the problem with “gentle reminders” — and other lesser-known email offenses you might be committing

In the two decades since email began saturating most American workplaces, most people have come to agree on some basic etiquette rules, such as don’t reply-all when you don’t need to and avoid using all-caps unless you’re screaming at someone.

But there are finer points of email etiquette which aren’t as universally acknowledged but can make you as far more effective emailer. Here are five lesser known email etiquette breaches that you might still be making.

1. Waiting to respond to an email until you know the answer – even if it takes days. Here’s what this often looks like: You receive an email asking you for a specific piece of information. You won’t be able to get that information until next week, so you put the email aside until you have it. But you don’t email the sender back to let them know that that’s the situation, since you’re figuring that you’ll just respond when you have the answer they’re looking for. This is problematic, because the sender is left wondering whether you even received the message, whether you’ve forgotten about it, and what’s talking so long. In some cases, they’ll become annoyed.

Do this repeatedly, and you’ll create a reputation for yourself as slow to get back to people. The solution is easy: Send a quick email saying, “I should be able to get back to you about this by early next week.” That takes 10 seconds, and then you haven’t left anyone hanging.

2. Assuming that you don’t need to respond if you’re more junior than others receiving the email. If you’re relatively junior, this might sound familiar: A coworker sends an email to you and your boss, with a straightforward question that either of you could answer. You figure that since your boss is more senior, it’s most polite to defer to her. In reality, though, your boss might appreciate you handling the query and saving her time – and might be concerned if she notices that you never chime in when you could be fielding routine queries. This is a case of “know your manager,” of course, but if you’re unsure if your manager falls in this category, it’s worth asking.

3. Sending out “gentle reminders.” You’ve probably noticed the trend of including the phrase “gentle reminder” in the subject line of emails that are, well, reminding the recipient of something. But to many recipients, the phrase conveys, “I think you might be offended by a normal workplace interaction and so I am approaching you very gingerly.” There’s no need to announce that you’re softening the message, and that kind of tip-toeing will tick off many colleagues.

4. Responding to a serious or sensitive email with only “OK.” Sometimes answering emails with a simple “OK” is completely fine; for instance, if your coworker emails you about the new location of the copier paper, a longer reply isn’t needed. However, if your manager emails you about a problem with your work and you write back nothing more than “OK,” you’ll likely come across as inappropriately flippant or curt.

It can be especially tempting to send this two-letter reply if you’re emailing from a phone, where typing a longer reply is more difficult – but some situations warrant waiting until you’re back at a computer (or can talk in-person, which remains an option!). Emailing from a phone doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to think about how your message will come across.

5. Sending emails that are too long or aren’t clear about what action you’re requesting.If your emailsread like a stream of consciousness or include every detail of a situation when your recipient only needs the upshot, chances are good that you’re trying people’s patience – and at this point in email’s evolution, even coming across as if you don’t understand how most use email.

Effective emails in the workplace are usually short emails – meaning just a few short paragraphs, or a bulleted list if you’re including lots of details. They’re also crystal clear about what you’d like the recipient to do (approve something/give input/take action) or whether it’s just an FYI. Bury that info, and your recipients are far less likely to do whatever it is you’re asking of them.

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

{ 271 comments… read them below }

    1. AMG

      It’s always fun to reply to the unintentional caps screamers with ‘OKAY!!!”. Those of us cc’d enjoy the joke.

  1. Colette

    “Gentle reminder” is one of the most irritating things I hear on a regular basis. Just reading it makes the muscles in my upper back tense up.

    1. The IT Manager

      I am amused by it. It is commonly used by our support people when gently reminding the leadership that their approval on a document is overdue.

      I would not use it myself except when being ironic though.

    2. Mike

      I hate the phrase because it always seems to come from the passive aggressive people.

      I’m totally fine with the “Reminder: Do blah by some date” that get sent out. But some “gentle reminder” is just irritating.

      1. Nanc

        “Gentle reminders” drive me nuts. Just say what you have to say — I’m not so delicate that I need you to tip-toe up to me. At a previous job I passively-aggressively set up a rule that filtered any email with “gentle reminder” in the subject line to my junk folder. Then I could truthfully say “Sorry–didn’t see it until I checked my junk folder!” In my defense, it was one annoying person who always sent those “gentle reminders” and she was problematic in other ways.

        1. books

          ha – i had a super busy week once where i was being nagged about something not as pressing as anything else going on. i drafted the response to the message and then waited… and waited… and sent it on friday night when i finished everything else i needed to do.

      2. manybellsdown

        Also “friendly reminder”. They never seem to be particularly “friendly”. It’s more like “passive aggressive reminder that you need to agree with me!”

        1. C Average

          I have one colleague to whom I have to send a lot of “friendly reminders.” He and I go back many years and have a fun, smack-talking kind of working relationship. Next time I have to send one of these to him, I’m totally going to preface it “passive-aggressive reminder.” I’ll bet I’ll be able to hear him laughing all the way down the hallway.

          Side note: The poem from which your screen name is taken was one of my favorites in my teenage years. I still know whole sections of it by heart.

        2. Cat

          Eh, I use it for things that need to be done but that I don’t need people to freak out about. And this is the kind of thing where I think people who hate it can suck it because life is too short to intuit and remember every. single. person’s idiosyncratic email practices. Presumption of good faith is really necessary on this stuff.

    3. Jamie

      I agree. My MO is much more direct:

      1st email – asking for thing with clear deadline

      2nd email – “F/U on thing – what’s the etr on that? If you have issues meeting deadline please see me. ”

      3rd email – “2nd F/U on thing – Please see me (time.)”

      4th email – “You are killing me – is that the plan? Are you trying to kill me? Because that’s what you’re doing. I thought we were friends. Buy your own Whopper next time you’re in the mood for BK and we have a lunch meeting. I hope you’re nicer to the person who replaces me, and good luck explaining to tptb how you killed me. Oh – and you’ve met my children – you’ll have to live with the damage you’ll have wrought. I don’t believe that kind of guilt every goes away.”

      #4 was paraphrased and only sent once, but it was super effective.

      1. BRR

        That moment when you forget F/U also means follow up. I was like, Jamie has a not gentle reminder to get things done.

        1. Jamie

          Ha – sorry – yeah, if I were to send the other sentiment out in work email I’d need to clean out my desk…and I’d have spelled it out. :)

          That would be the ultimate “not gentle reminder” though.

        2. MaryMary

          Ha, F/U is one of my favorite business acronyms. I once got an email titled F/U from Leadership amd it made me giggle. Fine, Leadership, I don’t think much of you either.

          1. Jamie

            FTFY used to be my favorite and I used it all the time – both when I meant “fixed that for you” and …the other meaning. But then I got paranoid that people would assume the other meaning and it’s too mainstream so I don’t use it anymore.

          2. Cath in Canada

            I work in a field where I get a lot of emails about a technique called bisulfite sequencing, commonly abbreviated to BS. These emails have headings like “BS QC problem”, “BS meeting”, and “BS data”. This is an endless source of amusement to my colleague and me, because apparently we are 14 years old.

            1. Jamie

              Every manufacturing firm in which I’ve worked has had some variation of pack assy or assy pack to reference packing and assembly operations. After all these years I’m still 12. Although I use p&a, personally.

              P&A is shorter so I’m convinced the other is the naming convention because everyone in the world is subconsciously 12.

              1. Laura

                For a while, we had a “sales & marketing” group whose email alias was “s&m”.

                …pretty sure IT laughed while they set that up, heaven knows I had a hard time not laughing whenever I had to email it.

              2. Jillian

                I work at a manufacturing plant; at least 2000 of our parts are something “assy” – cylinder assy, seat assy, fan assy. But my all time favorite is “jack assy”. I’ve worked here 10 years, and it still cracks me up every time.

            2. Moofin

              I used to work for a small company who went by the initials DIC. The IT director asked me to make everyone’s login prompt “DIC Login”. Some people thought that I was playing prank on them and calling them a DIC#, after enough complaints they had me change it to just Login.

        3. Monodon monoceros

          I had no idea what that meant! Seriously, if I didn’t read this blog and someone sent me F/U in an email I’d be thinking “What the F did I do?”

      2. AMG

        I was cc’d once on something sent by the company president after 4 reminders that read, “Who do I need to know to get this done??”. not gentle, but certainly effective.

        1. Jamie

          I like that! I’m no president but I’ve also gotten responses with “don’t make me come back there!”

          But that’s only for people I’m friendly enough with that if they were stranded in the snow somewhere at 2:00 am on a Saturday night they would call me and my husband would get out of bed, without hesitation, and pull them out. And I’d come along to bring them coffee while my husband did whatever he does to the chains and the trailer hitch? I think that’s what the chains go on.

          So it’s a very specific relationship. It does go to show though that while I do think I’m effective at work regardless of the relationship, even those strictly professional, it does make cutting to the chase a little easier when you can just be yourself.

          And I wouldn’t do this for anything that was a BFD – just the annoying things that inconvenience me. Hold me up on a BFD and I actually get more response from people friendly with me because my quite formal emails expressing concern about timelines mean “seriously – move on this – don’t make this a meeting.”

      3. Phyllis

        “We’re all out of cornflakes. FU. Took me three hours to realize FU stood for Felix Unger.”

        I’ll show myself out.

      4. PJ

        Jamie, you are TOTALLY my new favorite person. Is it any wonder you share your name with my cat?

    4. LittleT

      I’ll admit to being guilty of doing this, but I phrased it as a “friendly reminder”, instead.

      In my defense, I’ve worked in offices with exceptionally rude people who had no problem sending out emails saying, “I need this NOW” (all caps were part of the email) or very blunt language. I usually used the “friendly reminder” to add some civility to the situation and not sound so rude.

      One of my favourite emails contained the wording, “I need this by the end of today… or else!”

