are your emails annoying your coworkers?

Are you someone who pours lengthy thoughts into email messages to your coworkers? Or do you treat email more like a telegram, keeping your messages as short as possible? Whatever your email style is, you probably think it’s the right one … but you may be unknowingly annoying your colleagues and getting in the way of the results you want.

Here are eight of the most common ways people’s email habits set their coworkers on edge.

* Being overly brusque. Email is an informal medium and it’s often used for efficiency – which leads some people to be so concise that it comes across to colleagues as abrasive or even rude. For example, if a coworker sends you a informative message with a warm, friendly tone and you simply reply “OK,” in many office cultures that will come across as brusque at best. Take the extra 10 seconds and type out “Makes sense – thanks for this” or anything else that’s longer more than two letters.

* Sending emails that are far too lengthy. It’s pretty rare that an email truly needs to contain more than a few paragraphs of information, and if you routinely send long, wordy emails, it’s pretty likely that some of your recipients will start tuning out. If you need to communicate a large amount of information, email probably isn’t the way to do it.

* Sending emails where it’s not clear what you’re asking the recipient to do. Your recipient should be able to very quickly tell what you need in response: Do you need information or input? Do you need the person to take a particular action? Just you’re your update? Most people get an enormous number of emails, and if they have to spend time trying to figure out exactly what you’re asking of them, your email is likely to go to the bottom of their priority list.

* Sending emails that are hard to reply to. Most of the time, effective emails can be answered quickly with just a few sentences. If your recipient isn’t going to be able to reply without writing out a lengthy response or without engaging in multiple rounds of back and forth with you, email probably isn’t the correction medium for the conversation; in that case, pick up the phone or talk in-person.

* Requesting read receipts. Yes, it can be handy to know when someone has read your email, but in most cases requesting a read receipt will come across as if you don’t trust the person to handle their email appropriately. It’s a good way of signaling “I don’t trust you to do your job and be appropriately communicative.” Certainly if you have an ongoing problem with someone not responding to or remembering emails, that’s something you should address – but in most cases, read receipts aren’t the way to do it. And speaking of appearing not to trust your colleagues…

* Cc’ing your coworker’s manager without cause. There are definitely times when it’s appropriate to cc your recipient’s manager, like if you haven’t been able to get the problem resolved by talking with the person directly or when the manager has specifically asked to be kept in the loop. But if you regularly cc managers because you think it will prompt the recipient to act on your message more quickly, you’re pretty likely to annoy not only your coworkers, but their managers too (since they’ve delegated work to their staff members for a reason). Unless there’s a specific reason not to, you should default to trust that your coworkers will be responsive to you without asking their managers to observe the interaction.

* Replying-all unnecessarily. If you’ve ever had your in-box fill up with dozens of replies to a mass email (especially one about something fairly trivial), you well know why you should avoid using reply-all unless the whole group truly needs to read your response. And yet, more than 20 years after email came into popular use, offices are still battling epic reply-all failures that flood people’s mailboxes.

* Getting heated or snarky in an email. Email is tremendously useful for many things – but it’s not well-suited to conflict. It’s easy for your tone to come across much more harshly than it would in person, you’re not seeing the other person face-to-face or hearing their voice so it’s easier to get more worked up than you normally would, and a written record of the conflict will live on forever (and can be forwarded). For all of these reasons, if you sense yourself becoming frustrated or otherwise emotional, that’s a sign to back away from your email and have a real conversation.

{ 194 comments… read them below }

  1. Isben Takes Tea*

    What I hate the most is being looped in on a long email chain that you have to re-read from the beginning to figure out what you’re being asked to do. Whenever I loop someone in, I clearly (and succinctly!) restate the context and the request, and leave the chain as reference info.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      My old job used to have a rule that if you added someone to an email chain, you had to say, “Fergus, I have added you to this email…[requested action]”

      It was helpful not only so they knew why, but it also helped the issue of random escalation or just throwing ten members of senior management on to a chain because.

    2. hbc*

      I’ve got a 1 and 3 offender, so bad that it’s on his performance improvement plan. In response to an email about the blue teapot shipment not going out, he sends to a couple of the people, “The system says the blue teapots shipped Friday????” Okay….Are you implying the email is wrong and they actually shipped, wondering why someone hasn’t adjusted the system yet to reflect reality, wanting an explanation for how the system could be wrong in the first place?

      Also, Offender knows (or should know) the answers to all those questions *and* it isn’t even his shipment (this is a general quick-notice email list for issues.) So he wants a couple of people who are in triage mode to take time out to guess at what he wants to know about an issue that doesn’t affect him at the moment.

      1. hbc*

        Sorry, meant to stand on its own, but he also does the email chain “What are we doing about this?” for a chain going back months. On a topic that is completely his responsibility, but you only know that for sure by reading through.

        1. SouthernLadybug*

          Does anyone ever reply, “well it looks like your responsibility, so you tell us’ or “I’m not sure – what are you doing”? I’d be so tempted…….

        2. Rat Racer*

          Oooooh that would drive me CRAZY!
          – Passing the buck
          – Sending vague email
          – Multiple question marks

          I’m annoyed just thinking about it!

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          The “what are we doing about this?” thing drives me nuts. I’ve started replying very sweetly to people with “at [X conversation/meeting] we agreed that you would [do action steps] as this falls within your [department/role].” Just like it’s a reminder or FYI.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Or even a short email chain, if there’s no indication what its relation to me is. Our sales guys tend to do this, they forward a conversation they had with someone, but there’s absolutely no mention of why it was sent to me or what I should do with it.

      This once led to a giant, office wide effort to try and figure out how to answer a customer’s questions, and then when the sales guy in question came back to the office he explained and said “I guess I thought someone would know what to do.”

      Yes. Someone did. YOU.

    4. Purest Green*

      I especially love the email chains where I can’t figure out what to do because everyone’s referencing an attachment I didn’t get.

    5. tigerStripes*

      “being looped in on a long email chain that you have to re-read from the beginning to figure out what you’re being asked to do.” I hate that too! Give me a summary and organized details afterwards.

  2. BBBizAnalyst*

    I need to send this to my coworker who emails everything with a high importance flag and does not know how to type thank you.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I had a vendor who used to send **everything** with a high importance flag. It drove me absolutely batty.

    2. SJ*

      when my former boss got emails marked high importance, he’d passive-aggressively mark his response as low importance.

      1. Clever Name*

        Ha ha! Depending on the exact situation, I’d be tempted to set up a rule to send “high importance” emails directly to the recycle bin.

    3. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I have one that uses that flag to announce there are snacks in the lunchroom. Annoying.

    4. SL #2*

      My coworker and I enjoy flagging really, really low importance things as “high importance” BUT we only send those emails to each other as an inside joke, and we sure as hell don’t do that to anyone else in the office!

  3. Rusty Shackelford*

    I have one coworker who requests an email read receipt on everything. I routinely click “no.”

