt or even abrasive. People will often read tones in your emails, whether you intend them or not, so calibrating the overall “feel” of your emails to the norms in your office can help prevent miscommunications.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 264 comments… read them below }

  1. Diet Coke Addict*

    The email signature at my work is just terrible. And my boss is so proud of it. I counted just now–it is THIRTY-ONE lines, including nine different ways to get in touch with us, our full mailing address, links to a Twitter that has been updated twice, and that long legalese bit.

    I apologize to everyone. Trust me, if I could change it, I would! As it is my boss has us delete it all in inter-office emails and you’d think he would figure out how much everyone else in the universe hates it.

    1. Jamie*

      I feel for you – when I designed a new sig tag I got so many suggestions which would have made it cumbersome and ugly not to mention huge. I’m a minimalist so that’s how it came out (well, there is something in there my boss wanted that I’d have left out – but it’s still pretty elegant.)

      I still have people complaining that I didn’t include a closing (yikes!) or gifs telling people to not print and save the trees …but if you care about that so much then type it in each email – I’m not doing it.

      1. Colette*

        I never understand that line.

        Are there people in the world who don’t know that paper comes from trees?

        And if someone is printing out their emails so that they can read them, they won’t see that line until after it’s already printed.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          And who really prints emails anymore anyway? That’s always my thought. Sometimes I’ll print an email if I need to make some additional notes or something. But 98% of the time, I don’t see the need to print them.

          1. Anon*

            I work with several people who print every last email, no matter how insignificant. No idea why, but they print the instant it hits their inbox. They file them all away in jammed-full drawers, too.

            1. Phideaux*

              I have a co-worker who does that. Not only does she print the original email, but the several dozen pages that are part of the endless loop of forwards. It then goes into a banker’s box to be archived until the Second Coming. Why? Because she “doesn’t trust computers.”

            2. CEMgr*

              Printing emails is terrible, but if your recipient is the kind of person who prints emails, they’re also probably not going to read or “get” the “save trees” request either.


          2. Phyllis*

            One of my principals prints every email & then files it. Doesn’t act on the info in the email, mind you, but the d#$% things are printed and filed.

          3. Steve*

            When we were using Lotus Notes email, our system administrator set “read receipts” to automatically send and we couldn’t override that. We did find, though, that if you printed the email from the inbox list it didn’t count as opening it and auto send the receipt. We all got to the point that we were printing everything so we could have the time to research and respond in a timely manner without the pressures of “you read my email 10 minutes ago,Nehru don’t I have an answer yet?”

          4. Gilby*

            I will print them if I need back-up if I see a potential problem with someone or something starting.

            I like having that hard backup if I need to show a co-worker or manager something right at my fingertips. Sometimes that just helps in the initial convsersations. If someone wants me to forward them the email at that point fine.

            But as a as a general rule no, I wouldn’t print out everything.

          5. some1*

            I have a few emails printed out & pinned to my cubicle wall that I need to reference very quickly.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              I do that too, but only for specific things. Certainly not enough to warrant the “please consider the environment” message being appended to every single email I receive.

              1. fposte*

                Those messages are just so bizarre as well as presumptuous. Do such places also have “Please consider the environment and don’t photocopy this” on all their paperwork? “Please consider the environment and walk to work instead of driving” on their sidewalks?

          6. Contessa*

            Until last week, we were required to keep electronic AND hard copy files. When I went out on medical leave and have to give my files to someone else, I got yelled at because some emails weren’t in the hard copy file (even though they were on the shared email system, properly filed). I had to print every email, it was a pain in the butt.

      2. KrisL*

        Sometimes that extra line about saving trees makes the e-mail take up an extra page if you print it.

    2. JM*

      I like having the addresses in the signature because we have to messenger stuff a lot. If someone’s info isn’t in their signature, they have to come to me for the address and it’s annoying to stop what I’m doing and look on my database.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        The address I actually don’t mind, for me or other people, because we do mail a bunch of stuff. It’s the quadruple whammy of nine different ways to contact the office, plus ugly jpgs, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever sent an email longer than my signature!

        1. WM*

          One thing signature related that is *almost* as bad as the epic signatures, is no signature at all. When you have something come up and you need to quickly call that person, and you scroll through their emails to find no signature, ever. Ugh, now I have to hunt through the corporate address book or pull up my records to locate your phone number. Annoying!

    3. Jen*

      There are so many bad bad signatures out there. Signatures that are attachment jpgs get on my nerves when I want to copy someone’s phone number and past it somewhere but I can’t. Signatures that offer quotes – any quotes at all: inspirational, funny, latin, religious . . . Ugh. No.

    4. Jubilance*

      My company does email signatures that go across, with the name/title/address/phone all separated by a “|” marker. I love it because it makes the signature at most 2 lines of text. I hate emailing people who are forced to include super long signatures on every email.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I’m going to do some tests with this. We have no standard, and I’d love to make mine shorter.

    5. Stephanie*

      Ugh, OldJob’s email signature was like that. I avoided using it until they required everyone use it.

      It was something like:
      Stephanie Lastname
      Chocolate Teapot Specialist
      Teapot Research Specialists, LLC
      Leveraging Teapot Research for Strategic Needs(TM) [i.e. our company slogan]
      123 Main St.
      Anywhere, USA 12345-0000
      +1 (555) 555-5555 (US)
      +44 (0) 55-555-555 (UK)
      +86 55 555-5555 (China)
      +81 55 555-5555 (Japan)
      Teapot Research Docket Packets [hyperlink]: See how Research Docket Packets can revolutionize your business.*

      [Tiny type about how we didn’t practice law (we did mostly legal research) and any advice given couldn’t be construed as legal advice, followed by the boilerplate disclaimer about destroying the email if it’s not intended for you.]

      98% of my emails were internal and not dealing with foreign customers, so most of this was irrelevant. Often times, my signature was longer than the email content.

      *We had a plug for a product that wasn’t doing well and a hyperlink on how to purchase it.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh yeah…we had a fax number too. And if you actually did business with the Asian clients, there were separate signatures in Japanese and Chinese.

          I get the formal signature might look nice, but if no one mails or faxes very often, then why include it?

    6. Mints*

      Me too. I hereby publicly anonymously apologize for the nine sentences describing our company that I’m required by my boss to have, along with the mailing address of both branches and our fax numbers (in addition to the l legal disclaimer I can’t change at all)

    7. Leah*

      If you’re using Outlook for your email, you can have a different signature depending on the recipient of the email. You don’t have to input every name, usually just the equivalent of @verbosecompany.com.

    8. Anon from Oz*

      Diet Coke Addict – maybe you can direct him to Allison’s article ?
      My company one isn’t too bad, although I removed the gif that was a hyperlink to our company website. I only deal with internal people and I have a hard enough time keeping my mailbox size under the limit without a gif attached to every email.

  2. Del*

    A past manager of mine was terrible about not responding to emails — I’d send a message to her to alert her of something that I was hearing from clients (such as a vendor or outside rep of ours pulling shenanigans, for instance) and it’d be like I dropped the message down a well. No acknowledgment, no response, nothing. Awful.

    1. Eric*

      I’m in a new role at my office and I sent an email to someone I’ve never had any dealings with before, asking a direct question… never got an answer. People remember things like that.

      Related to number 4: Running by chance into a coworker who basically says “Hey I sent you an email, let me explain exactly what it said and then we can talk about it for 10 minutes.”

      1. LV*

        I also sent an email to someone I’d never dealt with before and they never replied, even after I sent two reminder emails to follow up with them.

        Then about a month later, that person emailed me with a question of their own and said they needed an answer by the end of the day! I provided it, but I really wanted to point out the rudeness/hypocrisy of expecting a prompt reply from your colleagues whe you yourself feel free to ignore some of them for weeks at a time!

        1. Eric*

          It’s absolutely rude, but it’s a reap what you sow sort of situation. I see no reason to ever shoot myself in the foot to “get back” at someone, while presumably that person is not answering emails left and right and getting a reputation. That’s their real problem.

        2. Jen*

          *reply message sent: EOD -5 minutes*

          Pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to resist that. Heck, I’d probably schedule it in the mail client.