      Or else, what: I get fired? You’ll meet me for a rumble in the parking lot? You’re going to tell the big boss?!

      Now that I see people are annoyed by this phrase, I will make sure not to use it in future!

      1. Kai

        It depends on the context, but I actually feel less stabby about “friendly reminder.” It feels more like “hey, everything’s cool, but I need an update,” whereas “gentle reminder” feels passive aggressive.

        1. LittleT

          @Kai: thank you, that was my intention instead of saying “gentle reminder.” It is still polite without being rude or confrontational and is asking for an update/status report. The other sounds too grade-school-teacherish and does come across as passive aggressive.

        2. Jamie

          There is something to this – I think it’s because friendly reminder is something people could actually say in real life without sounding completely patronizing.

          Hey friendly reminder they are doing whatever to the parking lot tomorrow so don’t park in your spot when you get here.

          Thanks for reminding me! Friendly reminder that I’ll be working from home tomorrow! :)

          Gentle reminder, if said to one’s face, would feel like one of those ancient teachers we all had who seemed to live to point out all the ways we screwed up and everything we can’t manage to do correctly – but they can’t actually call us dumbasses to our face so they go super syrupy to make a point.

          1. Anonie

            The director of my department uses “Friendly Reminder” to tell us that she isn’t coming into work. Problem is she uses that to act like she told us even though no one in the department knew she was taking the day off. She does that so she doesn’t get in trouble with her own boss who never remembers her telling him she is not going to be here either!

            1. Jamie

              That’s kind of brilliant.

              I should try that here:

              To all – “Friendly reminder that I am on vacation for the month of August. I’ll be completely out of range and inaccessible by email or phone – so if you have an emergency…it’s not my problem; handle it however you’d handle if it I was hit by a bus.”

              To HR – “Friendly reminder that my raise didn’t go through last pay period. That’s okay, I know you’re busy – just put the retroactive increase for last week on next week’s check using the misc pay > salaried > management bucket.”

              End of year to HR – “Friendly reminder that only $X hit my direct deposit for my bonus. No problem, just route the remaining giant sum to my account and since it’s crossed financial years cc the accountants so we can do a journal entry for the previous year and I’ll re roll the GL year end in the system. Thanks!”

              Sadly my reputation for covering my own ass is so entrenched this wouldn’t work – since no way would any of those things happen without my being able to produce some confirmation emails.

              Would scare the hell out of HR though, and that wouldn’t be nice.

    5. Bea W

      Related to this i’ve been noticing a trend in some of our office correspondence directing people to “kindly” do something as in “Kindly update the 3rd quarter teapot metrics.”

      I can’t quite describe the screwy look on my face when I read that.

      1. Enid

        We once got instructions from another office that included the directive to “Respectfully send the updated information to…” I couldn’t help thinking that you can tell me to submit the info, but you can’t tell me to feel respect for you while I do it. And also that any respect I felt for this office was considerably decreased by the multiple ways in which the rest of their instructions didn’t make any sense.

        1. Artemesia

          ‘respectfully’ is almost used in an insulting context e.g. when reminding you to take only one muffin at the BnB or to pick up after yourself. Sometimes it shows up in begging requests for weddings or kids wanting other people to provide them with their fancy foreign ‘mission’ vacation trips etc. Or perhaps when asking people to do things they don’t want to do and that you don’t have a right to ask them to do. Ugh.

        2. Jessa

          Unless the sender was not a native English user, then I’d cut them slack, particularly if they were Japanese. There’s a lot of extra wordage to make things particularly polite in Japanese usage.

          One of my earliest jobs was taking those odd translations of Japanese user manuals (heavy machinery) into English (the ones that if they were done now, you’d think were machine translated,) and rewriting them for British and American audiences for a Japanese import house. And there was a lot of use of words like “respectfully, and with respect,” in the original documents.

      2. Joanna

        Every time I get a message like this, I automatically imagine myself doing the requested task in a kind manner.

        I mean, I agree that the world would be a happier place I did the 3rd-quarter updates with a smile on my face, but it just feels strange that they would ask for that level of commitment.

    6. Sarahnova

      The same thing is true of any sign headed “Polite Notice”, which I have always mentally translated as “Rudeness Ahead”.

      1. Windchime

        Yes. It’s right up there with, “I don’t mean to be rude, but [insert rude thing here]”.

        1. Jamie

          Yes – or, “if you will all kindly remember to please replace the toilet paper in the washroom when the dispenser is empty. Thank you so much for your cooperation.”

          That is totally code for, “I cannot believe I have to say this again. Can you people not see the %$#%$@ thing is empty? Other people use this bathroom too, you know. This isn’t Downton Abbey – go under the sink and learn how to work a #$@#$%@%#$ toilet paper spindle, if that’s not too much for you.”

          1. Betsy

            My favorite bathroom one noted a problem with the toilets backing up when people used too much toilet paper, and ended with the line, “Thank you for your help with this very serious matter,” which immediately robbed it of any impact it had.

            Toilets backing up every few weeks because of too much paper does not even register on the “very serious” scale for me.

            1. Artemesia

              Well yeah, because YOU are not the one cleaning up the ick of an overflowed toilet. It would be ‘serious’ to me if I were that person.

    7. ChiTown Lurker

      I totally agree. At a former company, it was not used as a real reminder at all. It was really “No. Guess again.” It was basically sent by people who didn’t like your response or solution. They woukd send these “gentle reminders” until you provided another response or solution.

    8. ThursdaysGeek

      Maybe that’s why I used the phrase “periodic nag email” to remind a person I was still waiting on a response.

    9. Jillociraptor

      In my workplace, this is almost exclusively used as a stand in for “Yo, I have asked you nicely for this at least 3 times; please just get your stuff done!” Once I’ve had to be reminded repeatedly, I usually feel like I deserve it!

    10. Karen

      Omg I also hate the “gentle reminder.”

      Ironically, it always feels like MORE of a rebuke/condemnation/judgment of character, skills, and competence than a simple, “Hey, I just wanted to see if you were able to XYZ whatever like we discussed.”

  2. D-orx Nami

    Agree with all points.

    Point 2 is interesting though…i think it depends on the manager and the information asked for. Though yeah, I think knowing a boss’s requirements is key.

  3. Mike

    One that shouldn’t be lesser-known but seems like it is: Over using reply-all. Especially to company wide mailing lists.

    Some recent examples:
    – HR sends out the PTO reminder, guy reply-all to it with his dates.
    – Email about possible problem with email being marked as spam. After the first 5 or so people reply-all saying they have the same problem (thus confirming it) there is no need to reply-all just to say “me too”.

    1. Dan

      I’ve been accused of not using reply-all often enough. Hah. It seems like enough people have this subconscious default response of “reply all” without thinking. I’m actually curious where that comes from.

      1. Mike

        I have a feeling that some people thing that ‘more communication’ is the same as ‘good communication’.

      2. AnotherAlison

        As soon as you drop someone off the “reply all,” all hell breaks loose.

        Seems like there are always a few people who get tacked on as an email is trying to make it’s way to the right person. Once the three people who need to know are identified, I drop off the other three who don’t need to be involved, but then some jackwagon will add them back on and make me look like I was trying to keep them out of it for illegitimate reasons. Some people are very sensitive to being dropped off.

    2. MT

      If the email is a generic reminder, never use reply all. But when the email chain is tailored to a specific group, due to it dealing with a specific email, then reply all should always be used.

      1. VisibleVoice

        Agreed – Reply all to a company-wide email is a #fail, but not if it’s to a specific group of people who have an interest in the message/topic.

      2. Ilf

        +1
        Dropping people from the distribution is just as great a sin, with more serious consequences than reply all. In a large multinational, where the main channel of communication is email, I would rather err on the side of reply all, than take the risk of cutting of from communication the people that really need to be included.

        1. EvilQueenRegina

          Unless of course someone’s been included in error. I had something recently that wasn’t meant for me, replied to only the original sender rather than reply all to point out the error, but other people decided to reply all so I was getting copied in on all these emails that were nothing to do with me.

          1. Ilf

            So I guess this just reinforces the point – even if you want to be dropped from the distro, you should reply all, because the employee that just sent the email is the least likely to send the next email in the chain.

    3. OriginalYup

      Oh my god, yes. It’s like watching a pandemic proliferate. I get irrationally angry about this when it happens repeatedly, like I want to jump through the screen and yell, “Stop touching the keys, all of you!”

      1. wendy

        It’s like the charm guarding Hufflepuff’s Cup in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. Touch it and it multiplies!

    4. BRR

      I would throw reply-all in the common email etiquette rules but people have such problems with it. Back in grad school a couple of years ago somebody had arranged the opportunity for an excel class. Emails it out, great right thing to do. Classmate replies all that they would like to attend. Second classmate, same thing.

      1. majigail

        My favorite is when this happens and someone Replies All, “Please take me off this list.” And then you get 12 more saying “Me too!”

          1. Stayc

            This happened in college too for me, when someone sent out an email about something silly to all students, staff, and administration…except everyone thought it was HILARIOUS and kept replying all (take me off the list, me too!, inappropriate things). So 400-some emails later it basically shut down the email server for the whole night. It was SUPER fun trying to send/receive legitimate emails that night. Did I mention faculty and administration were on the distro lists? I heard there was a lot of disciplinary action taken for the more inappropriate emails.

        1. Hlyssande

          This happened recently at work and we had 100+ emails to that effect, even after a higher up specifically told people how to get taken off the DL if they didn’t need to be on it.

          That was an entertaining day, I have to admit.

        2. littlemoose

          Oh Lord, I have experienced this a few times at the very large organization where I work. Somebody accidentally sends a message to all users (who number in the thousands), and 18 people reply back to everyone saying “I don’t think this is for me,” and then another 20+ people reply all telling everybody to stop replying all, and then some jokers just reply all saying things like “Checking in from Pittsburgh, LOL” or whatever. One afternoon I received over 400 emails due to this nonsense. I did not know a single one of the senders.