    I have another coworker who requests read receipts on many, but not all, messages. I tend to avoid reading her messages until I’m absolutely sure I have time to deal with them, rather than letting her see that I opened a message and then didn’t respond immediately. I doubt this is the reaction she actually wants.

      1. Edith*

        I never approve read receipts, but I would never set it to reject them automatically because I want to know exactly who thinks I’m suddenly a child who won’t respond to emails like I always have.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Our HR person has been attaching read receipt requests on the weekly emails she sends about timesheet management. I never respond to them or send a read receipt; I am salaried and don’t use a timesheet unless I’m taking time off. Her persistence is appreciated, but it’s a little over-the-top, as are the condescending follow-up emails!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Can someone help me understand a circumstance in which having read receipts is good? I know it helps to know if someone saw your email, but generally they don’t seem to add value.

      1. Karo*

        Legal matters, I think. That’s the only time I’ve clicked yes on a read receipt. Yes, the sender has a copy of the email in her inbox showing it was sent, but she also has a really easy way to show that you acknowledged the receipt of it.

      2. Cassandra*

        Argh. They’re weaselling their way in to some rules-and-regulations I’ve seen as a digital analogue to a paper notice of disciplinary action. I don’t think this is a good idea, but I don’t have a better one.

      3. Elysian*

        I used one when I gave notice that I was leaving my apartment. Stuff like that – I wanted confirmation that they actually looked at it so that I could say it was properly received. Otherwise, I’m a lawyer and even in my business I don’t usually use them.

      4. Anon 12*

        Back in the day (more than 15 years ago) they were more common and the reader didn’t have to acknowledge that one was being sent. I used them routinely and it saved my bacon when I informed the division CFO of something he later denied knowing. I trotted out the read receipt and that ended the conversation. I hated that job.

        Nowadays people can decline to send a receipt so it’s a pretty useless and annoying feature.

      5. AthenaC*

        I tend to see them with HR types a lot, so I assumed (like Karo above) that it’s about legal documentation and read notices and things like that.

      6. Emilia Bedelia*

        Compliance. I work in a regulated field and our compliance people use read receipts on announcements of recalls and other corrective actions, because they want documentation of what was done. We need to be able to show that actions were taken/people were notified of these things – it’s a CYA move.

      7. greenlily*

        This is super late, but: I work for a college that has a policy of sending all notifications to students by e-mail only. (Not a policy I necessarily agree with, at least not in the zero-tolerance way that it’s applied, but that’s neither here nor there.)

        Anyways, we had a huge problem with students claiming that they’d never received the e-mails we sent them and therefore they couldn’t be held responsible for the contents of the e-mail (think registration deadlines, notices of new fees applied, etc.) We started adding read receipts to the e-mails and the problem went away.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      We have someone who puts read receipts AND delete notifications on all her emails, many of which are blast notifications sent to hundreds of people. I hope she has filters set up, otherwise she must spend half her time just dealing with the receipts!

    4. Audiophile*

      My boss does this with all of her emails to everyone. I don’t feel bad, since it’s not just me, but it is annoying. When I first started, I did acknowledge the read receipt, but now I frequently ignore it.

    5. In Lou Of*

      I suppose you could use delivery receipts? I use those a lot with one particular task where the other party frequently “doesn’t get” my emails.

  4. ZVA*

    I tend to try and offset the coldness of email by adopting a cheerful tone—but I sometimes wonder if I’m overcompensating (and, since I’m a people pleaser, I probably am), so I’ve tried dialing that back a little recently. By using fewer exclamation points, for one thing. (I usually wouldn’t use more than one per email, but now I’m trying to eliminate them from some emails altogether.)

    Anyone else have any thoughts on tone in emails—what tone you aim for, how you achieve it?

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      I am always business-like in emails and only adopt a cheerful tone if I’m responding to someone who was cheerful in THEIR email. I might seem a little cold, but I deal with complicated things. Watering down my message with smiley faces or exclamation marks could cause serious problems to be overlooked.

    2. Emi.*

      I try to be cheerful and polite without being all “I just wanted to ask…?” I don’t really have a formal strategy to achieve this–I just obsess about each email individually. But I recently bought myself a CBT workbook so maybe I’ll come up with something.

    3. fposte*

      A lot of this is cultural, too–some workplaces and fields are more about friendly tone and some think only content is what matters. Look at the emails from respected people in your office, both high level and lower level. What tone do they tend to take?

    4. Chickaletta*

      ZVA, I do the same thing and wonder if I’m coming across too cheery. I already battle the young female stereotype; even if someone hasn’t met me in person, I have a first name that’s associated with the generation behind me so nobody’s ever going to mistake me for a 50 year old man.

      Anyway, what I do sometimes is go back and re-read my email and pretend it was written by someone I look up to professionally. I almost always end up removing exclamation marks, sarcasm, unnecessary complaints and apologies, and, obviously, emojis (I used to think they were ok as long as I was writing someone I was familiar with, but if it’s a business related communications I don’t do that anymore). What’s left is usually a friendly, yet professional, email.

    5. AthenaC*

      I tend to be a cheerful email writer (but NO smiley’s or exclamation points unless we have met in person and I know that they would be receptive to either of those), simply because:

      1) I’m an auditor, so I’m dependent on clients to voluntarily cooperate to do my job. And – surprise! – people are more willing to help if they like you.
      2) I’m female, so I don’t want to come across as harsh.

      My formula is something like this –

      Hi X,

      Hope all is well – could you please help me understand the increase in widget revenue for last year? My understanding was that widget production is down, so I was expecting a decrease in widget revenue. What am I missing?

      Thanks for your help,


      That can change depending on some other factors. For example, the more followup there is, the nicer I get – throwing in things like “Thanks for your help so far” at the beginning or something like that.

      I think if you do smiley faces and exclamation points without some sort of in-person professional relationship, you can come across as juvenile. Unless you’re emailing your auditor! In that case, you will either make your auditor: 1) happy; or 2) uncomfortable. Both are equally fun for completely different reasons.


    6. Emily*

      I am so guilty of using exclamation points to sound cheerful. Like you, I try to limit it to one per email, but when I have an email with a few sentences, I feel rude using all periods. It just seems too harsh to me, as silly as it sounds!

    7. Amy G. Golly*

      It really depends on the context of the email and who I’m sending it to, but there’s a couple strategies I employ to strike the right “tone”:

      1. Throw in a sentence or two that acknowledges the recipient is a human being. So I’ll usually start with a greeting, and include a statement of general well-wishing somewhere. I’m wishing a lot of people a Happy New Year this month.

      2. If it’s a colleague I see often (and have probably already wished a Happy New Year in person!) I’ll pad out my request with a short description of the context. “As we were talking about yesterday, x” or “I’m doing y, and I know you tried something similar.” Not going on and on so as to take up their time, but just enough to break up the abruptness of “Send me z”.

      3. Briefly acknowledge any greetings and well-wishes they sent. (“My holidays were nice, thanks for asking!”) We both realize they were probably asking just to be polite, but it’s still nice to have your politeness acknowledged and responded to in kind.

