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These days, most professionals spend a good chunk of their working hours in their inboxes. Although, email is a notoriously unproductive way of conducting business but, somehow, we as a species have yet to figure out something better. So, we endure. With so much of your waking time spent sending, replying, and forwarding emails, you would also think that pretty much everyone with an Internet connection also has a black belt in emailing. Unfortunately, that is also false.

There are plenty of mistakes people do when writing emails which might also be the reason why they’re so unproductive. So, in an effort to make your workday more worthwhile – here are the common mistakes people make with emails.

Getting the Tone Wrong

Writing excellent emails is like walking a stylistic tightrope. You don’t want to sound like you’re writing from the 18th century but emoticons and abbreviations have no place in emails, either. Although emails are not as formal as business letters, they require a certain level of common courtesy.

Of course, different rules apply for personal and business email but it’s always a good idea to double and triple check your emails to weed out any typos and change overly complex sentences. For business correspondence, you should also always refer to the etiquette of the language you’re writing in. In English, it is not uncommon to start your email with a short friendly “I hope you are well” or “How are you doing?”, while Germans tend to get straight to business after the salutation. So, be sure to check that the tone of your email is in correspondence with what is common in the language you are writing it in.

Using Inappropriate Salutations

A good trick here is to think how you would address the person you’re writing to in real life. This varies slightly from industry to industry and reason for writing. Naturally, you will not be addressing an email to your mother as “Dear Mrs. So-And-So”. And, in most traditional industries, you wouldn’t also start off by referring to a potential client by their first name. Although, there is one big exception to that rule – internet companies and blogs. Very rarely would you find two bloggers writing to each other with anything but their first names, as is the case with most up-and-coming startups which embrace a more informal correspondence.

It is difficult to give concrete instructions on what salutations to use but, in general, the rule of thinking how formally you would address the person if you were to meet them on the street, is a good golden rule to follow. But be sure to always use a greeting – and, if in doubt, choose the more polite and friendly one.

Spamming Recipients

This can mean anything from pressing “reply all” if you really just need to write to one single person, writing several emails on one issue that could be condensed into one, or pressing “send” before you meant to, leading to (again) multiple emails. Since most professionals are swamped with emails as it is, adding to their pile is not really recommended.

So, before you write your email and press send, take a short moment to think about what you’ve written (and do the double check of mistakes and typos). Are your sentences clear (helps to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth)? Can you condense a long text? Create a bulleted list or use bold to highlight the most important points to make it stand out.

Conclusion – Pay Attention to What You Write

Most common email mistakes come down to people not paying enough attention to what they’re writing. Forgetting attachments or to CC somebody wastes everybody’s time, including the sender. So, make sure you take a short moment before hitting send to check you’ve written the appropriate salutation, have a concise point to the email, and have highlighted the important parts. Always be friendly but respectful and follow your industry standards. If you’re looking to avoid even more mistakes, check out this comprehensive list.


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