    5. Calla

      Careful about airing your hatred for reply-all, though. At my last job one guy was well-known to hate it with a fiery passion, so people intentionally replied all to the less serious emails. I was fond of replying all with a picture of Office Cat saying “Accidentally hit reply all–oh well, 8 lives to go.”

      I do think people overuse it though!

    6. Sabrina

      I call these idiot races since it seems like everyone is racing to declare themselves an idiot.

    7. Nancie

      It’s annoying yet somehow hilarious when a couple of people do reply-all to a company wide email. And the company is ~20k people.

      The mail server whimpered and died on about the 5th one.

      1. AnotherAlison

        “Put me down for 4 for the company BBQ”

        ha ha ha. . .I count my blessings every time I’m not the one making this error.

    8. Clinical Social Worker

      We had a university wide reply all frenzy. One guy capitalized on this and sent a “spam” email, filled with pictures of spam. It was amazing.

      But yes, Reply All Frenzy Mobs are pretty awful.

    9. Mints

      Yup, I’m an admin, so I’ll get added to CC when there’s scheduling happening. Which makes sense, because I’ll add it to the calendar or whatever. But lots of times I CCed when I have no idea why.
      (My cynical side thinks it’s because my manager is egotistical and wants to CC as many people as possible to show how important he is for having so many underlings)

    10. Karowen

      This is just a generic PSA to everyone peeved about getting wrapped up in the reply-alls: if you’re using Outlook there’s a way to route all of the emails in a conversation straight to deleted items. Just right click on the email in your inbox, click ignore, and then confirm. It’s less helpful if you actually need to keep up on some of the replies, but for the ones where you know no one and couldn’t possible care less, it’s amazing.

      More on topic,while people certainly reply-all unnecessarily, I sort of feel like that’s a sin on behalf of IT and/or the person sending the original email as well. Your IT/network group should have a way to lock all-employee lists and if they don’t you should use BCC on certain items. The locked lists are a magical thing…

    11. EvilQueenRegina

      At one of my previous jobs, there was a problem with our stationery order and the suppliers sent it out in two batches, the handwash being in the second one. We still had enough to last the extra day that it was going to take. Jane, who ordered the stationery, had explained the situation and most people accepted it, except for Wakeen, who emailed the whole office wanting to know what we could do about it, how it wasn’t on that all 25 of us should be forced to share so little, and “ok, I suppose we could all bring our own in”.

      When Jane read this the next day, she went ballistic and replied to the entire office something like “Wakeen, I’m really disappointed that you felt the need to email the entire team about this, I did tell you the handwash was going to be in the second delivery, the remainder of it has been diluted and I felt that there was sufficient to last today. I apologise if the lack of handwash has inconvenienced anyone.”

      Now I get why she was annoyed by Wakeen’s email, but did she really need to make that point by replying all?

      1. Not So NewReader

        Seems she was verrry angry. Ha!
        Sounds like an impulsive reply.

        Bad, Wakeen, Bad.

    12. Collarbone High

      I used to work in internal communications for a large university, and it blew my mind how many people would reply all to a staff email sent to 20,000 people on behalf of the president. (Of course we used BCC, so the reply only came to me and the distribution list’s inbox.) Especially since it was often something like “Thanks for letting me know, Jane!” — do they think the president personally emailed them about the new vacation policy? Or do they think that reply is interesting and useful to 20,000 people?

  4. The IT Manager

    Sometimes answering emails with a simple “OK” is completely fine; for instance, if your co-worker emails you about the new location of the copier paper, a longer reply isn’t needed.

    I maintain this doesn’t require a response unless the action or telling you about it so outside their normal duties that a thank you is warranted.

    … but I get too many email. Lots of CCing and I get buried. A “thank you” or “OK” email is unecessary to me and oftentimes (and this is my own bad habit I suppose) does not get deleted right away. It sits there taking up space and making my email inbox look worse.

    This is partially bad habit and partially that I don’t want to delete this last message in an email trail, but then when you get another the previous one is still in the inbox. The Outlook tool “clean up” helps with that, but often I would prefer to save the message that has the answer at the top and not the one that has the “thank you” at the top.

    Ugggg! To be honest my email inbox is a tiny source of stress for me because I have trouble finding things.

    1. Dan

      This comes down to knowing your boss, or if you’re the boss, being clear about communication expectations.

      My last boss was a remote worker; he expected (and demanded) an “ok” to routine emails.

      1. Academic Adviser

        I agree that I don’t think that a response is always necessary, especially if the email announcement is going to a large group (do you really want 50 replies from each everyone?). But if I am going to respond, I don’t think I’ve ever sent an email that just said “Ok”. I’ll usually add at least a short phrase, like “Ok, sounds great!” or “Ok, thanks so much!” to ensure that it doesn’t sound like a curt or rude response. But I work in a field where part of my job requires maintaining a friendly demeanor and good relationships with people; I could see this being different for people whose workplaces prioritize speed.

        1. Jessa

          Sometimes you actually do want a reply from everyone. Remote workers are often sent rule changes or other information as teams that the bosses do want a “I read this,” back as proof of receipt. But in that case the email should specifically say “I want a response to this.”

    2. Jamie

      I don’t mine the ‘ok’ or ‘thank you’ emails. I don’t need them, and tbh I don’t notice when people don’t send them – but in a time where rudeness can be so common place I am loathe to discourage manners with the thank yous – even when superfluous I think we could encourage the intent.

      I am also incapable of not thanking someone for having done something for me, and any response acknowledging I got something save people stopping by my office to ask if I got their email – so big fan of minimizing that.

      I am big on Outlook folders, archiving regularly, mad search skills, and possibly having more generous settings on my mailbox than the average end user…you know, for official IT purposes.

      There has to be some perks of this job!

      I am currently at 22K plus emails not including archive – thanks for the reminder to clean up a bit.

        1. Jamie

          PSA – if using Outlook anything over 5k in the active email box (not including archive) slows down performance. Longer to load when reopening Outlook – etc. Not measurably for me – but I’m not always great at sharpening my saw – since clearly I don’t take my own advice – just throwing it out there for people as an FYI.

      1. Laura

        I have email archives going back…over a decade.

        Before you kill me, they are NOT on the server, they are in local files (backed up, yes!) organized by year.

        These have actually been invaluable on multiple occasions, so I just keep doing it. :)

        1. Jamie

          Actually if you were my end user I’d want it on the server – because if your client machine goes it’s a lot easier to set up email on your new machine – especially if you have Outlook since MS has gotten so pissy about the .pst/.ost files.

          But even before that was an issue – your hard drive dies and you’ve lost everything as I only back up the servers.

          I have daily backups running for Exchange for active email boxes and once weekly for the archives – and I’m a big fan of saving everything in email. It’s only an issue if IT doesn’t split the backups and has enough room for storage.

          1. Laura

            As stated, I explicitly have these files backed up.

            We have a limit on how much we can store on the server; my relevant saved emails *grossly* exceed that limit.

            My current email / pending items are on the server. I only keep the archived stuff local to my drive – and the archive files are copied/stored in my assigned backup location on the network.

            1. Jamie

              We’re talking about the same thing – when I use “server” I mean any one of my multiple servers where I have people store stuff…I totally get why they’d have limits for storage on your email server.

              That’s how I have it – archives are stored on peoples personal server storage, and active on the email server. I just have it set to do that for everyone because it makes my life easier if a client machine dies.

              1. Laura

                Ah, okay. That makes sense. :) Sorry for the confusion!

                (But yes, I don’t think the Exchange server would enjoy storing my GB of old emails.)

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I have 52,000 in my in box and 75,000 in my sent . Drives my IT guy nuts because I do this and stay under my MB limit. He’s pretty sure I’m the only human being who has ever done this. (I strip large attachments.) I delete extraneous stuff throughout the day but always keep anything I might need to reference, which, obviously, is a lot.

        Anyway! Not a fan of “ok” or “thanks” much but NBD. I do send a “thank you so much for doing that, saved my life, whatever” when warranted and hate getting back “you’re welcome” This is why I don’t thank people more often!

        Yes, I feel petty. Off to sit in the petty chair.

        1. Puddin

          o.m.g. I am boggled! I get nervous if I have more than 60 emails in my inbox. Of course, I have three dozen ish personal folders. But I think I would get nauseous with that many items in my inbox. Yep, getting dizzy just thinking about it…:)

      3. C Average

        I have literally kept every email I’ve received in my 7+ years here (different roles, same department the whole time). I just move them into archives periodically. I am pretty much the unofficial archivist for my department.

        I have had to produce CYA emails so, so many times. I’ve never regretted keeping everything.

        Once–my hand to God–I actually used someone’s out-of-office notification to CYA. My team hadn’t taken a specific action on a specific day, and were being questioned about why. The answer was “because Apollo was out, and he always has to sign off on this kind of request.” And I had Apollo’s OOO auto-response to back me up.

        I will always save everything.

        I have no other hoarding tendencies. This is strictly an email thing.

    3. The IT Manager

      I am not opposed to “thank you”s so much as the reply all “thank you” where everyone on the message sees one person thanking another for something relatively simple and a basic part of their job description.

      Obviously if it was a big help including the person’s boss in the kudos is nice reminder to the boss that they were a help.

    4. Felicia

      I get a lot of “ok” or “yes”, to emails that say “should I do x, or y?” Which doesn’t make any sense and proves they didn’t read it. That’s my email pet peeve.