      4. Responding in kind is key. If someone sends me a terse request by email, and I have no reason to believe they’re being anything other than expedient, I have no trouble responding just as succinctly, with maybe a short pleasantry thrown in for good measure. (“No, it’s February 3. Thanks!”)

      5. Show gratitude. You don’t have to gush, but letting someone know you appreciate their assistance, time, attention, whatever, is just a nice thing to do.

      As I’m sure you can tell, I’m a fan of the occasional exclamation point to lighten the tone. (To be used sparingly, of course. I think “Thanks” and “Thanks!” have two different vibes, and the latter is the one I usually want to convey.) But for the most part, I think you strike the right tone by 1. making the point of your email clear and 2. trusting the recipient to read your email in the spirit in which it was intended; which, in the context of work correspondence, is usually to convey information and get things done.

  5. VA Anon*

    Or the coworker who sends you an email and then immediately calls you or comes to your desk to tell you that they sent you an email.

    1. Mike C.*

      I think that the appropriate response involves answering the call in the bathroom while repeatedly flushing a toilet.

      “Sorry Bill FLUSH I just haven’t FLUSH gotten to your FLUSH email yet! I’m sure it’s FLUSH totally worth my FLUSH time to read!”

      1. Brogrammer*

        Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, I’m expected to be able to respond to emails at any time. I’ve taken to emailing particularly annoying clients and coworkers from the toilet. No speech-to-text, though, otherwise I’d send emails just like your example call.

    2. myswtghst*

      As he was overall a great guy, this is definitely the thing I miss the least about my coworker/mentee at lastjob. He consistently sent/forwarded an email then walked to your desk (or IMed you if you weren’t at your desk) “just to follow up” all of 10 seconds later.

    3. B.*

      I have one of those. He also routinely writes the entire email in the subject line (and not just one liners like “i’m in now” or something, he writes entire paragraphs), and he doesn’t seem to believe in pronouns or know how to write sentences generally.

      When I see his name pop up in an email, and then he comes over to me five seconds later, I’ve started asking him to let me read his email first and then I’ll reply.

      He also responds to emails in person, so I have to ask him to please reply to the email (when I want something in writing for future reference or because it involves other people than just me.)

      1. Teapot librarian*

        Oh yeah. I have employees who are masters at avoiding accountability by responding to emails in person. I’m getting a LOT better about documenting conversations, but it definitely hasn’t become a habit yet.

      2. Kai*

        That subject line thing is bonkers. I see/write one-liners like that all the time, but whole paragraphs is amazing.

    4. Chickaletta*

      I have a client who does this. He almost always wants to talk about what he wrote in his email. Drives me up the wall. I should start charging him for communication time, like a lawyer. Round up to the half hour and everything.

  6. Teapot librarian*

    I got a “you could try saying “hello” or “good morning” when you email me” response from someone once.

    1. Teapot librarian*

      (To be clear, sometimes I include a greeting like that, and sometimes I don’t. In fact, I looked back at my emails to this person and found that I included a greeting about half the time.)

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Wow. I typically include a greeting in my emails, even if they’re really short updates, but telling someone that is totally uncalled for. It’s like telling women to smile.

      1. fposte*

        It was an inappropriately cranky response, but I think it’s useful information, which telling women to smile isn’t. The information is that emails without a salutation often come across as brusque, and that’s what they’re doing with this recipient.

        1. Emi.*

          But doesn’t telling women to smile convey the information that not smiling comes across as brusque? (To clarify, I don’t think these are actually the same, but I can’t put my finger on why they’re different.)

          1. AthenaC*

            I think it’s different because men don’t necessarily come across as brusque when they don’t smile in person, but it’s possible for either men OR women to come across as brusque when they don’t take the 10 seconds to put a greeting at the beginning of their email.

          2. fposte*

            Sure, but you have little obligation to care :-).

            There are definitely grey areas here, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear women get schooled on email tone sometimes men don’t. But a salutation is a standard aspect of written communication; if you omit a standard communication practice in business and annoy a co-worker (as Alison details in the article) that’s a predictable business misstep.

            In general, the standard business expectation is that you are pleasant and professional with your co-workers, but that doesn’t mean smiling; mostly, from a face standpoint, it means don’t be rude by rolling your eyes or scowling. Not smiling is therefore not a predictable business misstep. (Addressing what somebody does with their body is also a different level of personal, which is part of why “Smile!” is so damn annoying.)

            If you have Resting Bitch Face, it’s legitimate for your manager to coach you on finding ways to appear more approachable, and it’s legitimate for somebody to ask if you’re angry with them. But it’s not kosher for a colleague to unsolicitedly tell you to smile. (I also think the response Teapot librarian got wasn’t appropriate either, especially given what it turns out she did include in the email, but it’s still not falling into the gulch of “your face should please me, woman” that “Smile!” does.)

    3. Jaguar*

      I might have told the story on AAM already, but at a previous job, I was instructed that, in no uncertain terms, I was to add a greeting (“Hello, such-and-such”) and salutation to all e-mail going to a client or potential customer. I forgot once and was pulled in to give a belittling dressing-down because of it by my manager. I was furious, and thinking things through, I realized my manager had no way of even seeing that e-mail but, in fact, his manager (who I worked with daily) had to have been the one to see it and then instructed the middle manager to give me shit about it, making me even more furious. That was a Monday, and it (plus a few other things) prompted me to start job searching, leading to an interview that Saturday, where I was offered the job on the spot, and I gave my notice the following Monday.

    4. JLaw*

      Did you include a greeting in your e-mail that you sent to that person? If your initial e-mail to them did not include a greeting, then I can understand why they would be annoyed. E-mails without an initial greeting can come across as rather sharp. I usually use “Hi” when e-mailing people I know and “Dear” when I don’t.

      1. Teapot librarian*

        The email that generated that response, no, but like I mentioned (in a comment, because I hit “submit” before thinking about it), I did about half the time when I emailed that person. (Now, 100%.) I definitely hear you on “can come across as sharp.” I try very hard not to come across that way, but I guess this person sees a meaningful difference between “Fergus, could you order us a box of folders? Thanks!” and “Good morning, could you order us a box of folders? Thanks!” I don’t see the difference, personally, but if I want my box of folders, I’m now going to use the latter.

        1. JLaw*

          I don’t think it’s necessary to begin with “Good morning”. In your example, I would write “Hi Fergus, could you please order us a box a folders? Thanks.” If you then wanted Fergus to order you an additional item during the same day, then I would write “Fergus, could you please also order some paper? Many thanks”.

        2. fposte*

          I think that’s a pragmatic takeaway. However, I would consider a name as salutation to be a polite start to an email to a colleague–I thought you were just writing “Could you order us a box of folders?” out of nowhere.

          1. N.J.*

            That’s interesting, as I have to make a conscious effort to not interpret the name as salutation as rude. It’s actually one of my pet peeves. It just comes off as brusque to me, like when you shout someone’s name across a room to get their attention.