  3. businesslady*

    I know we’ve complained about this in the AAM comments before, but the whole unnecessary “urgent” thing is my #1 email pet peeve. I totally understand deploying that little exclamation mark when it’s truly warranted (& even do it myself), but it has to be a situation of “hey, this issue needs to be addressed on a very tight deadline” where the required turnaround is far quicker than a typical email would merit.

    instead, I have coworkers who use it to signify “hey, this email is important [to me]” which paradoxically makes me wait as long as I justifiably can before responding. it ends up having the same effect as the “read receipt” thing–conveying that you don’t trust the recipient to handle the message appropriately without some external prod. if the person in the “to” line won’t agree that your email is urgent, puhLEEASE do not click that button!

    1. PJ*

      This is my pet peeve also. There is one person in our organization for whom EVERY SINGLE EMAIL she sends out has an exclamation mark. She has a habit of waiting till the last minute before asking for necessary input, so I’m sure it’s urgent to her, but… I just ignore, and respond when I get to it.

      1. Dan*

        I think HR at my old job had the “!” set as a default. In the 5 years I’ve worked there, every email was marked as a priority. I can’t think of a single instance where if I didn’t read the email with 24 hours, *anything* would have happened, let alone anything bad. Most of the time they wanted some form filled out, where I had at least a week to turn it in…

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      At a previous job, our office manager liked to mark every single thing Urgent. “!!! The blow dryers in the ladies’ locker room at one of the branch offices doesn’t work!!!” It made it harder to pick out the genuinely urgent emails, like “do not use the latest development firmware version; it will set your memory chips on fire.”

    3. MaryMary*

      I had a client who thought urgent emails moved through the internet faster. Like if you sent an email marked urgent at the same time as an email that didn’t have the box checked, the urgent email would arrive in someone’s inbox before the non-urgent one. Most of the emails we received from her were marked urgent. She didn’t expect us to respond to the emails immediately, but she wanted to make sure we got the information as quickly as possible.

  4. Jamie*

    I agree with all of these, reserving an exception in the case of colored font for cases in which the recipient has repeatedly ignored deadlines – red and bold is shouty but it works when used sparingly for the most troublesome people in conjunction with the most urgent deadlines only.

    1. ChristineSW*

      I sometimes use bold or underline to emphasize a specific detail, like a date or time.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Yup. I do a lot of event confirmation e-mails, and I bold the date and time. But I think what Jamie is describing is a little different than what Alison was meaning…there are no flowery borders or fancy cursive texts.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      I also use colors when I’m replying inline to multiple questions:

      I color my responses so people can see them inside of the text.

      1. Jamie*

        I do that, too. I think Alison’s point was not to use color to be adorable, which I sadly agree with 100% (or there’d be a lot of pink font flying out of my office.)

        But using it for rare emphasis or to highlight your replies when in response to questions within the email is really helpful. It’s like the text waving a little flag yelling “Hi. I’m new!” and it saves so much time.

  5. Legal jobs*

    The management at my soon to be ex- employer is guilty if 1. Not answering at all and 2. Not reading the email even when they did answer.

    At work, a lack of basic communication skill really is the basic sign that you are working in a toxic environment.

  6. kdizzle*

    In contrast to the “high importance” e-mails, with the ever annoying red exclamation, has anyone ever received an email marked “low importance” (there is actually a capability in Outlook to mark low importance)?

    I haven’t yet, but I think I’ll be shocked and thrilled the day that I do receive one. Then I’ll delete without reading.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      We use it all the time – for FYI-type emails (like: “There’s cake in the conference room!” or “Here’s an article related to our next meeting. It’s not required reading, but if you want to dig deeper you can check it out.”)

      1. louise*

        How is cake in the conference room low importance?

        That’s the only appropriate time to use the high importance feature, really.

        1. Dan*

          For real. At Old Job, my cube was so close to the kitchen, I beat the interns to the free food.

          When I started at that job, my company had maybe 50 people at that location. “Kitchen food” was still there at the end of the day. Five years later, it doubled, and “kitchen food” was gone in 15 minutes. That was certainly the most time sensitive thing I encountered at that job.

        2. tcookson*

          Yes, if there is any kind of free food anywhere, that is an excellent time to use the high importance feature. If the free food is chocolate, it is also acceptable to send a highly impassioned: !!!URGENT — CHOCOLATE in the BREAK Room!!!

          1. Jamie*

            Yes – but those are the emails on which you never send to all users or even a mass list.

            You email me privately and let me know before anyone else…and then after I’ve surreptitiously checked out the cupcakes can you alert the public.

            And…now I want a cupcake.

    2. Kai*

      Yep, I had a supervisor previously who liked to use that. It always made me laugh. What’s the point?

    3. The IT Manager*

      I do rarely when it’s an FYI kind of thing.

      I use “Urgent” just as rarely because I figure everyone ignores it like I do.

    4. Anonymous*

      I use it and quite honestly if the people who got it deleted it I’d be thrilled. Our office culture is to forward and cc people on stuff endlessly and unnecessarily. So often what I’ll do is reply and then after the email chain is long I’ll forward it to the people who don’t really need it but will get hurt feelings if I don’t include them with a low importance and a note that “Hey, don’t worry about it. Just wanted it make you feel special.”

    5. tcookson*

      I’ve wanted to passively-aggressively use it in my responses to a certain co-worker’s “high-importance” emails. So far I’ve refrained.

    6. anne 3*

      I get automated emails twice a week from a project planning programme. The first email, on Tuesday, is marked ‘low importance’ and says “please fill out last week’s timesheet by the end of the week”. Then on Wednesday, it sends a “REMINDER!!!” marked ‘high importance’ saying “PLEASE REMEMBER TO FILL OUT LAST WEEK’S TIMESHEET!” I hate whoever set that up.

  7. EM*

    Re: #9 – Hoop required

    I encountered this for the first time at my current job!

    I sent an email to a client and received an auto response that said, “I appreciate your email; however, if your name and/or email address is unrecognized, your email will be automatically deleted.”

    I was flabbergasted! I had never seen such a thing! Then I had to click a link in the auto response that took me to a web page where I had to “register.” I thought it was a bit nutty, frankly.

    1. Anonymous*

      I really don’t get why people do this when applying for work. Especially technical work. It just screams “I don’t know how the internet works!”

  8. Anon1973*

    I once had someone brag to me that she only checks her e-mail twice a day: once when she gets in and again when she leaves. “If it’s truly important, they’ll call me.”

      1. Ethyl*

        I agree, but I think it depends on a lot of stuff — office culture, type of work you do, how time-sensitive your work is, etc. It pays to be aware especially of cultural issues, like if people are used to communicating by email and expect a prompt (10-30 minutes) response, you are probably shooting yourself in the foot with your colleagues and maybe your boss even if you’re getting all your work done.

        1. Elysian*

          I agree you have to be careful about office culture and of course, like you said, the type of work you do matters. But I’m really turned off by the constantly connected mindset that a lot of people have, and I actively try to avoid it, especially for work. I think it requires some training of other people not to expect that constant connection. I support anyone who is trying to disconnect a little bit, as much as it is allowed.

          If you need an answer fast, call or come over. Otherwise, I’ll get to it before tomorrow. No email should ever require a response before tomorrow, in my opinion.

          1. Cat*

            This is very dependent on office culture though – lots of people affirmatively dislike people calling or coming over because they feel like it’s a demand on their attention, and would prefer to receive urgent-but-not-life-or-death communication by email. (And, of course, in a lot of workplaces you might be working with external clients who have entirely different office cultures you have to meld with.)

            1. Elysian*

              I agree! That’s part of why, if it IS a demand on my attention (as in, this is important enough that I need to demand your attention, as much as I don’t like to do that) an email isn’t the best way to do it.

              I dunno, I guess its personal preference/office culture, but I don’t think we should penalize people who don’t jump immediately back with a response. A day isn’t that long to me in email-time. I hope my coworkers have figured that out (as far as I’m concerned, at least).

              1. TL*

                Depends. If I had to walk 15 or 20 minutes to get to the ordering people with a simple question – or try and reach them by phone when I’m doing time-dependent stuff in the lab and not in the office all day – and I need to order something rather urgently, not responding until the next day would tick me off.

              2. Anon1973*

                It’s also not a good policy when you are communicated to as a group. For example, groups of purchasers or analysts may need to receive time-sensitive information over e-mail. I know that if I missed a purchase order (that must be in writing) because I decided e-mail just wasn’t “important” enough, I would probably be fired.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Um, yes. I don’t do this but I would probably be better at my job if I did.