    5. Ellie H

      I used to never, ever send responses to the type of email that is “The copier paper has been moved to” but I eventually noticed that enough of my coworkers do that I started doing it occasionally. I find it so annoying.
      When I write emails, to help myself with time management/planning my work, I try to mentally categorize them as “Do I need a response to this?” or “Can I say ‘Done with this!’ after sending?” which is helpful to me. I also try to note whether I can imagine the other person saying “Done with this!”/checking an item off the to do list after sending the email to figure out if I need to reply to it or not.

      Another thing that irks me is when someone replies to a “Copier paper has been moved” type of email I send with

      “Hello,

      Thank you.

      [Their signature].” instead of writing “Ok thanks!” but that’s a petty pet peeve.

  5. LAI

    #3 I used to have a co-worker who would regularly send out “gentle reminders” about events. However, the events were optional, so I always took it as her way of saying “You don’t have to come to this but if you want to, don’t forget it’s tomorrow!” I didn’t realize that anyone might be annoyed by it.

    1. Jamie

      Tbh – I’ve only read about it online, this phrase where I would would be openly mocked – but we’re a little more informal and direct than your average sleuth*.

      But I personally wouldn’t find it off putting in the instances to which you’re referring – but I’ve mostly heard of it being used as a follow up of a necessary action item which needs a response. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when people act as if they are bothering someone by asking them to do what’s clearly part of their job – like it’s a favor or imposition. When it’s really an imposition if you need repeated follow ups. It’s too kid-glovey for me.

      Did you know a group of bears is called a sleuth? I just learned that while googling “what do you call a group of bears” for this very comment.

      Now I picture all bears wearing deerstalker hats and hanging with Martin Freeman.

      1. LAI

        I did not know that a group of bears is called a sleuth! I assumed that your comment was in reference to the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock, who is not exactly known for his tact and diplomacy :)

    2. Colette

      I don’t think it’s as irritating when it’s just informational – I typically see it used when someone wants me to do something that isn’t happening fast enough for them.

      1. Layla

        I do use gentle reminder on the date the item is due.
        Say , I sent an email asking for something today 2 weeks ago.
        I might have sent a gentle reminder yesterday or today.
        If it’s past due , it’s past the stage for “gentle” reminders IMO and would be passive aggressive

  6. German Chick

    #4 If I want to acknowledge that I have received/read an email, I usually answer with “thanks” instead of “ok”. It’s way friendlier and only 4 additional letters!

    1. Jamie

      I do this. I’m not sure I’ve ever done an OK. I’ve done a million thanks, many “thanks – I got it.” “I’m on it” during a crisis…but ok does feel terse if it were to come from me.

      But I know that’s not how others mean it so i don’t read it as terse.

    2. majigail

      I know someone who does this but always does, “thanks…”
      I always feel like I’ve disappointed her.

      1. Stayc

        One co-worker does this to me too. I always get an “ok…” and I feel like they’re waiting for something more from me.

        1. Jamie

          I am the queen of improper use of ellipsises (and over using them like it’s my job) but that’s weird…(<– see? Not on purpose) because I would think the same thing. That it was okay but… or okay if… or okay once I get…

          Do you want to go to lunch?

          ok…

          "Ok if you're buying"
          "Ok if I can get away"
          "Ok if we go to that place that I like that serves that thing."
          "Ok if you're finally going to propose."

          Sounds like just a weird style choice – but one that leaves everything feeling open ended. Maybe this person has issues with closure.

        2. LAI

          Yeah, your coworkers are improperly using the ellipsis. The ellipsis is meant to substitute for something that is being intentionally omitted. I often use it to mean “and I don’t know what else to say here so I’m going to trail off and use an ellipsis instead of finishing my thought”. As in, “Yeah, your coworkers are weird. Sorry…”

      2. littlemoose

        Yet another reason why punctuation matters. In short emails with little context, the punctuation can completely change the tone of the message. Use your punctuation responsibly!

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      We do “ok” internally. It’s widespread enough that it is understood as appropriate.

      Ok = will do, or have retained this information
      Done = just completed

      On it = reserved for a crisis that needs immediate action, so that means “on it right this second and not off of it until it’s done, will update you then”

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          And the subtext is: do not call me or email me from this second until you get a “done/status update” from me because dammit, I’m busy being on it!

          :)

      1. Chinook

        “Done = just completed”
        I learned last month that, to our A/P manager, “done” actually meant she put the coding correction request into her “to do” list and that, sometimes, she gets too busy to finish all of them before month end.

        The eye twitching still hasn’t stopped.

    4. C Average

      I usually use “on it,” but sometimes throw in a “ten-four” or “roger, wilco” just to mix things up.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        ah, here’s another one. I’m responsible for this becoming a thing internally. Entire reply is:

        standby

        this means, I understand that you need immediate action/information and I am getting you an answer as absolute top priority and you should hear from me in minutes unless the blessed thing hits a snag and then it’ll be more like 10.

        This came from the year where we decided to talk in police lingo but that only lasted a few days because we couldn’t remember all of the codes. We’ve kept standby though (which is different from “on it”, “on it” being a bigger crisis/solution taking longer than 10 minutes).

        *yes, talking in police lingo was my idea. I watch a lot of Law and Order.
        *standby is 10-6 in NYC but we could never remember the number

  7. Dan

    #2 And if you’re the boss, make it clear that junior is permitted to chime in. Generally, I’ll answer procedural question without a second thought, but will only answer “policy” questions if I’m deeper into the subject than the boss is. (In which case, I might offer a couple of options and then say “boss should weigh in with the final direction.”)

    #4 Along with that is responding to an email with a question with “yes” or “ok.”

    #5 Along with that, if you’re going to forward an email, be clear what you want the recipient to do with it. If it’s just general background “FYI” say so. If it’s a long conversation between others and my name was brought up, please tell me if you actually want me to take action, or again just an FYI. My favs are a blank forward with no commentary. After a couple of those, I learned to put commentary in my forwards ;)

  8. JMegan

    I struggle with the “gentle reminders” issue. I’m at the lowest professional level on the totem pole – so not an admin or a clerk, but also not a team lead or a manager. And most of the time, the people I need to nudge are managers or directors, and they are often people who I have not met in person.

    So I need an alternative to “gentle reminder” when what I really want to say is “Dear Director Who I’ve Never Met, remember that doc I sent for your approval six weeks ago? I still need your approval on it so I can move forward with the project.” And especially when I have to send that reminder email two or three times, which is not uncommon.

    If the person were a direct report, or even a peer, I’d have no problem saying “Hey, I need that approval now, and you’re holding things up by not sending it.” But the culture of the workplace seems to require something more gentle (less direct?) when reminding people up the org chart.

    1. Colette

      I’m not a director, but generally I’d prefer gentle reminder be replaced by something like “I haven’t heard back from you with approval for the document I sent on June 27. The deadline for submitting the final draft to the printers is July 24, so I’d appreciate a response by July 23.”

      One of my issues with “gentle reminder” is that it’s an attempt to raise the priority on something without explaining why you need it or thinking about how long it has been since you requested it in the first place.

    2. Jamie

      Obviously I don’t know your work place, but this is how I used to do it early in my career – and how I still appreciate having it done – because as much as I’d like to say I never need reminders about anything I don’t want lightening to strike me.

      email 1 – ask for thing.

      email 2 – forward the original email adding to the top “F/U for thing – need by (date) so (thing that this is bottlenecking can happen.)

      email 3 – forward THAT email and reiterate deadline and ask if there is someone else to whom you should be directing this request. (I don’t love having to act like you are just trying not to bother them, but some are touchy. This is all about tone – bad tone and you’re a harpy. Pleasant tone which indicates you’re only concern in getting things done promptly in the most efficient manner possible is impossible to argue with.)

      Email 4 – if no reply to any of the above forward last email to your boss and ask her how she would like you to proceed, since in most companies it’s frowned upon to barge into a director’s office, put a pen in their hand, and physically make them sign their name to something.

      1. Cat

        Wait, F/U is “follow up” and not shorthand for “Eff You”? I have been confused about this for a long time (fortunately nobody in my office uses it).

        1. Jamie

          I meant it as follow up in the post – I think it’s an office culture/habit thing – anyone in my place would know that was follow up because it’s our convention.

          Although note to self if I ever work in another company spell out “follow up” until I determine if f/u will be understood or get me a trip to HR. :)

          Seriously, if that was how I meant it I should be sent to a home for burned out ITs immediately. Someone wrap me in an afghan and feed me cookies and ovaltine until the anger subsides.

    3. J-nonymous

      I actually find just “Reminder” is loads better than “Gentle reminder” if you don’t think the direct route will go over well at first.

      That said, I tend to err (now) on the side of straightforwardness. And the reason I do that is I recognize a lot of us are busy and need context and information to help prioritize the work that’s required of us on a day-to-day basis. If you’re having to remind people multiple times to meet deadlines, you may want to consider checking in with them about what’s going on and what can be done to make things easier.

    4. Frances

      I have a similar problem — we work with some experts in my org’s field on a volunteer basis, and I’m currently on round 5 of reminders to a few people who were supposed to get things back to me at the beginning of June. They’re legitimately busy and working for us for free, so there isn’t much to do but keep up the reminders.

      One thing we do whenever possible is have our second or third reminder say “Dear Director X, We really need to move forward on this, so if we haven’t heard from you by [date], we will assume your approval and proceed with [next step].” This obviously only works if it’s something where the approval is only a formality and you don’t actually need their direct input (or signature), but it’s at least reduced some of the follow up I have to do.

      1. LAI

        Grr, I used to have this problem all the time in my last role. I needed official paperwork from people who were in a volunteer capacity, so no one had any authority to require them to do anything and we really depended on their good will for future cycles. But at the same time, we were asking for a minimal commitment (2 forms signed once every 3 months) which they absolutely knew about well in advance and had happily agreed to. I would come up with all kinds of creative language to diplomatically try to say “hey, this is the fourth reminder, please see all of the forwarded reminders below, this is now a month past deadline and causing huge inconveniences for everyone else involved”. Never actually found a good solution so let me know if you did!

