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4 Examples of Bad Email Manners

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Whether it’s the neighbor who mows the lawn at 7 a.m. on a Saturday or the woman who cuts in front of you in the elementary school drop-off line, bad manners are everywhere. 

The online world is no exception.

Last year, I wrote a post about social media etiquette, matching social media errors to Jane Austen characters. As a follow up, here are a few email faux pas. 

Communicators with plenty of corporate experience have likely experienced these and cringed accordingly.

1. Solicitation emails with huge attachments.

In my day job, I often receive calls from publishers asking if our company would like to advertise in their publications or websites. Recently, I’ve been dealing with an overly persistent ad sales rep. I know she’s in sales and that it’s her job to keep pushing, but after several polite phone conversations and email exchanges, she’s still not taking “no” for an answer.

This week, I received an email from her with a 12 megabyte attachment, a PDF of the publication in which she would like us to advertise. The attachment landed me in email jail and most certainly did not convince me to advertise with her.

Knowing that people often have size limitations on their in-boxes or that several corporate email systems bounce unfamiliar emails sent with attachments, why would anyone send an unsolicited, huge attachment? Further, why would anyone send an unsolicited, huge attachment to a cold prospect? If you want someone to see a publication or a spreadsheet or a presentation, send it as a link instead. 

2. Emails with an assigned urgency.

Just because a project is urgent to you doesn’t mean it’s urgent to me. Unless you’re that person’s boss or their project lead or the CEO, it’s inappropriate to flag an email as high priority.

If you need help on a project, use the subject line to ask for it. Subject lines such as “Please review: I need to send this today” or “Help: we’re about to lose this account” will be more effective than the urgency flag. You could also precede the email with a phone call or personal visit (if possible) explaining the urgency of the project.

3. Solicitation emails that tell you what a bad job you’re doing.

This email was sent to the CEO of my company:

I work for a company that manages AdWords campaigns as well as other digital channels like Google organic search. I’ve been tracking the success of your website and I see that you’re spending significantly on Adwords, but your site doesn’t appear to be ranking for the organic keywords it should be.

I’ve run a report on what your business would look like if you ranked at the top of Google’s first page – the results are pretty amazing.

First of all, my company’s site does rank on the first page of Google search results for pertinent key words. (Two seconds spent on Google would reveal this.)

Second, we do not spend “significantly on AdWords.”

If you’re going to send something like this, at least get your facts straight.

4. Emails from strangers asking for a favor.

I have no idea who you are, so why would I help you get a job at my company or help you promote your company?

If you’ve met the person before or if you’re connected with the person on LinkedIn, it’s appropriate to ask for help or for a favor via email. Just don’t ask a stranger, and don’t insinuate in the email that you’ve met before when you haven’t. People can see straight through something like: “When we talked at that networking event, you mentioned your company was hiring so I wanted to follow up.”

For more about bad email manners, check out this comic “If you do this in an email, I hate you” from The Oatmeal.

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