          2. Emi.*

            To me, starting an email with just a name sounds brusque, but only if it’s on its own line. Like,


            Could you please send me the teapots?

            looks curt, but

            Fergus, could you please send me the teapots?

            looks conversational.

            1. LA Gaucho*

              ^ I never thought about it that way, but you hit the nail on the head. Big difference~

              I try not to take it personally, but really dislike getting emails that just say:

              Blah blah blah.

              Curt for sure comes to mind. I usually go with “Hi Bob” or “Good morning”.

            2. fposte*

              Oh, that’s funny–I much prefer the name on the single line. It’s a softer startup to me while on the same line looks abrupt.

              I suspect that’s the convention around my workplace, since that’s where I learned to email. But maybe I need to start thinking about adding a “Hello” in there.

              1. Teapot librarian*

                If I’m writing to ask Fergus to do something, I’ll write “Fergus, could you do X for us?”
                If I’m writing a week later because Fergus hasn’t done it yet, I’ll write
                I’m following up on the email below. Can you help us out?”
                In other words, in my head, there’s a clear distinction between conversational and curt. So fascinating to see how different people read things exactly opposite :-)

        3. Amy G. Golly*

          I read a conversation on Tumblr recently that somewhat pertains to this. Apparently, in France, you cannot begin an interaction with someone without saying “Bonjour” first. Which is to say, you can, but it comes across as abominably rude, and a French person would considerable it reasonable to treat you coldly in that conversation. What followed was a discussion where some people said, “Of COURSE you say ‘hello’ first, then order your coffee!” while others believed it was wasting the other person’s time to bother with pleasantries before getting down to their request.

          Which is to say: I think this is a situation that will vary widely according to your own perception of social norms, and I find it fascinating!

          1. fposte*

            I don’t know if it’s still true, but in France it was also rude not to say hello and goodbye to the clerk or shopkeeper when you entered and left a shop. (I suspect that was not a habit that spread to the hypermarchés.) Maybe our French posters or French-staying posters can say if that’s still true or not?

            1. Jessica*

              American who’s lived in France here. I agree with all of this. People do say Bonjour when you enter a (small) shop, and it is the done thing to open conversation with a greeting. One of my early experiences was going up to someone in a public place and asking a question–think a clerk whose job it was to help the public. I said something like “excuse me, do you have these widgets in polka-dot?” (behaving in a way that would have been fine and normal in the US) and he just looked at me and said pointedly, “Bonjour.” So I walked it back a step, said Bonjour, then asked again and he answered my question. And I knew the answer had just come with a useful social lesson thrown in for free!

          2. Mephyle*

            Perhaps it’s a feature of many or most Latin cultures in general? I had to learn this in Mexico, that you ALWAYS greet first and then get to the rest of the interaction.

    5. nonymous*

      I was told by a coworker (we used to be at the same office and I now work remotely) that my attempts to shift the in-person greetings to text (IM, email address) came across as “deliberately snarky”. This person also told our boss that my emails were brusque. Sigh.

  7. Jaguar*

    So, I’m a long e-mail sender, and I’m wondering what I should be doing instead.

    I work as a software developer for engineers who are often non-technical and I work in a different office than the senior management. As a result, I’ll see the people making the decisions on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it in person at best once a week and often not for months at a time. Even in the case of when I’m asked to develop something by a local manager, getting their attention is often a frustrating process of, “hey, do you have any time available soon?” So I’m often left needing to make a decision that I’m not equipped to make because I don’t understand their business challenges and requirements.

    To take one example, we have multiple offices around the world and different technologies at work to share information. We have a cloud networking solution that lets people in every office access large files fast but it’s just a file system so it’s not always that easy to navigate. We also have an Intranet site that lets people find things very quick and easily but it’s hosted out of one office so obtaining large files in overseas locations requires a sit-and-wait download than can be measured in tens of minutes. So when we were deciding what goes where, there were these (and many other) considerations to consider.

    I typically put that all in an e-mail. I start with a summary and my recommendations, then go into detail about the various considerations. For out-of-office managers, it allows them to move the conversation forward as soon as they want (their responses are mixed – the one I work with most invariably waits until he’s in my office to have a usually pointless meeting, and I suspect he ignores the e-mails). For in-office managers, it lets them address it when they have time. If I were to eliminate these thorough e-mails, I have no idea how I would better communicate my thoughts on the matter – meetings cause significant delays in moving forward, writing a report would be more time consuming and nothing of actual value would be gained, and don’t get me started on phone/Skype conversations.

    Full disclosure, I’m almost certainly going to continue sending these and a significant component of doing it is it gives me “I’ve done my part – ball’s in someone else’s court now.” But if it’s ideal to not send lengthly e-mails, I don’t see what better alternative there is.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One suggestion would be to explain why you’re doing it this way, by saying at the very start, “I know you don’t always have time to meet so I’m putting all the details below. But if you’d rather talk this through in person, let me know a time that works for you (no later than X) and I’d be glad to do it that way instead.”

      1. Jaguar*

        Yeah, I’ve done those sort of disclaimers. It doesn’t seem to have any noticable affect.

        I should point out that, to the best of my knowledge, nobody is getting irritated by these e-mails (although some are clearly ignoring them), so I’m not concerned about softening the blow or anything. I’m just curious as to what a better solution would be, because I can’t come up with anything.

        1. fposte*

          This sounds like the sort of thing I might create a document to attach to an email for, just because people are generally reading documents in applications that offer more suitability and flexibility than email windows. But I think it’s a po-tay-to/po-tah-to thing–you’d be sending lengthy information either way because there’s a lot of information needed, not because you’re prolix.

        2. CM*

          If nobody is complaining, then your long emails are probably fine. If you’re concerned that people are not reading your emails, you could refine your approach a bit: you are already putting a summary and recommendations upfront, but if you could turn this into a mini email and say “See details below,” you might be able to get more people to read. For example:

          I need the input of each member of the Spout Team on the issue below by the end of the day on Thursday. Anyone else on this email is welcome to provide input if they have any.

          The issue is whether we should choose spout design A, or spout design B. See details below.

          My recommendation is A, because [reasons]. I will present a proposal based on my recommendation and any feedback I receive at Friday’s meeting.

          Details: [Lengthy contents can go here.]

          1. Jaguar*

            Yeah, I’ve done that as well.

            I’m not actually concerned people don’t read them. As I said, one of my primary concerns is putting all my thoughts down on record, giving them to whoever needs to make a decision, and moving onto the next problem. Even if they don’t read them, they’re useful for me to go back to as notes when the issue gets picked up again, and I do get a petty joy out of forwarding the e-mail off to management a few months later when they ask, “Where are we with the such and such?” “I think I’m waiting on a decision from you. Let me check.”

            My concern was just Alison advising against long e-mails. I’m willing to examine my ways of doing things, but I have no idea what better solution there is.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s true that in 90% of cases, emails should be brief. But it sounds like you fall into the 10% where that’s not possible, and you’ve adopted e-mail habits that try to manage the need for longer notes. That’s totally ok—there may not really be a better solution.