    5. Jen RO

      I use ‘Hi, have you had a chance to look at X? It needs be approved by Y date in order for Z to happen’.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Yeah, that’s the voice we talk to each other with, both up and down the ladder. That’s the one that works.

    6. Waiting Patiently

      I can see how being lower on the totem pole will make you think gentle reminder is appropriate. I use to struggle with being apologetic about coming to my manager about work related stuff.

      I also think some managers expect you to remind them at least 3 times,– its like hitting the snooze button in the morning.

    7. Laura

      The other replies, and I also like, “Do you have an ETA on when you may be able to get to this? Is there additional information you need from me?”

      As in other cases, it puts the focus back on Thing That Needs Doing instead of People Not Doing Thing.

      1. Kai

        Oh yeah, I use the “is there anything else you need from me?” tactic too. AKA, I just want to be helpful and make this thing happen.

    8. Ellie H

      If I want to be more diplomatic, I usually write “I’m sorry to send a second email about this, but [reiteration of my original question].” I understand that a lot of people don’t like a second email especially if they are still planning to get to the question. However, I would like to hear if anyone thinks this is not a good wording so that I can stop doing it if necessary!

      1. Laura

        I would have said this was fine, until I started reading Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.

        I think apologizing because you are having to ask again – because they haven’t gotten back to you or given you an ETA – sends the wrong message. Which doesn’t mean that being rude is a good idea, but it’s a little too self-effacing to apologize for something that’s not a mistake – and not due to any mistake on your part.

        Now, “I’m sorry – I forgot to say that I needed this by Friday! Is that possible?” That’s a little different, there you actually have something to be sorry about.

        On the other hand, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker if you don’t care about the slight tone of apology when it’s not warranted. It’s certainly not likely to offend anyone receiving it.

        1. Jamie

          I agree with this – you’re either being too deferential like you feel like your bothering them in the course of just doing your job, or it’s code for “I’m sorry you’re so disorganized that I need to send this again.”

          And I know that’s not how you meant it. My first boss told me if I’m wrong and want to apologize, fine…once. Otherwise keep it out of my vocabulary because others will see it as a sign of weakness.

          I pass a version of his speech along every time it comes up at work.

        2. Ellie H.

          Ah, ok! This is good to hear because I am always looking for ways to sound less Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office-y (is there some word to describe “conforming to perceived expectations of gendered behavior in a way that potentially hinders workplace advancement”?) and I consciously try to avoid sound more self-effacing/passive/apologetic than I imagine I would if I were male. One thing is that I am staff at a university and this is in emails to professors or deans, so there is a difference in perceived “rank.” There can be a bit of a bias that staff may be overly officious about bureaucratic or paper-pushing issues that are actually not that important in the big scheme of things, so I make an effort not to sound officious or demanding with things but may over-correct in some cases.

    9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I prefer “follow up” to “reminder”. Reminder feels like nagging and I might not have gotten back to you because you didn’t hit my list of things to do yet, not because I need reminding.

      OTOH, follow up is just that, follow up where I give the status of when you are getting the thing.

      Not an ass. I’m not going to hold it against somebody for sending me an email that says “reminder” subject line but I won’t jump on the task either lest I encourage somebody to think “reminder” works with me. :p

    10. Karen

      Ahhh – don’t use gentle reminders. They’re awful and somehow (at least to me) they come off as more… intrusive/offensive/condemning than a normal email would.

      Instead of “Gentle Reminder” try “Dear Big Boss, I wanted to follow up with you on XYZ. The deadline for submitting the materials is this coming Thursday (7/24) and I wanted to be sure it was XYZ blah blah” etc. “I want to touch base with you on XYZ” is also better, at least in my opinion.

  9. Artemesia

    ‘gentle reminder’ sets me on edge too — it reminds me of those cutesy poems B&Bs put on breakfast tables reminding you to not take more than your share or other ickiness. or the poems brides put on invitations to remind you they want you to send money. it just feels passive aggressive.

    re ‘OK’ — almost always if an ‘OK’ is needed, it is more gracious to say ‘Thanks’ as in thanks for letting me know.

    and if it is from the boss then ‘Thanks for the feedback’ or ‘Thanks for letting me know’ is less flippant.

  10. De Minimis

    Can’t read the actual list here at work, but one that I see is not paying attention to the distribution list for certain e-mails. My boss resends things that one department is already receiving.

    Huge one for me is not checking your e-mail regularly. This is a big sticking point with my co-worker, who often does not see e-mails until a day or two afterward. A lot of our work involves responding to automated notifications, so that really can hamper things. I don’t know why she does that…I think she also has some odd setup on her Outlook to where she doesn’t see the most recent e-mail immediately.

    1. TotesMaGoats

      This drives me crazy. Take two seconds and look and see if your direct reports (or whoever) got this email. If not, send away. If so, delete. So annoying!

    2. Natalie

      My boss forwards things I was also copied on all the time, usually several days after the original message. I think it’s kind of funny, and I’m loathe to say anything because he’s so not an email guy so I don’t want to make it worse. But it would probably bug the crap out of me if I didn’t like him or something.

  11. TotesMaGoats

    #1-Is one of my biggest pet peeves. I told my staff, “if I email you, respond. I know the time frame on whatever I’m asking your for. I know that you might not have an answer in two seconds. I want to know that you got it/that you haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.” And they can respond with an ok or smiley face or whatever.

    1. Vancouver Reader

      Or that the email system didn’t have a sudden hiccup and swallow your request rather than sending it to the recipient.

  12. Mimmy

    #1 – Urgh, my manager in a temp job I had a few years ago was guilty of this. Drove me insane at times, especially when the original caller who needed the information / resolution calls again upset that their issue hasn’t been addressed.

    #5 – I struggle with this…brevity has never been easy for me. I like the idea of bulleted lists. Another trick I use is to read over the email and try to weed out any unnecessary words or try to think of a more succinct way to write that overly-long sentence.

    1. danr

      #5 was my big problem at work, and to make it worse, folks didn’t tell me about the problem. My boss finally brought it up, and I confirmed it with a couple of friends at work (and asked them why they didn’t mention it to me). We worked hard on it and I finally conquered the need to tell all in one email.

    2. Jamie

      Brevity was my biggest struggle – one because I’m wordy (I know, big surprise to anyone who knows me through here) but because I’m interested in the whys of things. So I used to tell people the servers will be down for maintenance (time/date) and then tell them what I was doing or why.

      Or virus alert warning with name of threat and instructions (don’t open ever if one breaks through) but then continue with what it does, how you get it, from whence it was released…the benefit to the dark lord if it’s executed.

      Yeah – no one cares. I did get a handle on this for email (not comment posts, clearly, these will always have ramble as a default I’m afraid):

      First sentence tells them what I need from them.
      bullet points
      bolding deadlines and super critical information
      Write it and like you – go back and take out superfluous wording.
      sending separate emails for different topics to each has appropriate subject.

      If I need to tell them 3 IT things I used to send them one email and address all – 3 emails increase the chances of any of it being read by order of maginitude.

      1. Laura

        Jamie,

        THANK YOU! This is one of my problem areas and I am totally borrowing some of your specific strategies. :)

    3. Ellie H

      #5 – I have this problem majorly (it’s genetic – my mom and brother, who are both in the same field I am, have it too) and I rewrite *a lot* which can be time consuming. I also find I can do a lot by taking out unnecessary “that”s (really). I look at email I sent at the start of my job here, when it was my first professional job, and cringe at how much unnecessary info I gave.

  13. louise

    I started a new job a few weeks ago and immediately after sending my first email out to several people above me, my boss came running to my office with a look of panic and said “whoa! Never, ever start with a negative to anyone besides me! And NEVER say you’re scared!”

    I hadn’t realized I’d been negative AT ALL. I just thought I’d been honest about where I stood on an assignment my boss’s boss had just given me — i.e., he expected immediate action and I had only been able to leave messages for several people the action depended on. So I started the email with “I was only able to reach A and B but they did not have all the info I need. Will continue working on this tomorrow.” I then gave some bullet points of what I did accomplish and ended with “that’s all I have so far, I’m afraid.”

    I never expected someone to read the closing “I’m afraid” as = to “I’m scared”! I was using it as shorthand for, I’m afraid I don’t have everything completed that you wanted immediate action on, but I have indeed been working on it and have taken the assignment as far as I can until others respond.

    That’s when I realized that maybe all my business emails over the last 10+ years have been misinterpreted and no one told me until now! Yikes.

    1. Jamie

      Not unless everyone else with whom you’ve worked was just as weird and literal.

      Nothing wrong with what you sent – I bet that boss was of the compliment sandwich school of thought. Ugh.

      It’s not your fault he didn’t understand normal context for ‘I’m afraid.’ When I was newish to work something happened at corporate that had zero to do with me, but they were complaining about how awful it was and I said something like, “sorry about that – sounds rough.” Someone told me not to apologize for things not my fault (not my boss who gave me the good advice about similar – but random person.)

      I wasn’t apologizing for it or taking blame – just sorry you have a lousy time of it. When people I know have a death in the family I say I’m sorry for their loss; doesn’t mean I killed their loved one.

      1. Fabulously Anonymous

        The “don’t apologize” thing has become so obnoxious that I feel forced to be specific, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Um, no, your new boss is an idiot. At least when it comes to written communication, s/he is a little too overly literal, in the sense that Scrooge McDuck is a tad frugal.

      1. De Minimis

        That’s a big part of why I’ve moved toward a Hemingway-esque sentence structure when it comes to work e-mail, to avoid that type of situation. I like to see how minimalist I can be…sometimes I wonder if I could get away with a haiku structure.