    1. AMG*

      Wow, she would miss some really important things from me and I would proceed without her input. I can do a lot of things, but I can’t force people to be responsible for their jobs.

      1. Anonymous*

        A lack of planning on your part does not constitute a lack of responsibility on my part.

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s why there’s a phone. “Hey! Something important came up. I’m sorry for interrupting what you were working on, but we need your input on it right now/within the next hour or we can’t do the important thing before the imminent deadline.”

            Ta da!

            1. Cat*

              “Hey, I just sent you and 8 other people a document that I need you to look at. Please check your email to make sure you see it; it’s the email I sent at 1:59pm which it will probably take you some time to find because you’ve been ignoring all your other email all morning. Now I need to go call the other 7 people who have the same email policy. Talk to you later!”

              “Hey, it’s me again. Check your email again – Jane weighed in on that document with a suggestion I think you should definitely consider when you do your review. It really blows the whole thing open. I’m going to call and tell Scott to make sure he knows about it too.”

              “Hey, just one more quick thing! Turns out Scott says that’s a terrible idea. Going to call Jane and let her know.”

              Yeah, not always practical.

              1. Anonymous*

                So exactly how many minutes am I permitted to be away from my computer and not checking my email before I am irresponsible and bad at my job? If I’m in another meeting for an hour (doing… you know… my job), will the world erupt before I can solve your problem? I really don’t think 3-4 hours is an absurd amount of time to permit someone to do their work without interruption, on a general basis. Most people get more done when they’re not being constantly interrupted.

                And if it is an emergency, usually one phone call along the line of “Hey, there’s an emergency, clear your calendar for the afternoon because we need to do a lot of collaboration on this document.” would suffice.

                1. AMG*

                  Probably more than twice, especially when one of those times is right before leaving the office. And how can the sender know people’s individual email habits? Even if the sender did know, it’s reasonable that checking at least 3-4 times a day, even if it’s a quick scan to see what can wait, is a reasonable expectation.

                2. Cat*

                  It depends on your job and it’s expectations. In yours 3-4 hours might be fine. In others it’s fine if you have a commitment but you make sure someone knows where you are because there’s a real chance other people will be looking for you on a time sensitive basis and will need to know to proceed without you. In others you make sure there’s a way to pull you out of all but the most important meetings.

                  I’m not criticizing how you handle your job–it sounds like these kinds of complicated time sensitive issues involving a lot if the people aren’t the norm for you. But you can’t state that as an absolute. In a lot of job that is the norm and there’s a real basis for that. People in those jobs aren’t being unreasonably imposed upon when they’re told that a twice-daily email policy isn’t going to work. It’s often just the business reality of the situation.

                3. Anonymous*

                  I mean, 3 times a day is only one more than two. I feel like you’re splitting hairs. If she checked in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of the day, would that be enough? I still think that if things are constantly coming up that can’t wait 3-4 hours, either you know that because its your job (like you do email-based tech support or something), or someone is frequently putting off things until the last minute.

                  Its not ok to call the focused person irresponsible just because someone else is always waiting until the last minute.

                4. Cat*

                  Some jobs the “last minute” is the status quo. It’s not just tech support. Not everyone’s job is focused around long-term projects and some projects are finished at the “last minute” because that’s the way the schedule works not because anyone is being irresponsible. If you work I. That kind of environment you need to figure out how to adapt to that and yeah, it’s part of the job even if it’s not explicitly stated as such.

                5. Amtelope*

                  It really depends on your job, though. In my office, yes, sometimes people are in meetings, but if you’re at your desk, you’re expected to read emails as they arrive. Our clients expect prompt responses, and many issues that come up are both unpredictable and time-critical.

                  That’s just the job. Your office may work differently, but it’s not unreasonable for some jobs not to be able to give you 3-4 hours to work on something without interruptions. My company is good about letting us be off when we’re off, and not expecting us to check email after hours — but if we’re at work and in front of a computer, we can’t ignore incoming email. There are too many reasons why we might need to stop working on task X and do new task Y right away.

            2. Ethyl*

              See, I would find constant phone calls about urgent but not detailed matters to be SUPER annoying, and much more intrusive and distracting than email.

              1. Jamie*

                This. Me too.

                If I’m away from my desk I let the receptionist know so if someone needs me she can page or tell them where to find me. If I’m at my desk I see emails as they come in and respond to them according to priority. A fire needs to be put out – I’m on it immediately. A question about something non-urgent I’ll answer is a short period of time unless I’m putting out fires in which case I’ll make sure you get a response by the end of the day.

                Even if the response is just that I’ll look into it and get back to you and give you an eta – at least you know I got the message and it’s in my queue.

        1. Anonymous*

          I think that you can’t just say that. If your job requires you to check email then it isn’t about a lack of planning. It is about you not doing your job. If your job doesn’t require it or isn’t a job that has anything urgent then it doesn’t matter. But sometimes urgent things aren’t a lack of planning, they are just the world happening.

          *I say this as someone who is a huge preplanner and I hate people who show up with emergencies all the time. But when it’s my boss? It’s my job to drop my other work if that’s what he wants.

      2. AVP*

        Yeah, I don’t understand this either, but it just really depends on your job and company. I would be fired before lunch if I had that attitude, as basically all of my requests and conversations happen over email (they all need multiple people on the chain, a paper trail is key, and people are all over the world – not a good set-up for stopping in or phone calls). But I am learning that there are other companies set up in different ways!

      3. The IT Manager*

        I don’t agree with you. My team has IM. If it’s urgent, IM me. I usually read emails as they arrive, but if I am actively involved in a meeting (sadly rare considering how many meeting I do attend) or working on something then I may not get to emil for a few hours.

        1. Cat*

          Not everyone has IM, though. Of course if your office convention is that urgent stuff is addressed through IM, that takes the place of email. And in a lot of places, you’re getting urgent emails from external clients not from coworkers. (Though I have to admit, I’d find it annoying to get a lot of IMs that said “check out this document I emailed you,” but I’m sure not every job involves that.)

        2. Windchime*

          We are in an email culture at my place of work. We also use IM, but some people on my team refuse to use it so it’s mostly just used for “quickie” questions.

          Most of the time, emails don’t require an immediate response, but when the subject line is “Production ETL failed at ” and the on-call person can’t be bothered to check/respond to email–this is a problem. Because then someone else has to either walk to the on-call person’s desk to say, “Hey, production failed” or we wait for him/her to notice (which is terrible for our customers).

          Long story short–when you are in an email culture, checking a couple times a day isn’t always going to be adequate.

        3. BeenThere*

          This. Thank you IT manager.

          I use to do time sensitive support for bank as well as development. If wasn’t getting interrupted by calls I needed my uninterrupted time to program. I checked my email three times a day unless I was in the middle of an incident.

          We required a 15 minute response time to any incident. Everyone was trained to use the phone and that email and IM are not escalation devices. If something was going wrong I either received an automated phone call or worse case from a person.

          If anyone complained that someone in support did not respond to an email or IM urgently enough every single manager would ask them first if they had called the person and if unreachable called through the back up chain. Then they would be shamed for not following procedure.

          We would laugh at any user that put urgent in the subject line in an email, most of them were serial offenders that after two offences would be put in the boy-who-cried-wolf box.

      4. WM*

        I once had a client ask me if I could text her to let her know when I send her an email that was time-sensitive, so she could make sure to check her email. The story was that she got so many emails she needed me to text her personal cell to make sure she read the ones from me. We politely crafted a “no” response… I get hundreds of emails per day as well – and each one is usually tied with a to-do for me, with a deadline. If I can stay on top of my email, you should too!

        1. Anonymous*

          In business, people should check their email a few times a day. But generally there should be no expectation that people are on it all the time. Some do, but not everyone does.

          If by “time-sensitive” it means a response is needed within an hour or two, then her request is reasonable. If you mean within a few days, then her request is pointless – she should read her email every day.

    2. Elysian*

      Really, this I don’t think she means this as a personal affront. This is a basic “Getting Things Done” technique.

    3. Lalou*

      Our company’s HR boss once told me when I went to him to follow up on an important email that when he gets back from time off, or sometimes just the weekend he’ll delete everything in his inbox, saying “If its important whoever it is will come and see me”. He seemed so proud of this approach! This email included documents that HR had requested which I then had to email him again.