    2. Someone*

      I was going to say, I’m a tech writer in software, and there are long threads of long emails with a lot of discussion, and for the most part, this is the best way to deal with it. There are often technical points where people have different opinions, or questions, and it’s not clear who (if anyone) has the answer, so people discuss in email according to the time that is convenient to them. If we had to have meetings for each of these discussions, it would be very disruptive. (Especially since our technical meetings are easily derailed. Also time zones.)

      There is some attempt to have us move this type of discussion to a different platform (Slack), where there would be a history of the discussion — I can see the value to that if everyone signs up and actually checks it. Switching the culture is hard though. (And there are already 2 other platforms besides email I should be checking, so it isn’t really a simplification.)

    3. AthenaC*

      I have to write lengthy emails sometimes. Like you, I try to summarize at the beginning, and then bullet-point and bold the first 5-6 words of each bullet point, so people higher than me on the totem pole (read: busier) can pick up the mission-critical elements in under 30 seconds, but can read in more detail if they feel the need.

    1. ZVA*

      This is fantastic. The BLUF sounds like something I already do in emails, which is state what I need from the person in the first sentence, rather than building up to it. So for example: “Can we switch the time of our meeting from 1:00 to 2:00? I need to take my son to a doctor’s appointment and this is the only time they could fit him in” instead of the other way around. That way people see the essential info first & don’t have to waste time with context.

      1. Charlie*

        That’s BLUF in a nutshell, even if you don’t preface with the acronym (military luuuuuves them some acronyms). I think people overestimate how much context and buildup is needed, especially with people you work with often.

    2. Aurion*

      In a similar vein: has anyone ever tried adapting military-style email (BLOT/BLUF, bullet points, extremely concise to the point of brusqueness) when their emails were previously more verbose/colloquial? How did that turn out?

      I keep wanting to adapt the military style, but always feel like it’d be too terse for my type of work.

      1. Charlie*

        I did, but I’m a contractor for DoD – everybody’s used to it, and the tone of emails is pretty terse. If you’re in the arts or marketing or real estate, some kind of very people-focused field, you might step on some toes.

        I think there’s a nice middle ground, where you’re pleasant and friendly but get right to stating your business.

        1. RR*

          I work in an environment that’s about as far as one can get from DoD contracting, but I still find this a very helpful approach. They key is to adapt to your organization’s culture. My NGO is big on greetings, and being a bit chatty, but you can still do this:

          Good afternoon, Fergus,

          I hope this finds you well and that you haven’t frozen under this cold spell!
          [insert key point here]
          [What’s the required action, eg I’ll need your input by tomorrow afternoon.]

          For additional context, please note the additional info below. Feel free to call with any questions
          signed, your colleague

          [lengthier info begins here]

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, and it has always gone over well. Email is a burden for most people, and brevity is a sweet release from that burden.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Wow! I’m a DoD contactor for Navy and Marine Corps, so I hadn’t seen this AF tutorial. I just saved it and will be using it for training. It’s way better (succinct!) than the Navy guides I’ve been using. Thanks!

  8. Cassandra*

    This may be specific to academia, but my email pet peeve: a direct-to-me email containing a link to something informative in my area of expertise with NO CLUE how I am supposed to respond to it. (I’m a massive infovore, so nine times out of ten it’s something I saw two weeks ago anyway, which only adds to my pique.)

    A “saw this, thought of you, no need to reply” or “what did you think of this?” or “could we do this here?” or “relevant to X project?” or similar context is fine by me, but bare links — especially from my reporting chain — what the actual eff? In Toxic Ex-Job, I’m pretty sure these were at least sometimes passive-aggressive “why can’t you be more like X” communiqués, but even if they weren’t meant that way, how was I to know?

    Gah. I never get these at Current Great Job, and I love not having to worry about them.

    1. A a*

      I’m not in academia but on the outskirts, but this is such a familiar conundrum. I kind of look at it as posting something to a FB wall, but more private,

  9. orchidsandtea*

    My current pet peeve is not reading autoreplies and refusing to update point of contacts. We use shared inboxes at work. We’re in the process of switching from to — and I’m the only one with access to oldspouts, but people ignore the autoreply and expect replies from oldspouts anyway.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In those cases I make sure the autoreply has a cut-off date for when we’ll no longer be responding to emails at oldspouts. Responding just encourages the person to keep emailing oldspouts because they’re getting the response they want/need.

      It could also be that the oldspouts address is auto-populating, in which case it can help to send instructions on how to remove it from a person’s contacts (or, if you have access to an organization-wide master directory, you can delete the oldspouts contact from the list).

      1. orchidsandtea*

        If they’re external, the reply is “We’d hate to miss an email from The Chocolaterie! Please update your contact to newspouts. I’ve cc’d them.” If they’re internal it’s “To reach the relevant spoutmakers, email newspouts.” And then I forward to newspouts separately so they can’t see that I’ve done so. Including instructions is a good idea.

        The autoreply has an end date, and it’s fast approaching. But it only pings once per sender, so a couple times a week I turn it off and back on again to reset. Otherwise they overlook it the first time and never see it again.

        I can pester IT to remove it from the in-office directory. That’s a good plan.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          I can pester IT to remove it from the in-office directory. That’s a good plan.

          Also consider forwarding (via a rule) all email to the new address. You can then reply out of the new address – hopefully it’ll propagate across the company quicker that way.

          Also, dependent on the system they are using, they could make the old address as secondary address on the new email account. So stuff sent to the old would just magically appear in the new one.

  10. Amber Rose*

    I send medium length emails, about 4 to 6 short sentences usually, maybe a couple times a month. Just a quick “hey, this needs to be done, this is happening on this date, I made this available in X location.” Nobody reads past the first sentence. Assuming they even read my emails at all, which I don’t think they do. I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that coworkers are routing me to junk mail. :/

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Can you get them down to 1-3 sentences? I find 3 sentences is the saturation point for most e-correspondence.

  11. BookishMiss*

    Holy crow, my office hits a majority of these. My biggest irritations are the read receipts and reply all, and my solution is… Not ideal, but nothing here is. I send the read receipt, because if they want it gumming up their inbox, that is entirely they’re problem, and I don’t participate in the office-wide reply-all fests unless it’s something that everyone actually needs to see. Cute baby photo? Reply directly, not to everyone. Crisis that I can solve with a quick reply all? Reply all.

    Cannot explain how much I hate reply all. My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it =(

  12. Fabulous*

    What annoys me most with emails is when I ask multiple questions (usually in bulleted lists for easy reading) or a progressive series (i.e. If this, then what?) and all I get is either a response to ONE question, or just a “Yes” when a a multi-faceted answer is required.

    1. Nicole*

      This was my peeve at my last employer also. Is it really that hard to answer all the questions? Or should I send a separate email for each one? ;)

    2. Teapot librarian*

      This, so much this!
      I do try to keep one topic per email, but sometimes, like you said, one topic might have more than one question. I get variations on this annoyance: not all of the questions are answered, the question “A or B” gets answered “yes,” the question “do we have X?” gets answered “yes” rather than “yes, it’s attached” or the like (this happened enough that I started asking “do we have X, and if so, where is it” but see problem 1, not all of the questions are answered).