        1. Ali

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s experienced this with e-mail. I’ve been accused in review meetings of being negative/unprofessional over e-mail when I’m not. It’s even harder b/c I work from home and don’t really see my coworkers in person, so they tend to take things the wrong way even if I’m not being malicious. I now try to read back every e-mail before it’s sent, but it was still annoying.

          1. Jamie

            This is a common problem and the flip side of being too wordy, because sometimes people misinterpret getting to the point as being rude – when it’s just…getting to the point.

            E.g. I had a co-worker once who always thought the big boss was mad at them. Had a complex about it, because they would send emails without greetings or closings – no small talk – just “When do you think you’ll have X complete?” or “Can you send me the teapot breakdown by 3:00?”

            I really think there are two kinds of e-mailers – those who see each email string as a conversation and those who use interoffice email as an ongoing conversation where you’d don’t need the preliminaries. The boss and I are the latter kind, but there are plenty of the former.

            For me – can you get me those numbers by 3:00 is fine – it’s what they’d say if they stuck their head in my office or passed me in the hall and it sprang to mind. It’s a comment.

            But for those who see email as separate conversations they need the establishing greeting – the use of names, etc. Because they don’t see the no-frills emails as comments – they see them as direct orders or criticisms because absence of the fluff = unhappy to them – and it’s not. It’s just absence of fluff because they don’t need it and it doesn’t occur to them.

            I explained this to the coworker, because they were seriously getting neurotic about it to the point they were nervous going into meetings with the big boss and they pointed out that I do the greeting thing and a line of “how are things going in your department” before asking for stuff.

            I told them honestly I only do that because when I don’t you would always come in here and try to find out if I was mad and ask me if I was okay, what’s wrong…etc. And so I toss it in there because this kind of thing matters to you and it’s no skin off my nose – if I can make a small change when it will make someone else more comfortable, why not?

            But I promise you the big boss will never notice that it rubs some people the wrong way so it will save their sanity to just not take it personally.

            1. De Minimis

              I like to use “Thanks” or “Thank you” to close out e-mails, that way even if they’re a little short I think it’s less likely that they get misinterpreted as rude.

              I tended to overwrite at first, but I realized the messages were taking too long to read.

            2. Mimmy

              Jamie (or anyone else) – Would you say this is a matter of adjusting your communication style to that of the recipient?

              1. Jamie

                Absolutely. Technically the standard is people should be polite and professional – which covers both my examples…but if saying something in a certain way will make someone less nervous, or get you better results, why not? It’s just a matter of knowing your audience.

                I have a ptb who speaks in spreadsheets. If I want to move a major project through I don’t even broach the subject until I’ve done a preliminary CBA on it and have some ballpark numbers and a rough outline of a project plan.

                I am like this – so speaking their language is great because how I would naturally present things if not tailoring for an audience is exactly how they want to hear things.

                I have another ptb who is awesome – but they are all about the dialogue first. If I sent an email with a CBA and sketch of project plan first, before a conversation about the big picture, who would be affected, how the affected people will feel about it, etc…it would be harder to get buy in – because they’d feel it’s important to kick it around verbally first before running numbers.

                They are just as good at what they do – but they are more receptive to ideas presented in conversation first. So if I need buy in from them I stop by their office with a soda for a chat. If I need buy in from the other I’d send the data I had via email and schedule a time to meet to discuss it, after they had time to look at it.

                On a smaller scale it’s the same as the greeting thing. Someone never says good morning to anyone, unless they say it first and sometimes not even then. Apparently there are a lot of people who really notice this and it bothers them so much. I don’t think she’s ever greeted me in all the years I’ve been here – and didn’t notice until others were talking about it. I will just never care or notice that stuff – but because I know others do I make sure to smile and say good morning to them (I don’t go looking for people, I’m still me, but if I see them even if in a hurry I smile and say hi) – because it matters to them.

                Selfishly, yes, it makes them more predisposed to like me and that makes my life easier. But even without that benefit – it’s a pretty small thing to do to make other people happy.

    3. James M

      Try switching to Yoda-speak:
      Only A and B able to reach I was. The info I need, all I have not. Continue working tomorrow I will.

    4. Enid

      I am seriously amused at interpreting “that’s all I have so far, I’m afraid” to mean “I’m scared.” It’s giving me a great mental image of some terrified employee hunkering in their cube, shivering with fright that they won’t be able to continue working on the task tomorrow, or something.

  14. Mike C.

    “Please do the needful!” is one of the most passive-aggressive things I’ve ever seen in an email. It’s always at the end of some email making an absurd, last minute request in an area that isn’t my responsibility in the first place.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      Oh, dear god. How annoying! I’ve never seen that in an email, thankfully. Should the day come when I do, I’m sure my co-workers will hear me muttering, “Are you f-ing kidding me??” at my desk.

    2. Jamie

      That sounds like a translation issue – I’ve never heard this before, but I’d assume it wasn’t written by someone where English is their native language.

      1. C Average

        Yeah, that sounds really Engrish to me.

        Or a weird new dance craze: “c’mon, baby, do the needful.”

      2. Ann O'Nemity

        I think it originated in Indian English, but I see it all the time now. There’s even a series of internet memes.

        1. alma

          My coworkers and I finally looked up “do the needful” at one point. Turns out it actually originated in British English and became part of Indian English during the colonial period. It stayed in use there while fading out elsewhere.

          I also used to think it was a weird translation of a foreign language idiom, but nope. Pure English.

          1. Waiting Patiently

            Never heard this one but envisioning Idris Elba or Sean Connery saying, “Please do the needful”…hmmm

      3. MaryMary

        When I worked with an offshore team in India, they used the phrase “kindly do the needful” often. I haven’t heard it from non-Indian folks, except occasionally from onshore people asking the offshore team to do something.

        I’ve also only heard “gentle reminder” from Indian associates, but it sounds like that one might be more widespread.

        1. RecruiterM

          I use to get it all the time while I worked in IT.
          At one point I had lost it a bit and replied “The needful is done” (English is not my native language so I hope the recipient had written my reply off to this).

      4. Hlyssande

        I agree with you – I see that all the time from our people in India.

        ‘Please advise’ is one that’s grown on me, though.

        1. Shortie

          I’ve always hated “please advise.” For some reason, it sounds accusatory to me (which makes no sense since it’s not accusatory, but I can’t help the way I feel).

    3. Sabrina

      I seriously hate “do the needful” so much that it makes me want to rip someone’s arm off and beat them to death with it. Or at the very least respond with “Please write in complete sentences.”

    4. OriginalYup

      I find it weirdly charming, like a phrase out of Jane Austen. “If it shan’t trouble you, please do the needful. I remain, much mortified, your humble servant, etc. etc.”

    5. Mimmy

      LOL I love this!! My husband sees this in emails all. the. time. with the offshore staff that he works with!

    6. scmill

      My teammates in India use that phrase. It looked a little odd the first time I saw it, but I don’t even notice it now. It’s just more or less their way of saying “ball’s in your court now – please take care of this thing – kthxbye”.

  15. Ann Furthermore

    #5 is something I’m hyper aware of, because I do tend to get too wordy in emails sometimes. I think it’s because I type pretty quickly, I enjoy writing, and I like words in general. So it’s easy for me to start composing a response and then realize that I’m going into way too much detail.

    My boss uses the “gentle reminder” but with her it’s kind of funny because we know it’s not a gentle reminder at all with her. She saves it for 2 specific things: completing your required online company training and completing your weekly timesheet. She has made it clear that her biggest pet peeve, by far, is not getting your timesheet done before the weekly deadline. It’s not a big deal if you forget once in awhile, but there are a few people on the team who regularly forget to do this and it makes her crazy. So when you see an email with “Gentle Reminder” in the title, your first thought is, “Oh, crap…what did I forget to do?”

  16. Katie the Fed

    Along with Number 5 – I think the best thing you can do in emails is state up front what action you want from the recipient:

    For your situational awareness (FYSA)
    No action needed
    Please respond by COB Tuesday
    Please clarify

    1. littlemoose

      +1. Doing so keeps the communication and request clear, and makes it easier to CYA if the recipient failed to do the requested task.

  17. Sabrina

    I’d like to add “Don’t email an entire department when the group’s mailbox will do.” Sure, it goes to the write person, and 60 others. Once is annoying, but when you get a lot of those, it’s just clogging up everyone’s email and wasting bandwidth.

    1. EvilQueenRegina

      When my ex-coworker was compiling the emergency contact list, she emailed everyone individually with Dear So and So, taking her so much longer than if she had just sent one standard email to the group email. Maybe she thought it would be nice to address it to “Dear EvilQueenRegina” etc. but really?

  18. Anonie

    I think Reply All should be removed from email or hidden so you actually have to look for it before you hit the button. At a former job a co-workers lunch was stolen. He emailed the entire company ranting about his lunch being stolen. Then another coworker responded that the tone of his email was “uncool.” Then the two proceeded to argue back and forth hitting reply all every time. After about the 15th email somebody finally told both of them to knock it off.

    1. Fabulously Anonymous

      I work almost exclusively in teams and reply all is necessary. I think the bigger issue is simply that people don’t understand how to use the tool, not the tool itself.

      1. Windchime

        Same here. I work on a team of about 10 people, and when I email the whole team, it’s because I need them to all see it. When I ask a question in that email, it’s something that we probably all need the answer to (“Why did the Build server fail?”). It would annoy me if someone replied only to me; it’s a team email , so please reply to everyone or else I will most likely get 10 identical replies. Or 9, because there is that one guy who never checks his email.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      On our email program it takes like two extra clicks to reply-all. As a result, we don’t have a problem with reply-all’s. If anything, we occasionally have issues where someone should have replied to the entire team on the email chain but only replied to the last sender.