  9. The Other Katie*

    I’m guilty of #10. My place of employment tends to fall on the side of lots of pleasantries with emails, which I find inefficient. I tend to just get the point and hit send. It’s a conscious effort to include in some of my emails “Hi, how have you been?” or “Have a great weekend!”. But I’ve been trying to conform.

    1. Anon1973*

      I sometimes struggle with this as well. Usually, I write to the point first, read it, make sure it addresses all the key issues, then I go back and add in the superfluous stuff.

    2. Noah*

      I’m guilty of replying on my phone so it adds the Blackberry blurb. I don’t see any reason to write out all the niceties for an internal email answering a simple questions.

    3. Anonymous*

      It’s so in the eye of the beholder. When I started at my last job, I remember being very put off that people didn’t write their name at the end of an email, they just ended it above their signature line, like this:

      Jane Doe, Vice President
      Chocalate Teapot Company

      I realized later that people were working at such a fast pace they literally did not have the time to write their signatures in emails.

  10. Rina*

    The habit I hate!!! the most is when I am cc’d in an email along with other people and the same people forward me said email EVEN THOUGH THEY CAN SEE I AM CC’D IN IT! It drives me bonkers!! because I end up getting 5 emails about the same thing. The one I am cc’d in, which is fine, and then the fwds from people who think I should look in to this even though they were part of the same chain.

    1. AMG*

      lol…this reminds me of someone!!! who types like this! when he wants to MAKE! a! point!!!!!

      I am not! even kidding!!!!!!

      1. Yup*

        Is he trying to induce panic attacks? I actually felt my blood pressure go up while reading that. I’d need herbal tea and cat videos on constant emergency standby if I worked with that guy.

        1. AMG*

          Yeah, fortunately I don’t see many emails from him and I never plan on having a direct email conversation with him. I need at least one degree of separation or someone would get hurt…

  11. Anon*

    My biggest pet peeve is when somebody has their email set to only include a signature on the very first email they send to me. It means that with vendors and clients that I’ve worked with for years, if I need to call them to follow up on something they emailed me about I first have to either find their very first email or dig through them in our contact list (doable, but still annoying when the information could easily have been included in the message they sent!).

    1. Anonymous*

      That’s pretty standard since having it on every message when each reply should include the previous messages would make the chain even longer and take up more space.

      1. Anon*

        Yeah, I get the space argument — but with so much of my job being communicating with different parties, the more contact info the better! Though, just having email, phone, fax, and street address is fine — no need to have multiple lines of crap! I feel like I’ve wasted way more time trying to hunt down somebody’s contact info than scrolling through emails with signatures.

        1. Anonymous*

          You could open the message and search it for the person’s name, or (if you use Outlook) create those people as contacts and then when you hover over their name in the To list it will pop up the contacts card.

          1. Anon*

            We don’t have those easy search features unfortunately (don’t even get me started on using Gmail as a work email client — totally drives me batty!) — and I’m thinking of when there is literally only one email from four years ago with the info I need, not just an earlier one in the chain. I also do a lot of work with multiple companies, so with 8 people from 4 different organizations in a chain it’s REALLY useful to know what each person’s role is easily.

            Anyways, I guess I could see leaving it off for internal messages, but I totally stand by including it on every external message!

            1. JustKatie*

              I’m sure I’m the odd one out, but I wish I could use Gmail for work! You can search your contacts by clicking on the down arrow next to the red Gmail logo in the top left, then selecting “Contacts”.

              1. Ethyl*

                We just switched and I love it. Just the improved search functionality over our previous email client is SO great.

                1. Anon*

                  I came to my current job from a place that used Outlook which was awesome. I loved all the different tools it had to help you manage your work. I also really liked the interface, I felt like I could actually see everything I needed on one screen. Despite all the settings I try to change on Google I just can’t get my calendar, inbox, labels, etc to show me everything at once — it’s so annoying!

        2. Dan*

          That raises a good point about signatures — if the email signature is so *not* important that I never have to read it after the first email, it’s pointless. Trim it down to the things I need (like your phone number and maybe snail mail). That’s the one line I won’t get peeved about reading time and time again.

          1. Jamie*

            Are you all talking about the first email in a thread? Or the first email ever? If it’s the former that makes sense to me – just scroll down to the first one email, but it doesn’t waste space with all the replies.

            I have ours set to full sig on the first email and replies are just name and phone number.

            If it’s the latter – I’ve never seen that. Is that a thing?

            1. Anon*

              The way some of my contacts have it set is to only appear on the first email ever sent, not the first in a chain. So, yeah, it’s a big pain to find it.

    2. Anonymous*

      “It means that with vendors and clients that I’ve worked with for years, if I need to call them to follow up on something”

      This reflects more on you. You’ve worked with them for years but don’t have some sort of easy-to-use contact management or CRM system? Get one. Many email systems even include them.

      1. Anon*

        Agreed. Or if the signature block is way back at the beginning of a long email chain, learn to use the page down or ctrl+end feature to find it quickly.

  12. NylaW*

    People who cc themselves on an email so they can keep a copy. Uh… there’s a Sent Items folder for a reason.

    1. Cat*

      They probably have automatic filters set up so that the message goes directly into a certain folder. I’m not sure there’s a simple way to do that without adding yourself to the CC list (I mean, there probably is but I don’t know it and I imagine other people don’t either).

      I don’t do this because I think it would look eccentric, but I see the appeal because dragging through my sent message folders instead of my topic-specific folder is a pain in the ass, especially if I don’t remember whether I or another person originally sent an email from some time ago. And really, how does it effect anyone else?

    2. Leslie Yep*

      I BCC myself on any messages asking for action so that I can set reminders in Outlook for myself to follow up. I also BCC myself on any agendas I send so I don’t have to go back into my sent folder to find them again. I’ve never really thought twice about anyone CCing themselves on messages!

    3. Elysian*

      My workplace doesn’t have IMAP capabilities, so if I send an email from my phone (for example) the only way I can have a record of it on my computer is to cc: myself.

      Just to add one possible explanation to Cat’s.

      1. NylaW*

        That is possible yes, but that’s really not the norm from what I’ve seen and the people I am emailing and it is certainly not how our internal email system works, which is where I see the most offense.

      2. AVP*

        Yes, for a while I had one of the world’s most annoying email servers, where if you sent something from your phone or from the Webmail page it would refuse to save a “sent” email file. Those are pretty rare though and it drove everyone collectively nuts.

    4. Jubilance*

      Sometimes it’s helpful though. My company uses an email system that deletes anything older than 2 weeks from your Sent Items folder, and I’ve lost important emails I needed for reference that way. CC’ing myself gives me more time in case I forget to file it another spot immediately.

      1. NylaW*

        I move all my sent message that I want a copy of, to the appropriate folder where would also keep responses if there are any. If it’s not in the Sent folder, the system wouldn’t know to delete it, plus if you want to keep a copy one would assume you’d want it organized like the other messages in the chain.

      2. HR “Gumption”*

        I can’t see self cc’ing would be an issue, since it doesn’t add any waste, clutter, or compromise the message. I have many folders that I move sent items over too for simpler tracking purposes.

    5. Anon30*

      NylaW – Sometimes you have to CC or BCC yourself, especially if you are sending from your mobile device. I use Entourage and for some reason the Sent emails don’t go into the Sent folder anymore. They used to when I had set it up as a POP account. But, after I set it up as IMAP, they no longer appear in my sent folder. Just an FYI. Maybe others do this for the same reason.

    6. Donnatella Moss*

      I sometimes cc myself – our process for a certain item requires people to forward the email to one person and cc me so I can log it in – I will cc myself when forwarding the same item to the correct person so it’s easy to find the email when I log it. Yeah, I guess I could bcc myself, but it’s all internal anyway…

    7. Anonymous*

      How does this affect you? Why should you care?

      I don’t do it, but I ignore it. It has near-zero affect on me.

  13. Sascha*

    There are so many professors at my institution that do everything on this list! Except, of course, #10. There is one professor who writes all his emails in 14 point bright blue Comic Sans, and concision eludes him – each email is many paragraphs of repeating the same thing in different ways. His emails literally hurt my eyes to read.

    1. Dan*

      That’s because professors don’t believe in being concise. Every professor I had as an undergrad specified *minimum* page lengths for papers.

      When I got to grad school, sometimes they specified maximum page lengths. Usually, the size was unbounded, they wanted you to focus on saying what needed to be said, no more, no less.