    3. CM*

      I HATE the “A or B?” “Yes” responses.
      But company culture at my current company is for everyone to be very logical and methodical, so 95% of the time, people will respond appropriate to every single point instead of rushing off a nonsensical answer. Love it.

      1. zora*

        UGGHHHH, my most frustrating boss did this All. The. Time. I would talk to them about it in our 1on1’s several times a month, and they would still do it. I thought my head was going to literally explode some day.

        1. zora*

          That said, at some other jobs, I’ve been able to circumvent this by just saying “I’m going to do A unless you disagree.” and then they say “Yes” and everyone is happy.

          But in some cases that just not possible, I had to get buy-in on a direction and I would get in trouble if I just picked one myself, but then when I asked for guidance, they wouldn’t read the email. GAH.

    4. Emi.*

      I once had a long email chain with a friend where we went way in the opposite direction–he’d write his response interspersed with the At 3:15 on Jan 7, Emi wrote: copy of my original email in a different color, and then I’d do the same thing back, in my original color. It was great.

    5. Arianwen*

      I had an advisor who did this and the question he would pick to respond to was always random. And if you sent too many emails he’d just stop responding at all. Very frustrating.

  13. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    This is interesting. The culture at many of the offices I’ve worked at/with is to include a manager on the email, or, barring that, at least one other team member. This isn’t as a gotcha, but rather so everyone is in the loop in case someone is unavailable. I don’t include “next level,” though, unless I need to escalate the issue.

  14. Charlie*

    I do contract work for a DoD branch everyone’s familiar with. One thing that’s been hammered into my habitually wordy scientist skull is BLUF: Bottom line up front.

    The first line of an email, after “Dear Maj. Wakeen” is something like “BLUF: Need CES/CC Review/Approval of Strategic Teapot Deployment NLT COB Fri Jan 13.”

    Then you give context. But you succinctly state what you need done right up front, so a busy decision maker knows exactly what you need and can make a decision on priorities right away.

  15. Argh!*

    I respond to overly-long emails with brusque replies! I have one coworker who does this and I’ve told her many times that her emails were excessive and I didn’t really read the whole thing, but she keeps doing it. So she gets brusque replies. Not nasty, just short.

    1. Charlie*


      Not proud, but I’ve replied with that. Sorry, man, I’m not gonna read 5 paragraphs, of which 4 1/2 are extraneous details I already know.

      1. Argh!*

        In the case of my annoying coworker, it’s 4 1/2 which are details I don’t need to know, don’t want to know, and will never want or need to know!

  16. Nicole*

    My peeve is the vague subject lines like “question”. Really? Question about what?

    On the software side of things – why can’t you reply with attachments? I think that’s why the attachments get forgotten when you add new people to the email chain.

    Your choices are:
    Hit reply, add new people, reattach files.
    Choose forward, add everyone back to recipient list, plus add new people.

    Both options introduce opportunity for errors whether it’s forgetting the attachments or excluding someone who should be on the email chain.

    1. Teapot librarian*

      Oh gosh yes. One of my employees sends blank emails with attachments so they are completely divorced from context. He has all sorts of technology issues–like, I just taught him how to save a document he downloaded without printing it and scanning it. I kid you not–so I haven’t figured out the best way to broach the subject yet. Another employee has done this too, but I just put in a PIP that he needs to send responses as replies to the original email, and he’s doing a lot better.

      1. CM*

        That reminds me of a friend who is pretty technologically backward, and will always start a new email with a new subject instead of hitting reply. Like, a bunch of us will be on the email chain where we’re all planning to meet somewhere, and then there will be a separate email from her with the subject “Betty will be there at 8!” (But she’s not a coworker, and it’s kind of funny.)

        1. Kelly L.*

          And then the opposite problem–someone who either doesn’t remember my email address, can’t spell my name, or doesn’t trust autofill, so instead of starting a new email to me, will dig back and find something we corresponded about months ago, and reply to that. So I’ll get a subject line of “Re: URGENT, project due tomorrow” and then the message says “There are cookies in the lounge.”

          1. Teapot librarian*

            Again, I say, cookies in the lounge ARE urgent. :-) (I replied to another comment about cookies being worthy of a “high importance” flag.)

          2. Mrs. Fenris*

            People at my job are really bad about that. I work in a company with 30 employees. Not everybody knows how to send an email to the whole group, so they will reply to an old email. *If* they remove the old subject line and all of the body, it’s fine, but if they don’t, it looks like that.

        2. zora*

          I knew a guy in a volunteer org I worked in who would change the subject of every email to “Message from Steve O.”, whether it was a reply or a new email. It drove us CRAZY, and it took I think about a year to finally convince him that we already knew who the sender was, and that it was more useful to have an actual subject line. Once it finally clicked he was very nice about changing his system, but it just didn’t get through to him. He was a professor, so a little bit of a space cadet. ;o)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Every time I see an email with that subject line, Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” plays in my head.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      I think at least 97% of the emails my Mum has ever sent have the subject line “Hi.”. A new one each time, mind you, not replies to older “Hi.” chains. They might contain anything from “hope your weather’s improved! We had a kestrel in the garden yesterday!” to news about a medical diagnosis or even a death. At least she’s finally learned that lol doesn’t mean lots of love.

    4. LadyKelvin*

      I’ll be honest, I have probably used that as a subject, because I have no idea what to make the subject 90% of the time. Usually I type “Question about teapot species report” or something like that, but Alison, you could totally do a post on how to write email subjects. Half the time I feel like the text doesn’t need anything if I actually write the subject of the email in the subject.

  17. Mimmy*

    Long emails: I’m probably guilty this with all of my emails, not just professional ones, but I’m working on trying to be more concise. I may type everything out, then read over to come up with ways to say what I want in less words. Not easy! I like Charlie’s “BLUF” suggestion.

    Email tone: Would this also apply to emailing customers/clients/the general public? At a past job, I was called out for including ONE exclamation point in an email to someone emailing for resources, as in “Thank you for contacting the Teapot Association!” Well, to be fair, my supervisor had a very reserved, if not flat, personality, so I guess she didn’t like the cheerful tone.

    As an aside, I sent an email to an organization inquiring about a conference, and the woman’s response included several exclamation points. Ick. That’s TOO friendly, even for me.

    Sorry for the tangent.

  18. Edith*

    I work at a small graduate school, and the faculty are big reply-allers. I think they probably forget to differentiate between the faculty listserv and the all-staff listserv with some pretty ridiculous results. Example: the day they spent an entire afternoon arguing about who among them would be which professors at Hogwarts.

    1. Gabriela*

      I also work in higher education and have borne witness to a faculty discussion about who would be who at Hogwarts (though thankfully not via email).