  19. Ali

    No. 5 is my biggest weakness ever, and I’m trying so hard to correct it. I just catch myself talking and talking and….yeah. Luckily I have a couple of contacts who can write not-too-short e-mails as well so it’s not received too badly, but I know I need to break the habit. I now read back my e-mails and try to cut out any fluff/unnecessary wording before sending, but the habit remains. Sigh. :/

  20. Case of the Mondays

    My pet peeve is “please advise.” I don’t know why, but that phrase just drives me nuts.

    1. C Average

      I haaaaate “please advise.” Especially when it’s written “plz advise,” which seems to happen a lot. What is that about? Is your manager making you pay for your vowels or something?

    2. Jamie

      That’s one of mine – in heavy rotation.

      It’s short for “Ball is in your court and I will take no further action until I hear from you.”

      Usually used in one of 3 instances:

      1. Need CYA email from tptb for some insanely expensive and/or disruptive project that I had their buy in before signing and accruing 6 figure vendor fees above usual budget or breaking down concrete reinforced walls so the wi-fi won’t be as sketchy. I need written proof you were aware of the risks, costs, and problems so to avoid any memory lapses when it comes to initial disclosure.

      2. Some technical thing that can be properly done more than one way and I don’t care how – so I’m going to forget about this until you email me your preference.

      3. It’s something outside my wheelhouse but for some reason fell in my lap. Like when I’m here alone and a messenger shows up with an urgent delivery, or when the receptionist is out and the postage meter needs to be refilled and someone needs to mail a letter, or when I’m the only one here late and the cleaning people need to know if they need to do the carpets next week.

      Although in the last two examples it means “please advise whomever is asking about this, and don’t cc me on it because I don’t need to be kept in the loop about postage and garbage bags.”

      1. some1

        This. I’m an admin and usually use it with my boss when I believe someone’s trying to get me to do something that’s not my job.

    3. Ellie H

      I don’t like it either. To me it either means “overly bluntly stated question possibly reflecting lack of attempt to solve problem before passing it on” or “Help, something is seriously wrong!” The latter usage it doesn’t bug me so much especially when it is used as part of something less formally worded, e.g. “I received W, X, and Y and incorporated them into the spreadsheet. However I still haven’t received Z from the other office and at this point do not expect it before the deadline – please advise.”

  21. steve g

    #2 is actually a pet peeve of mine – I’ve had more junior staff often feel the need to chime in too soon even if they don’t have as much information or insight as I do. It is bothersome because the other party sometimes thinks ‘oh that is the answer thanks’ even though better info is often available. And it can also be bothersome that some people r in such a tizzy to always respond right away without thinking about the content.

  22. TT

    I’d like to add: don’t send your email to more people than necessary just because you’re trying to shame the involved individuals by telling other people.

    Especially when said email included a reminder about something you needed to do – and actually HAD already done, and had even confirmed it in person with the sender of the email reminder!

    I deliberately “replied to all” to make my point. :)

    1. Sabrina

      This drives me nuts if it’s the scenario listed above or the first time you’ve asked. But I have done it myself if I simply can not get the person to respond to multiple requests.

      1. TT

        Understandable after a few tries with no response. What’s funny is this case is that not only did I do what I was supposed to, she actually came to speak to me in person about it, AND received a follow-up email from my director confirming it. She was at least gracious about acknowledging her mistake.

  23. JuniorMinion

    At the last giant bank I worked for someone once accidentally sent an email to “All US Global Banking” instead of whatever distribution list they were looking for – people started responding again to the whole distribution list with “please remove me- not sure why im getting this” As that began to get ridiculous people began responding to the entire distribution with “Everyone stop sending emails” – this went on for 450 emails or so in one night and people began getting extremely snippy and bickering back and forth. Moral of the story: If someone sends you something in error respond and say I don’t think this was meant for me – believe it was meant for x. and then STOP.

    My other pet peeve is when people send 25 emails when they should have waited and sent one clearly thought out message detailing next steps. I dont like paging through bunches of emails trying to deconstruct what you need me to do.

    Additionally there are times when things could be solved so much quicker by just picking up the phone and discussing it with someone rather than lobbing bunches of emails back and forth…

  24. Cath in Canada

    How do you guys feel about ending an email in which you’re requesting something from someone with “please and thank you”? I don’t like it, but I’ve never really been able to explain why. I don’t mind “thanks in advance” anywhere near as much, although it’s essentially the same message.

    1. Jamie

      I don’t like it because the please is redundant.

      If you’re asking for something wouldn’t you have the please in the request itself?

      E.g. Cath – Please talk to your staff and see if anyone is available to work Saturday. Thanks (or thanks in advance) – Jamie

      Thanks in advance doesn’t bother me, but I think it’s unnecessary because thanks alone covers thanking you for doing this thing I asked.

      And I really hate thanks in advance if it’s a favor – because it’s presumptive. In the above work example it’s not rude for me to presume you’d ask your people if anyone could work – because it’s a reasonable work related request and it would be bizarre if you balked at it.

      But – Cath – can you loan me $20 for drinks tonight – I’ll get you on payday? We’re meeting at Poor Richard’s – thanks in advance – Jamie

      That’s rude beyond words.

    2. Colette

      I’m not a fan of it, either. I think it’s because “please” is asking you to do something, and “thank you” is assuming you will do it (which negates the ask). It also makes it seem like thanking someone is a formality you rush through to get it out of the way, and not about genuinely appreciating whatever it is.

    3. Elizabeth

      I don’t like it either; it just sounds so flippant. Ideally, the “please” would appear towards the beginning of the message, where the request is made,” and the thanks would come towards the end.

      1. TT

        I often say something like “thank you in advance for your consideration” if it’s a favor. Is that better, or is that still annoying? I add the “consideration” to indicate that I don’t assume you’ll actually do it.

        1. Elizabeth

          I don’t see anything wrong with that, per se, but it does sound a little formal and stilted to my ears. Maybe it’s because I work in a small office where we’re all in the same room and things are generally pretty informal?

          Usually if I’m asking a favor, I couch it in something like “Would it be possible for you to…” or “If it’s not to much trouble/if you have time, could you…” to give them an out if they can’t/don’t want to. Then I just conclude the message with a “thanks.” That said, I probably overuse “thanks” in e-mail–better to overuse than underuse, I guess?

          1. Jamie

            Yes. I don’t mind it from vendors or people from whom I’ve getting quotes – and I totally understand it on cover letters (and used it myself in the past.) It’s perfectly fine if there is a degree of formality in the correspondence.

            But for regular routine requests I do think it’s too formal – for my environment anyway.

            And I absolutely overuse thanks – just out of habit even when there is nothing in that email I’m thanking them for. Thank you not deleting this unread? Thank you for not cutting my brake lines? I try not to, but if one slips through I don’t correct it – like you said, better too many thanks than too few.

            1. TT

              Oh, I should have specified, it’s not for my regular co-workers, it’s for people I don’t know very well, or to whom I’m doing outreach for potential business development.

            2. Mimmy

              I tend to use “thanks”, and probably sometimes when I’m not even asking for anything! It’s just habitual I guess.

    4. Kai

      I’ve never gotten that one, but it would bug me too. Somehow it’s excessively polite and therefore can also feel passive aggressive.

    5. Mints

      I only ever use this when I’m asking Mr. Mints to do something I know he’ll do, because I already asked. Like I send him an attachment to print at work that I don’t want to print at my job so I’ll put subject “Mints’ resume to print” body: “please & thank you”
      Or I’ll send a text “Remember to go to the bank today. Please&thankyou”
      I think it’d be weird at work because there’s less of an expectation for favors. It’s either your job or not. And if it’s not, it’s a favor that requires some more friendliness

  25. ChiTown Lurker

    My biggest email pet peeve is a subject line of ” URGENT!!!!” that includes no context. I hate stopping what I am doing to read an email that has no relevance for me. I have seen it used for everything from “cake in the break room” to “we have an intruder on the floor.” Although I like cake a lot, the word “urgent” is a little overly dramatic. I also think “URGENT. Intruder on 7th floor. Contact Security! Do not Engage!” will provide far more assistance than just inducing panic.

    1. Jamie

      Wow! As big a fan as I am of cake – this would incur my wrath like few other things.

      That’s would call for a conversation about they use the word but it doesn’t mean what they think it means.

      Urgent and emergency are two words that should never have their definitions broadened – at least from an IT perspective.

      1. ChiTown Lurker

        Exactly. I reserve those words for system failures, physical threats and federal regulators at the door asking for me.

    2. SherryD

      Ugh, I hate getting emails with content-less subject lines. Things like, “Head’s up,” “Hello,” “Just thinking…” or “Great news!” I can tolerate it if it’s an email I’ll probably be deleting within the half hour, but if it’s something I’ll have to refer back to, at least TRY to put something topical in the subject line! Sometimes I’ll actually change the subject myself when I reply back — I hope that’s not considered obnoxious!

      1. Kelly L.

        I hate it when people can’t remember my email, can’t spell my name, or don’t trust the autocomplete, or whatever, so instead of filling my name into the To field, they dig up an old email of mine and reply to it without changing the subject line. So I’ll get an email in September that says “Re: Spring Party” and the body is something that’s actually quite urgent but doesn’t look that way at a glance because of the subject line.

        1. Cath in Canada

          My parents do that all the time! I think we’re still using the third email they ever sent me, for everything. Except for when they send 24 photos from their iPad in 24 separate emails, none of which have subject headers, of course.

    3. Anonymous

      “URGENT!!! PLEASE HELP”

      I always think somebody’s dying, on fire, or both, but there’s really a 99.9% chance that the email’s incoherent and sent to the wrong address.

    4. EvilQueenRegina

      I used to have a coworker who didn’t tend to read her emails unless they were marked as urgent. She would then go on to mark email messages to other people about every single phone call as urgent whether it was or not. Eventually, someone asked her to knock it off, but she didn’t take any notice.