      1. Anonymous*

        This is so true. I have a coworker who is currently taking college classes and I can tell when she’s been writing a lot of papers because suddenly all her writing triples in length. I’m looking forward to May when she’s done.

  14. Payroll Lady*

    Unfortunately I am guilty of requesting read receipts for most of my e-mails. Anything payroll related that needs a response in order to pay someone correctly gets a read receipt. I have employees swear they never received an e-mail and that I must fix their error immediately. Thanks to read receipts I can prove, “yes you received and read my e-mail at such and such a time. It stated I needed a response by noon in order to process this week” no response, it waits until the following week.

    Read receipts are also good for sending required forms and such by e-mail and I can prove to government agencies that they were sent and who received them. It has saved my previous companies from major penalties being able to prove an answer was sent and received.

    1. AMG*

      that’s fair. My replying to say that Friday would be better than Thursday to schedule a meeting doesn’t need a read receipt–that’s where I see most of them.

      1. Payroll Lady*

        I agree. Mine is set to send always, however if I am just sending a quick response to someone, I go into that email and take off the receipt feature.

        1. Cat*

          But that usually requires having a ballpark time first, otherwise you have to amend the calendar time a gazillion times which is irritating.

          1. Anonymous*

            Not if people actually keep their calendars up to date! (I can just tell people, just schedule me, and if they look they are good.) Of course getting people to do that is …a challenge.

            1. Cat*

              And a lot of people have to schedule meetings with people who aren’t in their organization.

    2. Stephanie*

      A manager at OldJob always requested read receipts for a similar reason. She sent out projects (and the associated billing) to customers and used it as proof they received the bill and/or project.

      Of course, she kept the read receipt on for all emails, including unimportant ones about happy hour.

    3. Amtelope*

      I’m fine with read receipts when they’re in lieu of “please reply to let me know you got this email and are working on task X;” it’s faster to click the little button that it is to reply saying “will do.” But not every email needs a read receipt.

    4. Laura*

      And I so dislike the tracking of read receipts that I turned them off in Outlook; my system will never send a receipt when I’ve read something. Because Outlook would otherwise send a receipt when focus was on the message long enough (a few seconds) with a preview displayed, even though I might not have read it, even though I might not have been looking, even though I might need more time.

      You can also have Outlook ask you if you want to acknowledge receipt each time, but that is REALLY annoying and tedious. So I just have mine off.

    5. Anonymous*

      I think this is an okay use of read receipts – probably how it was intended, actually.

  15. Anne-Cara*

    Don’t forget emails sent after business hours, followed by calls (or more emails!) the next morning wondering why you haven’t responded yet.

    1. Anonymous*

      Ugh, the students in the class I teach are terrible about this. This semester alone, I’ve received multiple emails (from different students each time) between midnight and 4am that were followed by angry emails between 6am and 9am to the tune of “why haven’t you responded yet?!?!?! this is urgent!”

      1. JustKatie*

        THIS is why I’m glad I’m done with teaching high school. E-mails at 10 p.m. asking what the homework was (that was on the homework calendar for a week in advance, not my problem!). Even better is when they ask for me to send it as an attachment- so sorry, I don’t have all of my teaching docs on my home computer even if I were to see the e-mail.

        One time, it was followed by an irate e-mail from a parent at 6 a.m. stating that it was MY fault their child couldn’t do their homework.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yep. These are university students, and the number of irate “I can’t be bothered to look on the course website and it’s your fault” emails I get is truly mind-boggling.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            I may be too harsh, but I’d put in the syllabus (and announce at the beginning of the semester) that a student would be dropped a letter grade automatically for sending such emails. And then I’d actually drop their grade if they did it. They’re in college; if they don’t already know better they are certainly capable of learning quickly. Of course, I’d probably also have the terrible administrator/Dean who would give in to the inevitable complaining and reverse the grade drop.

    2. Stephanie*

      I had a boss who worked like 5 am to 1 pm, and then wondered why she wouldn’t get email responses until the end of her day.

  16. AnonEMoose*

    Oh, how I hate the people who don’t actually read the email before responding, the ones who email then call, and the ones who don’t respond at all. There’s one person where I work who is AWFUL about responding to email, and unfortunately, I can’t proceed without “Joan”‘s input on some things.

    So what I’ve taken to doing is forwarding the original message with “2nd Request,” “3rd Request,” etc. in the subject line. It seems to help…a little….and then at least if my boss asks, I know how many times I’ve tried without having to dig.

    And the ones who respond to a message with a question, or more than one question, with “approved” or “yes” make me wonder where I could hide the body…makes me stabby.

  17. Anonymous*

    Love the point about using subject lines more effectively. I would add too that a concise message, with the purpose of the email up top, is also really helpful. It’s challenging when someone sends an email with the purpose buried under paragraphs of text. It makes me think “this will take awhile to respond to, so I’ll come back to it later” when sometimes it’s simply a question about availability or something else that’s quick.

  18. Anon30*

    I have a supervisor who requires updates at the beginning and end of the day. That’s fine and understandable, but if there are semi-urgent to urgent questions, I often don’t get a response (That’s OK if there aren’t any questions).

    Then, I often get criticized for not completing something that I needed approval for to get to the next step. Sometimes, I end up asking 4-5 times. It’s so frustrating.

  19. Joie de Vivre*

    This one may be just me, but drives me nuts when people misspell my name in the salutation of the email.

    Our email addresses are firstname.lastname@company.ca; so basically if your email got to me, you spelled my name correctly once, but somehow between the “to” box and the body of the message, you forgot how my name is spelled.

    1. Anonymous*

      Our emails are firstinitiallastname@company.com. jsmith, plopez, croberts, etc. For me, this works out to (the equivalent of) pamberg. It’s not uncommon to receive emails addressed to Pam, like they’re assuming my name is Pam Berg. Um, no. It’s P. Amberg.

    2. Jubilance*

      This one drives me batty. I really love when I send an email to someone and they reply and spell my name incorrectly – that means that they saw my name at the top of the window in larger font, in the To: field, in the original email, and they STILL decided they wanted to spell it wrong. Drives me crazy.

    3. JustKatie*

      One of my colleagues has a foreign first and last name, and one of her contacts CONSTANTLY refers to her by her last name, despite her signature line clearly stating her first name. So he receives an e-mail from her that ends “Thanks, Maggie Smith” and he responds “Hey, Smith!”. This is after meeting her face to face multiple times (where she’s clearly introduced herself, and others refer to her as “Maggie”) and about three years of correspondence. She started using his last name as a greeting. He suddenly figured out her first name.

      1. Anon*

        My first name and last name can both be first names. At least two other people in my organization have my last name as their first name. One of those was formerly my direct report, and another is a peer. It leads to a lot of mass confusion because I have to ask, “Did you mean me? Or so-and-so?”

    4. Midge*

      This happens to me too! But the best was getting an email addressed to [first name] [last name + first two letters of first name]. My company email address is indeed [last name + first two letters of first name], but my name is also listed right there next to my email on our website.

    5. Schnauz*

      I don’t mind on emails – what irks me is when this happens via IM. My name shows each time I type a response and people still misspell it.

      Oh well, I have one of those names so mostly I don’t care. If I feel onery though, I will purposely start misspelling the name of every person who misspells mine. We all have a chuckle then.

  20. Allison*

    You forgot a big one: hitting “reply all” when it’s not necessary. Using an e-mail thread to communicate with a small team is one thing, but every time someone hits “reply all” to say something minor in response to a company-wide announcement I want to punch a wall.

    1. Adam*

      +1 to this. It’s also annoying when it’s a non-work personal announcement that suddenly merits a flurry of one-to-two word replies.

      Mass emailer: I got engaged over the weekend!
      Eager Beaver Reply All: Congratulations! [end of response]

    2. LeeD*

      +1, and also the inverse: People who fail to hit “reply all” when it IS necessary. Yes, those people were cc’d for a reason, and do need the information you’re returning. Grr.

    3. TBoT*

      My office has an enormous reply-all problem that has become an annoying part of our culture. If someone has a new product launch, they’ll email the whole division to announce it, and then the rest of the day the whole division’s inboxes fill up with reply-all emails that say “Yeah!” “Looks great!” “Good for you guys!”