    2. Dr. Doll*

      On behalf of all faculty, everywhere and always, please accept my sincere apology that you were subjected to that.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Strangely, I’ve seen that conversation, a conversation on which superhero each would be, and a conversation on what mutant/X-Man each would be.

  19. Kelly L.*

    I’ve got one frequent emailer who sends me two kinds of emails:

    FYI emails, where I’m not supposed to do anything
    Emails assigning me a task

    The trouble is, she sends them the exact same way. She never includes a message saying yes, please contact this person about this thing; it’s always just a forward of an endless email chain between her and other people, with no explanation. So anytime she emails me, I have to clarify in person anyway.

  20. BRR*

    It’s aggravating to just read that list :). Another one for me is people who constantly send out articles. I care about the work we do too but leave my inbox alone.

  21. Beautiful Loser*

    I work at a very large global company. Once in a while, someone will mistakenly send out something by mistake to several groups. No biggie, just delete and move on right?

    Oh no! Then my inbox becomes filled with the “reply all’s” Why did I get this? blah, blah, blah. The last fiasco I kept count. Close to 200 “reply all’s” Amazing the number of people who just have no clue. Even after the sender sends another email requesting everyone just disregard and delete the original one.

  22. Not an Intern Anymore*

    Ugh, my team at my last job had the most annoying email habits. One habit was insisting that every person on the team (5 people) must be looped in on every email. I had to CC my whole team when shooting over a doc to a coworker to be proofread, for example. The ENTIRE length of my internship there, one of my coworkers was going back and forth almost daily with a tech support person from one of our online services–and the entire team was CC’d on those emails too. I ended up with hundreds and hundreds of emails in my inbox each day.

    The other bizarre habit was overly formal emails. I would often email my co-worker who sat next to me some version of: “Hey Jane–attached is the rough draft of the project we discussed this morning. Thanks!” And she would respond:

    Dear Not an Intern Anymore,
    Thank you kindly for your email. Overall, great job with this draft. And so on…

    We would go back and forth emailing all day, frequently chatting in between, and she would still make every email this formal (regularly reiterating things we had spoken about just minutes before, just to fill the body of the email with something).

    1. Charlie*

      This is an interesting business etiquette point. I feel like a lot of older people tend to think of the email as a substitute for a letter, when it’s really a substitute for a memo. Obviously you need to include pleasantries with people outside your immediate coworker circle, but once a chain starts going, I see no problem with dispensing entirely with signatures, salutations, and so on. A lot of emails I send are just “Draft attached. C” or whatever.

      1. Not an Intern Anymore*

        I know what you mean–if they were older I would not have thought it was as odd. But no one on the team was over 35, and most were in their mid-twenties!

  23. MissGirl*

    Where do people fall on thank you emails? If I send a simple file to someone per their request, I don’t expect a thank you. To me it’s one more email cluttering my inbox and I’d rather not get it. On the flip side, I send them because I worry about offending people. I send based on the trouble the person had to go through to help me but maybe I should send them all the time.

    1. Susan the BA*

      I almost never send them – only when it’s something where the person was really speedy, went out of their way, etc. Instead I just try to make my initial emails friendly – ‘thanks in advance for taking the time to look at this’ – ‘I know this is going to be a tricky problem to resolve so I appreciate your assistance’ – ‘please let me know what else I can do to help’ – etc.

      Reply-all thank yous are the worst.

    2. CM*

      I send them. It just takes a second to shoot back a quick, “Thanks!” A lot of people like and expect thank you emails. People who like them get a little offended if they don’t get them, and people who don’t like them don’t care that much if they get them.

    3. Emi.*

      I send them because they’re friendly, but mostly because they confirm that I got whatever they sent me.

      1. myswtghst*

        This is the primary reason I appreciate receiving them – it means you got my email and hopefully it was what you were looking for (if my email was a reply).

    4. Delta Delta*

      I always do them. I used to have a job where someone in a remote office would have to prepare a report for me following a particular action; often a few times a week. There were about 4 people state-wide who did this and had to serve every teapot lawyer in the state. I always thanked them. One person wrote back after about 3 years and said I was the only teapot lawyer who ever thanked her for doing this particular task, and it made her feel good that she was appreciated. So I kept doing it.

    5. fposte*

      I’m a big yes, please on them, because I want my loops closed, dammit. “Thank you” is the polite version of “received, so now you can cross it off your list.”

    6. Kai*

      I do it as a confirmation, or if I know the person I’m corresponding with appreciates a thank-you particularly. Otherwise, I try to avoid creating clutter.

    7. PK*

      I send them when folks reply to various requests with info, files, etc. Then again, I’m a little bit of a stickler for manners and I feel like I should say Thank you/Please/etc when appropriate. Email or not.

    8. Ally A*

      I hate getting a single line “thanks!” after a single email asking me to do something super small and easy (where is that file kept in the shared drive? how many people attended that event yesterday?). Mostly because right after I replied to the first email with the document or whatever, I delete their email – no need to keep it cluttering up my inbox. And then they respond “thanks!” and now the email is back! Argh!

    9. NW Mossy*

      I am firmly in the “no” camp on thanks emails, and so much so that I asked those on my team who send them to stop doing so with me. I told them “I assume a culture of gratitude – as your boss, I assume that you’re appreciative of the things I do for you and you don’t need to thank me. I also trust that you will let me know if what I did was unsatisfactory in some way so that I can fix it.”

      I asked them to stop specifically because I use my email inbox as one of my primary repositories for things I need to do. I don’t need to do anything with a thanks email (other than delete it), but I can’t easily set up email rules to delete them because they come from people that often need me to do things. When you get 10 or 20 thanks emails a day, it starts to become problematic to keep having to deal with them. Thankfully, my team has taken my idiosyncratic dictum in stride and it’s no longer an issue.

    10. Rocky*

      I have a neat way that appeases both camps. At least in Outlook, you can type into the subject line, so I add ‘Thanks!’ and my email appears with the subject ‘Thanks! Re: Teapot design specs’. That way the recipient can delete the email without opening it.

  24. Susan the BA*

    I decline to provide read receipts. You’ll know that I read your message because I did what you asked or responded to your question. Also, I have my Outlook set up to not display the message priority column – no one ever uses it in a way that aligns with my priorities, and it just made me mad when people used it for things that were clearly not important to them, either.

  25. Cataloging Librarian*

    At my library all the librarians take turns manning the circulation desk, which has its own email address. That’s where the vast majority of small requests go– renewing an overdue book, asking about hours, requesting a hold, etc. Should be simple, right? Perform the task, shoot the patron a quick confirmation email, go on with your day.

    A couple of my coworkers have recently begun ccing the entire library staff on every single one of these emails. I have no idea why the archivist thinks the technical services librarian and the reserves librarian need to be looped in on the fact that Joe Patron’s due date has been extended, but there it is.

    My only consolation is that since the emails are cced to the whole staff the offenders will have to delete these pointless missives from their own inboxes when they return to their offices.

  26. Fuzzlebucket*

    The most important think to do before writing anything is to decide the purpose of the email and to outline what you intend to write.