  26. Jen RO

    In my corner of the corporate world, ‘gentle reminder’ means ‘effing answer already’ and ‘kind regards’ is ‘I’d like to tell you to go eff yourself but I’d also like to keep my job’.

  27. Leah

    Please consider the timing of e-mails. Some of these are pretty much universal (e.g. no job rejections 9am on a Monday, no “quick favors” 5 mins before COB on Friday) while others require you to know more about the recipient.

    If you’re sending something out at an odd time to make sure you send it, please acquaint yourself with the many options for scheduled delivery of the email. If it’s not an option, and there are a number of ways to do this even with Gmail etc, then include a title like: “Question for when you get in tomorrow”. The exception to this is if your recipient doesn’t check email outside of work. I worked in an office where you only had access to company email if you were issued a company phone, which was next to no one.

    1. Dulcinea

      Have to say I disagree about this. I trust that my recipients have the ability to judge at what times of day they need to check their email, and to determine (based on the fact that it is from me and what the subject line is) whether they need to respond immediately or not.

      I don’t expect responses outside of normal business hours but I don’t think that should stop me from sending emails when I think of it, without going through extra steps of scheduled delivery (particularly hard on my phone). If you have a boss or coworker who emails at all hours and expects immediate reply, that is a separate issue – about the reasonableness of their expectations, not of the reasonableness of sending the email in the first place.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree with Dulcinea — I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that people will modify their emails like that.

      Also, why no job rejections on a Monday morning? I can see not sending it on xmas eve, but why not Mondays?

    3. Laura

      How about sending an email that the client will be in the office Monday and we need to be dressed and prepped to client standards (in an office where we almost never host clients) sent…Saturday afternoon.

      Yeah. We had people in shorts, jeans, you name it. Because they read the email after they were in…oops.

    4. Anx

      Can you explain the rationalizing of this?

      I send emails at all hours of the day because that’s when I’m working on something or when I have a question. Isn’t up to a recipient to check their email somewhat regularly? I wouldn’t expect someone to read an email at 2am, but isn’t that better than waiting until late morning the next day if you’d rather they have all day to read to read and respond?

      1. De Minimis

        Unless working on weekends is a normal thing, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect employees to check their work e-mail on weekends. If there’s something that people need to know for Monday, it needs to be communicated on Friday at the latest.

  28. Sarah

    My personal pet peeve is the reply all when you are adding no information to the conversation – your standard “Thank you” or “confirming receipt” responses and such. I know people are just in an awful habit of mindlessly replying all, but to me it comes across as wanting to show off how courteous you are – “These 25 people need to see me say ‘thank you’ to the original sender!”

    1. Kai

      This, so much. When my coworkers sends a wordy thank-you email to someone and copies a dozen other people who may or may not be related to the project–I know it’s not about recognizing that person’s work, it’s about the writer showing off how very gracious he/she can be.

    2. TT

      Though one of my coworkers once told me that she was criticized for not publicly replying to emails, because it looked like she was never reading/acknowledging other people (she replied to them privately). So she occasionally started using “reply to all” just to pacify. I guess you just can’t win in some cases!

  29. Buffet the Vampire Layer

    My new supervisor does something weird with his emails that I’ve never seen before.

    Has anyone run across someone who insists on one sentence per line in all communications? As in, there are no paragraphs, just hard returns after each period. Separate thoughts get two hard returns.

    As in:

    Thought.
    Continuation of thought.
    Further elaboration on thought.

    Second thought.
    More on second thought.

    I find this super weird. It’s very difficult to read when there’s more than a sentence’s worth of information to convey; the whole thing turns into a big wall of text.

    This seems like an attempt at brevity/clarity gone awry. Has anyone else run into this email style?

    1. C Average

      I have a friend (not a colleague, but someone I know socially) who does this. We’re in the same running club and he posts in this style on our club message board. He also does it in his emails.

      It used to annoy me, until a mutual friend commented that Brian’s emails remind him of haiku.

      Now whenever I read them I look for little pieces of found poetry. It’s surprisingly entertaining.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      I knew someone who had a
      mobile responsiveness issue
      with their phone/email app.
      Therefore, they would
      deliberately add line breaks
      so they wouldn’t have to
      scroll as much. When I
      received the emails, they
      looked like a weird poem
      (like this).

      1. Ellie H.

        I have a BlackBerry and so tempted to adopt such a strategy! Everyone else would have to do it though for it to work.

    3. Jamie

      I’ve seen this, and with certain people I’ve done it. It seems to be a response to some people proving they don’t read paragraphs and will only skim. So you make each line stand alone in hopes they skim all of it.

      Anything more than 5-6 lines and I wouldn’t be able to do it – but I see it all the time.

    4. IvyGirl

      Yes. My former boss does this, and it drives me batty.

      It’s a holdover from learning to type on typewriters without the auto-carriage/return at the end of a line of text.

      They would continually type emails in front of me during “meetings” (and also take cell phone call interruptions from their spouse – for anything, marking our time as unimportant, but I digress). It would take them twice as long to write an email, because then they would have to go back an uncapitalize all of the appropriate sentences.

      I pointed it out to them that all programs for email have auto-return and that they didn’t have to do that anymore.

      It’s been ten years, and it never sank in. It’s not going to, at this point.

      Oh – also? Every email is sent with !High Priority!. Every. Single. One.

  30. EvilQueenRegina

    When I moved departments a few months ago, a couple of days into the new role, someone sent a “gentle reminder” to the team about making sure they checked their post trays instead of letting all their mail sit in there building up. Which was a legitimate point, except the person hadn’t checked the distribution list and had sent it to an old contact list she had stored. So not only did it go to a few ex-coworkers such as myself, she also included the former coworker who had passed away three days earlier and who hadn’t been taken off the system yet.

  31. thejordanriver

    It’s so funny to me what a big difference in tone there is between “OK” and “Got it. Thanks!” I understand the need for efficiency and brevity, especially on mobile devices, but the latter doesn’t take that much longer to type, even on a phone, and the difference in perception is HUGE.

  32. Cassie

    I occasionally use “friendly reminders”, typically when I’m emailing faculty. And yes, it is because they are so delicate I think they’ll blow a gasket if I send them a second request for something – faculty are a bunch of prickly pears…

  33. vox de causa

    #3 I would despise a “friendly reminder” or “gentle reminder” email. I just forward the last request I made to the same recipient(s) that I sent it to originally and ask if they’ve had a chance to look at it yet. If there is a deadline, I reiterate it (“My team will be meeting on this on Monday afternoon” means, “Get it to me by noon Monday if you want this included”). I much prefer being treated this way myself.

    The more someone treats me as if I require them to walk on eggshells, the more it sets my teeth on edge. Just tell me what you want. If I dropped a ball, I want to know!

    #5 Something from high school that I never thought I would use later in life was the inverted triangle (pyramid?) method of writing. I hated it. I only took that newspaper class so I could learn to develop my own pictures, and here I had to write “backwards?” Ugh!

    However, learning that model has served me so well when writing email. I find that I get quicker responses and more accurate responses when I write that way. So, thanks, High School Media Teacher. You made a difference.

  34. UN

    Worked with UN agencies for a while and that ‘gentle reminder’ phrase swept through like a virus. Annoying.

  35. woah there

    Oh my goodness. Someone I work with does the “OK” thing. We’re the same position and it’s condescending as… well, you know.

    I also know someone who will email “I’ll get back to you on ___”, but then never does. Because she forgets, as she is extremely disorganized.

    I’m not sure how to respond to either of these. Alison, could you do a followup post on how to deal with people who make these types of “mistakes”?

  36. Collarbone High

    I have two co-workers who put the entire body of their email in the subject field. Not a quick, short subject line like “is wakeen out today?” but “wakeen was in a minor car accident on his way to work hes fine but will not be in today so the finance meeting is postponed until friday.” WTH?

  37. Angela

    I send “friendly reminder” and it IS passive aggressive as all hell. However, I doubt I’d still be employed if I sent “I know you aren’t really going to adhere to this deadline, making me work longer hours since you couldn’t be bothered to get your shit in on time. So here’s reminder number 4. Thanks for doing this monthly dance with me.” In my company, those most annoyed by the reminders are the biggest offenders of not turning their reports in. The ones who meet deadline always tell me how much they appreciate the deadline notices.

  38. ridiculous

    I saw this used in one environment, an HR company. It made me take them less seriously. In my long career, business-minded people write “deadline reminder for X. Most people are grateful for a deadline reminder. If someone considers the sending of a workplace reminder a “nice” or “mean” thing to do, they’re either not suited for a professional environment or are working in a crappy corporate culture.

  39. ridiculous

    As I read the comments, I get so disgusted that women (seems the majority of commenters) have to constantly apologize for being professional and to the point. Being wordy, emoticon heavy, and diluting your message is NOT ok yet it seems to be a stereotype that people are comfortable imposing on women–people love saying women talk too much and also love calling you abrasive for crafting concise, professional emails. This “gentle reminder” topic has drawn more than 260 responses. Amazing.

  40. Catherine

    I have a coworker named Jennifer who would routinely send emails with the phrase “a jen-tle reminder.” Every time she did it, I wanted to drop-kick her favorite potted plant out the window.

  41. Kalli

    A “Gentle Reminder” just sounds stupid to me. Screw a gentle reminder, I’m pretty straight forward with my emails and most of the time get the responses that I need. I try to make them as simple as possible without using “big words” so it’s not to confusing and they are most likely not going to read a long email. It can be frustrating when people don’t understand or don’t respond at all because they are confused. I’ve also read not to use “High Priority” in emails which I think is bull. Higher management usually gets flooded with emails daily and if I need something right away I use this. A big red exclamation point is more likely going to get their attention than nothing at all, just saying..

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