    4. Betsy Bobbins*

      Yes, yes, yes!!!
      This is one of my biggest pet peeves. People who do this usually fall in to one of two categories:
      1. The Ludite: The person who really doesn’t know how to use their e-mail.
      2. The Ass Kisser: The person who wants someone, usually the boss, to recognize how thoughtful, insightful, or all around awesome they are by virtue of their response.

    5. Anonymous*


      If I am sending an announcement-type email to the entire company, I always put the group email address in the BCC – makes it way harder for people to reply-all.

  21. Adam*

    I think my office is guilty of all of these, #1 and #4 likely being the most work impeding offenses.

    In terms of pet peeves #7 and #8 bug me to the point of irrationality. In my office and region of the US it’s common to have a signature note that says “Please consider the environment. Save paper and don’t print this email” (paraphrased).

    I get hundreds of emails every month. I print maybe one or two at most when necessary. Who’s in the habit of printing the majority of the emails they get?

    1. Anon*

      At OldJob the Executive Director didn’t use a computer (he was older and never had a need to learn) and his secretary printed every single email for him to read. He would write comments on them and she would type up the response and send it. Terribly inefficient, but it was just his eccentricity — and when you’re the big boss nobody’s gonna tell you to change!

      1. Adam*

        Hoo boy. Glad I didn’t work there. Sounds like it would take all day just to answer email.

        Certainly there’s no accounting for generational gaps, but most of the people I know who use these lines are in their 20’s/30’s. Clearly there are mass email printing parties going on that I’m not invited to.

      2. Anon*

        Yeah, luckily he had an AMAZING admin who made sure things didn’t fall through the cracks — he would not have been able to function without her!

        Also, the culture was different, because everybody knew he didn’t use a computer, we generally didn’t use email to communicate with him (except for non-time sensitive stuff). We either called his admin and had her get the info for us, or had her set up an in-person meeting to discuss things. I don’t think it slowed things down too much, just a different way of working. Was kind of nice to be forced to talk to (important) people face-to-face.

        1. Adam*

          It is interesting when you consider that it wasn’t all that long ago that the culture you were in was how every office in America (and many other nations) likely functioned. How quickly things change, eh?

    2. Windchime*

      This phrase is appended to the end of all of my emails by…..something? Someone? I think they must have it set up that way in the Exchange server. I certainly don’t add it. So for all those people who are bugged by it–sorry! I’m not the one who is adding it!

  22. VictoriaHR*

    Ugh, stationary. Thankfully most of the people that I know have gotten the memo that email stationary sucks. I have one friend who still uses it. I’ve worked places that strictly forbade it, since each email on stationary takes up more server space because it’s essentially a picture to download and store on the server. Feh.

    I also dislike people using cutesy colors and fonts to replicate a handwritten signature. Just put your damn name.

  23. Parfait*

    My email peeve is people who put the entire content of the message in the subject line, and nothing in the actual body. Hate it with an unreasonable ferocity.

    I would so much rather get an email with subject line “Cake!” and body “There is cake in the conference room,” than get subject “cake in conf room” and no body. BAH!

    1. louise*

      I used to hate that until I worked for a year for an attorney who preferred anything that could fit in one line to just go on one line–the subject line. It was soooo easy to communicate quickly with her that she converted me. Though I rarely use that method now unless I know the person well enough to know they don’t mind it that way.

      1. WM*

        If it fits in the subject – ehh, I can live with it. But I’ve had sales reps who would email me three or four lines in the subject of the email… no body. to the point that I had to really struggle with the formatting to be able to read the entire subject line! Now that my friends, is just silly.

    2. Lindsay J*

      Do you still mind if they use a tag like [EOM] at the end of the subject to indicate that it’s the end of the message?

    3. JustKatie*

      Eh, I actually prefer this, since it allows me to quickly scan and skip over unimportant e-mails.

    4. Dan*

      Huh. I don’t get a lot of emails like that, but with Outlook’s ability to flash new messages coming across the bottom corner, I can usually scan the subject line and the tag or tells me I don’t have to bother switching over and opening the whole thing.

      Since I don’t get that many emails, I’m in the habit of reading them as they come in. I get more annoyed about having to switch over and read something that wasn’t necessary. The tags I mentioned above tell me not to waste my time.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      …. why?

      I get that pet peeves are often irrational, but this one seems to be so clearly just a personal preference that it’s hard to understand (for me).

      1. Jamie*

        Yeah – I don’t mind this at all. In fact I do it myself when the message is only a short phrase.

        I figure I’m saving people time.

        1. Ethyl*

          I don’t mind it IF the sender remembers to write (eom) or similar at the end, otherwise I do get slightly, irrationally, annoyed at having gone to ALL THE TROUBLE of clicking on an email that was essentially blank. I know! I know it’s totally ridiculous! It just irks me!

          1. Ellie H.*

            Me too. If there’s (NT) or (No text) it doesn’t bother me, otherwise it is a peeve. However the only person who sends me subject-line-only email is my mom (they are inevitable “I can pick you up at 5”-type messages) so I can’t complain when it’s her!

      2. Parfait*

        Oh I know it’s irrational. That’s why I called my ferocity “unreasonable.” Just one of those things that sets! my teeth!! on edge!!!

  24. DeAnna*

    “…answering only one of three questions asked will make it obvious that you didn’t actually read the email…”

    This is the one that makes me CRAZY! I keep my emails pretty concise, but there are some people for whom I also list questions on numbered separate lines — and they will still only answer 2 out of the 5 questions I asked!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      My pet peeve.
      I cannot figure out if I need to send a separate email for each question, what is the scoop?

      Just before I hit send on a reply, I double check to make sure I have answered the questions asked. It is easy to skate by a question, fortunately, it is easy to double check.

  25. Phyllis*

    #11: Not setting up groups. Because I so lurve scrolling through the 85 email addresses of my colleagues in other districts to get to the three-line email message from someone at the state department.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’ve never had an email account that you see the group in the header, you always get everyone’s email resolved, unless it’s a list serv or something.

  26. Ethyl*

    Regarding subject lines, I find it VERY annoying when people just reply back to the last email you sent them with a whole new set of questions or whatever. So the subject line would be “Spout Process meeting follow up” (because I try to be very clear in my email subject lines to make it easy to find things), and then I’ll have an email with that same heading about handle design, meaning that when I go back to find the email later, it’s darn near impossible!

    1. AVP*

      Ugh, I see that a lot too – I work on a number of different client projects with the same team, and someones someone will respond to an email about Bob’s Toys and add in a question or comment about Bill’s Beds – and then when I go back to look for it later I’m completely adrift. And the gmail search function, as yet, is not super helpful in that regard.

    2. Payroll Lady*

      When it is something I need to keep for the record, I will “adjust” the subject line on these type of e-mails. In this case it would show : RE: Spout Process meeting follow up — Handle Design question. At least this way can find it a little easier, and it still has the original subject line.

  27. dahanaha*

    Ugh I am super guilty of the last one! However in my defense I start each day with 20-30 emails from people in a different time zone that only require me to approve or deny requests. I quite frequently zoom through this with either a “Yes” (in which I just use this single word and amy signature) Or a “No sorry we can’t do this” ( a few extar words to soften the no).
    It saves me time and thousands of keystrokes per week so I don’t see too much of an issue with this.

    1. louise*

      When I worked for an attorney, her boss (the head douc—I mean, head attorney) would respond with the one word Yes to my either/or questions. When he sent his minion to fire me one day with no explanation other than “this isn’t a good fit”, I wanted to scream “damn straight it’s not! He’s a moron with the reading comprehension skills of a pre-schooler!”

      But in general I don’t mind one word answers. :) They’re only annoying when they don’t fit the context!

      1. dahanaha*

        LOL yes! All my approvals are more along the lines of can I take this part? All striaght forward yes or no answers.
        I had a counterpart before who would frequently reply yes or no when asked a simple either or question so I am senstive to that issue.
        Would you like the blue one or the green one?


  28. Gilby*

    #1 -Not answering.
    That has got to be the worse. What a slap in the face when you can’t even get a reply.
    At one job I was at I had tons of customers emailing me for status of orders. I replied if even briefly a ” I haven’t gotten answer but will let you know as soon as I do”. That was all that was needed.

    Now, in the job hunting part of emails? As we all know, employers are famous for not letting a candidate know they didn’t get the job.