    For example, emails can be “for information only” or they can be “action items” or they can be “brainstorming sessions.” The content of the email should follow the purpose.

    And the purpose should be crystal clear to the reader in the first sentence, if not in the RE line of the email.

  27. Emi.*

    I used to manage a club listserv. It was terrible. Messages went out “from:,” and if you emailed I would get it in the club inbox and send you a response, but if you replied to a listserv email it was treated as something to go out to the entire listserv and went to moderation. So I would always write “If you would like to attend this event, please email DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL” and people always replied. Without fail.

  28. Delta Delta*

    I just left a law firm that had several variations of the email offenders here.

    One got angry if people didn’t always read her “detailed emails” which were usually pages and pages long. Sometimes they were outlines. Someone finally suggested to her she could create a document and put it on a shared drive and that the email could say, “hey everyone, I created a flow chart for teapot litigation referrals. It’s at x location on the shared drive.” When people suggested that, she would pout, “I don’t know why I even bother with the effort of these detailed emails.”

    One would write emails and sign them “thx” or “tks” instead of “thanks.” Other variations included “pls” for “please” and “abt” for “about.” This saves no time and in an effort to look breezy or whatever, and it just looks strange, especially mixed in with actual words.

    One took offense that short sentences are too much like cross examination (not a good complaint in a litigation firm, btw). This makes little sense when the original email sparking this particular complaint was “Fergus is on line 2” and the response was “I’m on a conference call. Please ask him to call back at 11:30.” Not kidding – this was considered too brusque.

    One put full emails in the subject line, not understanding that that’s what the body of the email was for.

    This one from my spouse’s former law firm: the big boss did not know that cc means carbon copy. There was a series of emails about firing spouse. Big Boss cc’d Spouse on his response that essentially said, “we have to fire Spouse, but have to wait until (date in 2 weeks).” Spouse was able to give his notice very quickly.


    1. Charlie*

      “I don’t know why I even bother with the effort of these detailed emails.”

      “Me neither.”


      1. Delta Delta*

        Oh, if you said that you’d be subject to her silent treatment for at least 3 days. Sometimes it was worth it.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      This one from my spouse’s former law firm: the big boss did not know that cc means carbon copy. There was a series of emails about firing spouse. Big Boss cc’d Spouse on his response that essentially said, “we have to fire Spouse, but have to wait until (date in 2 weeks).” Spouse was able to give his notice very quickly.

      OMG. What did he think CC meant? Some kind of filing system?

    3. Emily*

      My boss/the owner of our company consistently uses ‘thx’ and ‘pls.’ I find it really strange! I hope he doesn’t use those abbreviations with our customers, too!

  29. hayling*

    I worked with someone who would send a (very short) memo as a Word attachment to an email. Why not just put it in the email!?!

    1. Emi.*

      Maybe they wanted to have the document on their hard drive for reference later? It’s still really annoying, though.

    2. CM*

      My kids’ school does that and it drives me crazy. Subject line is “Hill Street Elementary School.” Content is an attachment. The email is either blank or says, “Please read the attached document.” Contents have ranged from an announcement that there was a bomb threat to “It’s winter. Don’t forget to send your kids to school with snow pants and mittens.”

  30. valerie cherish*

    Oi, email etiquette…

    My first boss was a pretty miserly person and it came across in her emails. When she wanted a follow-up on something, instead of re-replying to the email request with something like ‘Hi, any updates here?’ she’d just re-reply with ‘?????’ She’d do that to me (her assistant) and to fellow execs.
    She’d respond to emails with just ‘k’ frequently.
    She’d mark so many of her emails as high importance that no one cared after a while, so she started calling everyone’s work phone as soon as she hit send on an email just to say ‘I’ve sent you an email.’
    She’d CAPITALIZE random words in her EMAILS that didn’t even make sense for emphasis? And would highlight random phrases she deemed most important. It came across so rudely (and looked awful), as if she assumed we were all too stupid to read an email properly.
    We work in PR, and she was so awful with emails that a journalist has one saved to show to people as an example of ‘the kind of crap publicists pitch me.’
    And a client once called our owner to complain that my boss needed to not communicate so rudely.

    She was a GREAT teacher in a never-do-what-this-lady-does kind of way.

    1. Julie Noted*

      An expansion for the anti-brusque folks:

      One of my great email frustrations not mentioned so far is sending attachments rather than links to people who have access to the same shared file structure. Happens constantly at my job, and is most grating for documents being sent to colleagues to expand or comment on. Added points for documents called “Document 1.doc” or its updated cousins “Document 1 (2).doc”. We write a lot of reports for which, for legislative reasons, we need to keep a history of drafts and reviews, and we are all paid far too much to be someone else’s file manager.

      I’ve had very few senior managers in my current career (12 years) who have been able/willing to use links or meaningful document names. I’m hoping the practice will die out when their generation retires, while simultaneously concerned that it’s being modelled as acceptable practice to be adopted by new workers.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I am slowly trying to convert my directs and peers over to links not attachments. It makes me bonkers to email around 5 copies of the same thing when it’s not necessary!

  31. Emily*

    I had a bizarre email sent to me just last week. I had a customer call to request a copy of an invoice be emailed to her. I asked for her email address, and before she told it to me, she prefaced it with, “now, this is all lowercase letters.” Face palm at the people who still think email addresses are case sensitive. Anyway, I sent her the invoice copy, and she responded with:

    “Thank you” for your help. I “got it”

    “have a nice day”

    “Jane Doe”
    “Teapots Inc”

    I am not kidding. The majority of the email was in quotation marks for no apparent reason, not to mention her signature, as well!

  32. Arianwen*

    At my advisor’s request I once coordinated a lab cleanup. I sent an email stating the times at which it was being conducted and what would happen if you had stuff that wasn’t cleaned up by the end of that time period. I did not CC our advisor on that email as we’d discussed the basics of it already and he was on board and wasn’t big on having unnecessary email filling up his box. One my my lab mates responded to the email telling me that he was absolutely not going to be able to make it in that time frame (the window was ~2 weeks long) because he was entirely too busy with his work out schedule. And CC’d our advisor on it. I’m not sure what he thought he was going to accomplish. Maybe he thought I was proceeding with the lab clean up without permission? Or thought our advisor would see how unreasonable I was being? At any rate, he got into quite a bit of trouble over prioritizing going to the gym over lab clean up *during work hours*. Still gives me a chuckle.

    1. CM*

      First I read it as “too busy with his work schedule” and that seemed bad enough with 2 weeks’ notice. But making a point of how going to the gym is more important than his lab duties? Bizarre.

  33. Andy*

    The last two habits? I often like to combine in a prank. If someone breaks off from a group email to reply only to me a sassy response, I like to reply back, with their email header in MY email edited to make it look like they sent to everyone, then ask them if they meant to hit reply all on it. My last victim was utterly horrified.

    As for generally annoying people with email, I think I do, but it tends to be on purpose. I once rick-rolled a coworker twice in one day. Now she doesn’t trust any links I send her.

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