    What is so hard about hitting the reply button and telling me I didn’t get it? They have do virtually nothing but hit reply, copy and paste a basic ” We have choosen someone else……..” . Not that hard.

    But I’ll tell ya….. if I didn’t reply to my customers I’d be in trouble.

    Love the double standard…..

      1. Gilby*

        Yeah, I am talking interviews only. Follow up emails.

        Like I said, if you or I didn’t follow through on a email sent to us as an employee of that company we’d be in trouble. But those same managers are going back to their computers, after reprimanding us and looking at a candidates email for an update…… and blows them off.

        That issue is near and dear to my heart right now…….

    1. Us, Too*

      This sounds so calculating and evil, but…

      When you get many emails a day, even a brief reply can be a time suck. When you have 16 hours of work to do in a day and not that many hours to do it, you must prioritize ruthlessly. And that 10 seconds I spend responding to a candidate we aren’t hiring is 10 seconds lost in finding the right person, training them, mentoring someone who needs it, etc. Plus, you must appreciate that you aren’t the ONLY one sending this email for an update. It adds up fast.

      I tell candidates at the end of our interview that they’ll only hear from us if we are interested in proceeding with them and that we won’t provide feedback otherwise.

      Als0, if I really like a candidate, I’m going to stay in touch with them whether they are pinging me or not. “Just reaching out to you to tell you that we’re still dotting i’s and crossing t’s on our end. I’ll keep you posted as we get closer to a decision.”

      So, although there are exceptions, when a candidate is pinging me for updates, typically they aren’t someone I am likely to hire so they aren’t someone I’m willing to invest much additional time in – even a few seconds to reply to an email. (I swear, I’m not a jerk, but this is the reality.)

      1. Dan*

        Honestly, if you’ve interviewed a half-dozen candidates, that minute to respond to all of them isn’t going to be that useful to anybody else.

      2. Gilby*

        Cutting and pasting a already formatted email to say ” we have moved on with other candidates” ( however it is worded) takes less than 30 seconds.

        I have right now, aleady formatted resumes and covers that will take no time to change if I needed to get a cover and resume out quickly. I have had all basic letters at a job I had ready to cut and paste, and alter as needed to send to customers.

        So if you have an employee that isn’t getting back to customers via email because they are” just too busy” you are OK with that? If that is the employees ” reality ” is that OK?

        I can say to you, Customer XYZ only buys $1000 from us so they are not worth my time to email them back? Are you OK with that thinking?

        I am truely interested as to what the difference is between why an employee can get in trouble for blowing off a customer for whatever reason and why it is OK for you not respond back to a candidate?

        Responding back to people when they email you is just plain courtesy.

      3. fposte*

        So wouldn’t notifying your rejectees of your decision save you time? Mail Merge and go.

        1. fposte*

          Wait, this is at the end of an *interview*? That doesn’t make any sense, and it really is rude; I’m startled by the deprioritization of notification value there. I mean, the time you get coffee takes away from the perfect candidate hunt too, as does the time you spend saying “Please” and “Thank you” throughout the day. That’s a pretty relentless pursuit if you’ve thrown everything on the scrap heap that isn’t perfecting the candidate search :-).

          Unfortunately, I don’t think advance warning that there’s no notification turns it into a courteous policy, any more than telling people that you never say please or thank you makes it polite not to say please or thank you. It’s probably not going to screw you over because it’s happening to people without a lot of power in the equation, but that’s not a very comfortable reason to treat them discourteously.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wait a second. How many candidates are you interviewing? Certainly no more than 10 per position, and probably closer to 4 or 5. It’ll take you about 90 seconds to send a form email to those people to let them know they’re out of the running — and it’s basic courtesy to do it. I mean, it takes 10 seconds to say hi to your boss in the kitchen too, but you probably do that because it would be rude not to. Same thing here — but it’s actually worse, since these are people who invested significant time in preparing to talk with you and actually talking with you and who are at a disadvantage power-wise.

        Plus, you’re doing real damage with this choice. I can tell you that if an interviewer told me what you wrote here at the end of our conversation, I would be hugely turned off. So much so that I’d reconsider if I wanted to work there. It’s just inconsiderate. You can’t do this!

      5. Audrey*

        And seriously, you have 16 hours of work per day, every day? And notifying interviewed but rejected candidates that they didn’t get the job would be on top of the 16 hours?


      6. Stephanie*

        Sorry if it sounds like we’re all piling on. From a hiring manager’s perspective, I can get that you might not want to invite rejected applicants challenging your interview decisions.

        But if you’ve had initial contact with a candidate, I’d implore you to notify everyone. As someone searching now, it’s really frustrating to think that an employer doesn’t even care enough about all my time and energy spent prepping to send even an auto-reject email.

        Plus, the candidates may not have been a good fit for this particular job, but they may be for another role down the line. Or they may know a friend or colleague who could be a good fit. I definitely remember which companies treated me poorly during interviews and keep that in mind for future searches.

      7. Anonymous*

        Too many people who write email don’t have understanding of effective communications principles in general, let alone the technology.

        How much time to spend on polishing an email is dependent on both the audience and the sender. If the sender is a big boss whose time is super-precious and the recipient are a few low level staffers, why care much about details – the message just has to be clear. That is all. It can ramble, not have the best subject line, etc – the recipients had better read it all and will read it all. If the sender is really good at communication in general and makes it easier for the recipients, that’s a bonus, but not essential.

        On the other hand, if anyone is emailing many many people, they have to make the email clear, have a good subject line, have action steps clear, etc. Not make it hard to read. It’s worth them spending 20 minutes extra to make 100 people not each waste 3 minutes sorting through a rambling message.

        And if any of the recipients are people whose time is extremely valuable, that goes double. Get to the point. Make the required action step clear. Put the conclusions up front and make it clear they can skip the supporting detail if they don’t have time.

      8. raise your game*

        If you’re actually interviewing people and haven’t set up some kind of list/mini database of people, that might be part of why you feel so busy.

        Get organized, make a list, and then when you make a hire, use the list to write back to the bulk of people all at once (using mail merge or BCC) letting them know they didn’t get the job.

        “I tell candidates at the end of our interview that they’ll only hear from us if we are interested in proceeding with them”

        This might be a reasonable approach to the hundreds of applicants, but is not reasonable in dealing with a smaller number of people who have already given you their time in prepping for and participating in interviews. You should give them explicit closure and if you can’t now, figure out office systems that will enable you to do so in the future.

  29. WM*

    I have another one to add – Secure Email.

    The kind that is specific to your system, that readers have to create a special username and password to log into and download the email before they can read it. In my world, there are emails that warrant secure emails (PHI), but I can’t stand when people continue to send communication via secure mail when the offending data is no longer in the email. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve spend 2-3 minutes logging into secure email to read the email that says, “Do you have any follow up on this yet?” DUDE. SERIOUSLY.

    1. MaryMary*

      YES! I received a secure email last week from a client I hadn’t worked with previously, and had to go through the whole process of creating a user name and password (containing a letter, number, special character, hieroglyph, and an emoji) to read a message saying, “I have requested the information you asked for and should have it next week.”

    2. Ethyl*

      YESSS!!!! I work with volunteers and some of them use their work emails (whhhhyyyyyy) and I really don’t need to jump through this rigamarole to see an email that says “what time is the meeting” because “I can’t install basecamp on my computer” which doesn’t even MAKE SENSE.

    3. Laura*

      To be fair with, the individual may not have much choice. I deal with this with one of their clients – and they told me they have a “standard” email server and any time they send any email outside the organization, it routes it via the secure system Just In Case. They _cannot_ send outside email from their email client without having it routed through that beast.

      1. Ethyl*

        Oh yeah I know, it’s not a peeve directed at the senders, but at the companies. It’s not a great policy because it annoys and alienates clients or vendors or whoever, and probably doesn’t even make their systems that much more secure (Jamie?).

  30. Us, Too*

    I’d like to suggest one more: sending an email when email isn’t an appropriate medium for the conversation. This results in endless and/or unproductive threads.

    e.g. Hi 20 people, what’s your thinking on the best way to solve some huge, unspecific problem?

    1. Jamie*

      Tbh I’d prefer a mass email about some huge unspecific problem than to sit in a meeting with those same 20 people and brainstorm solutions for a huge and unspecific problem.

      Although those people should learn how to break down a huge problem into manageable issues as well as how to communicate specifics. At which point they’d have my attention.

      1. Ellie H.*

        YES. I feel like email is a much better way to discuss issues because people are more motivated not to send excessively long, rambling emails than they are to avoid rambling, getting hung up on insignificant details, going on tangents, running over time etc. during meetings (in fact in my office, people seem very motivated to do all these things during meetings). I would rather have to send four or five emails where people throw out ideas and give opinions than sit in a meeting discussing these things out loud.

    2. Ruby Tuesday*

      The problem there isn’t the email, it’s that the problem hasn’t been clearly identified. There’s no GOOD route to get twenty people to pile in on that. Meetings and phone calls will be unsuccessful too. The solution isn’t “don’t email”, it’s to get the people asking for those twenty opinions to do the necessary work of identifying the issues and prioritising them before asking for input.

      At which point email can be perfectly effective as a way of gathering initial thinking from those twenty before calling a meeting, or whatever.

      1. Anonymous*

        “The solution isn’t “don’t email”, it’s to get the people asking for those twenty opinions to do the necessary work of identifying the issues and prioritising them before asking for input.”


  31. MaryMary*

    I am occasionally guilty of #4. I’m a visual person, so if someone emails me a question that involves a long, detailed response, I will usually type up my answer and then call or stop by to talk it through with them. It helps me make sure I fully answer the question, and prevents lot of email back and forth on complicated issues.

  32. TJ*

    What really drives me bonkers is someone CC’ing people completely unrelated to the issue to try and “escalate” an issue, cover their ass, or try to get you in trouble. The receptionist at my office will CC the GM, Sales VP, and three managers on her self-defensive reply if you email her asking about why something she was supposed to have done wasn’t done properly. No idea why, it must just drive them nutty to see useless emails in their inbox.

    “Kate, the following 20 records appear to be untouched since last fiscal year, I need them to be updated by Friday.”
    “[Response involving all unrelated higher-ups] *excuse excuse for why it wasn’t done excuses*”

    Surely that just looks bad for Kate?

    1. WM*

      Along these lines, someone in my company always cc’s who they think is my manager on follow up emails, but they actually have my manager wrong … I don’t report to that person. That person is just a coworker to me. I get a kick out of it!

      1. Windchime*

        My boss seldom reads emails where he is the cc’d party. He gets too many important emails and he considers those to be an FYI, so they get filtered into another folder. He’ll pull it up if I say, “Hey, so I CC’d you about this thing on that date”, but otherwise…..he just doesn’t even read them. So if people are CC’ing him to tattle, it’s not really doing anything.

        1. AMG*

          I worked with someone like that. If I wanted him to read something I would have to put him in the ‘to’ line otherwise it would go away along with the other 750 emails he received that day. I can see why he did it.

  33. LV*

    People who don’t set up auto-replies when they’ll be out of the office for extended periods… and people who don’t take down their auto-replies once they’re back! Today I sent an email and got an autoreply saying, “I will be out of the office until March 11th.” That’s great, but it’s now March 19th, so are you back or not?

    (I realize that person might have had to extend their out-of-office time for whatever reason and didn’t have access to their email, but I’ve encountered multiple offenders on this front at Current Job…)

    1. Elysian*

      On the other end, I know people who are auto-reply heavy and will set their auto-reply when they leave the office in the evening. Yes, administrative assistant, I know you’re out of the office. It’s 8pm. But I assume you’ll have a chance to look at my email tomorrow, right?

      Or when you send an email to a large group and get 10-20 autoreplies that are set to “reply all.” There’s got to be a way to chance that, right?

  34. athek*

    *knocks on wood* I think I have FINALLY broken one of my staff of sending me an e-mail and immediately coming over and asking, “did you get my e-mail?” Drives. me. bananas.

    1. Anonymous*

      Sometimes when people do that to me I reply (honestly), I don’t know – I’m not reading my email right now.

      And then return to work.

  35. Anon Exchange Email Admin*

    I think what this post illustrates is that a lot of people don’t understand some things about how email works, have not had good training on how to use various email clients, and may also be quite unorganized in the email department. A lot of things that I see people do are because they don’t know any better, or because they just have so many messages in their inbox folder that they have developed work-arounds so they can find the ones they need.

    Sometimes the easiest thing is just to ask someone (nicely!) why they do something, and then offer to show them an easier or better way. I’ve never had anyone be ungrateful for a better way to manage all their email.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. One of the things some people do is hoard email. They fear deleting anything so they literally have thousands of emails in their inbox so they can’t find anything. They don’t even bother organizing it in folders. And really, even organizing it is somewhat of a waste of time because these people keep things that just don’t matter. It’s like walking into a home filled to the rafters with old crap that has no value and yet, the owner won’t throw it away.

      1. fposte*

        Hey, how’d you get my laptop?

        Yes, this is me. And I do think it’s related to hoarding, in that I have hoarding tendencies that are pretty well controlled physically; however, since I have room to store email, I don’t worry about controlling it.

        As it happens, there is usefulness in a lot of the stuff I’ve kept, but overall it’s probably not useful enough to make it genuinely worth keeping. It’s just easier for me mentally to do so. (I’m pretty good at finding stuff, though.)

    1. Anon*

      I love a response at the top. That way I don’t have to scroll to read the latest in the ongoing thread. And it’s very normal etiquette for Outlook and other email programs, which make it the norm/default.

    2. fposte*

      You know, I’m an old Usenetter, and I remember when the AOL reader came in with the top-posting default and made us all crazy.

      But for email, I actually want top posting. I know what I said–what’s the answer?

  36. Ruffingit*

    5. Sending replies that make it obvious that you didn’t read the email.

    YES! This is a problem I’ve seen time and time again and it’s so annoying. I’ve taken to responding to some people with “Your inquiry was answered in the original email.” I sometimes get an apology in response and sometimes nothing, but man it’s annoying when people do this.

    1. Ellie H.*

      I did this once and was completely mortified, to someone I really like whom I know both professionally and (sort of) personally. After making the mistake I try very hard to be cautious of it now.

  37. Leah*

    I don’t understand why people include their email address in the signature of the email. If you sent me an email, it has your address right there at the top!

    1. Anon*

      I do it because it’s my company standard signature. Also, some peoples’ email systems (including ours, actually) will include the name but not the email on the “From:” line of a previous email that is being forwarded. Having it in the signature guarantees that if it propagates onward, someone can later contact me.

      But mostly, because my company puts it there.

  38. NEP*

    Punctuation faces. They’re so widely used, and clearly for many people they’ve become acceptable. But in my view they’ve got no place in professional e-mails. (Frankly, even in informal correspondence, they make me cringe.)

    1. Lalou*

      I just got a joke email from a coworker with a winky face on it and I just cringed so much, someone passing in the corridor asked if I was ok.

  39. Wren*

    I totally hate people who leave unanswered direct questions in email. If they are repeat offenders, I usually put in the subject line or in the first line how many questions there are and then number them in the body of the email. Clunkier than I’d like, but saves me the back and forth.

  40. Mae*

    My boss is a habitual 1 & 5 offender. And yet, this person still requests to be CC’ed on basically everything I e-mail. Thanks for confirmimg that this is NOT what good e-mail communication looks like and that I am probably not unreasonably annoyed.

  41. Jamoche*

    My company is spread all over the globe and uses instant messaging as well as email. There are a few people on a team whose working hours just barely overlap with ours who, instead of just asking their question, will post a “hi”. And then wait until you reply before asking the question. The trouble is, if you’ve gone home already, the whole sequence will look like this:
    Q: Hi
    (8 hours later, Q goes home, question unasked)
    (8 hours after that, A comes to work, sees a Hi)
    A: Hi, did you have a question? You should just ask, you know. We’ve said this before.
    (8 hours later, Q finally asks the question – and again, A has already gone home, so Q won’t get the answer for another day)

    instead of
    Q: Hi, could you answer___?
    (16 hours later)
    A: Sure, it’s ___
    (8 hours later, Q sees an answer!)

  42. Vicki*

    #11 – Trying to retract a message.

    It’s so amusing when people try to use Outlook’s “retract” feature. It does do its best to remove the message from the server, but anyone who has already seen it has already seen it. And, no matter what you sent initially, most people really didn’t notice whatever it was that made you cringe. But, that “retract” message is a Big Red Flag that gets people running to their inboxes to re-read the message (because yes, some people do download their email) and try to guess why you’re retracting it now.

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