The eight email errors you've definitely already made

Hannah Sims · 02 Jun

Emails. We're sending more and more of them; in 2015, the average worker received 122 emails a day. This number is enough to swamp anyone.

Fascinatingly, just knowing you have an unread email in your inbox can distract you from a task so much that it can actually temporarily lower your IQ by 10 points. We might try and transfer our teams to Skype or Slack, but in the meantime, we must accept that email, with all its imperfections, is not going away anytime soon.

Communication is hard enough. In some ways, email has made it even harder. In a humble email, there is far more room for sarcasm to fall flat than your average face-to-face conversation. Messages get missed, and misunderstood. We reply to them in haste, on the go. We've started to excuse typos by adding a note in our email signatures. In our rush to achieve the hallowed 'Inbox 0' we are bound to make mistakes.

So let's look at how to cope with eight email errors everyone makes.


1. Forgetting to turn off your OOO

Disaster! Just kidding. The worst you'll get for this is people saying: "Yeah, you wish you were still out of office, but you can't pretend you're still in Mykonos, your nose is peeling."

The coping mechanism: Leave for the airport. Just kidding: Turn it off.

2. No things attached

"Please find attached that very important document you asked for... NOT."

The coping mechanism: It helps if you make a habit of always attaching the file before you start writing an email. If you do forget and you're feeling bold, go with the sarcastic, "I always send attachments in a new email so they're harder to find".

3. Replying to yourself

Doubly annoying because not only did it not go to the person who is breathing down your neck, you also get the suspense of a new email... only to find it's from yourself.

The coping mechanism: If you get excited by a single new email... Get some friends.

4. Redirecting company updates to your junk folder

And missing the news that there's cake in the break room.

The coping mechanism: It's very tempting to redirect unimportant and distracting emails that clog your inbox if it helps you be more productive. If you do this, whenever everyone else gets up and runs to the break room, you better follow.


5. Not responding to the latest email in the thread

You go back on a point, only to find the conversation has moved on whilst you've been typing your thoughtful response. At worst, you've confused things and derailed the discussion, at best, your email gets ignored and unanswered, and the conversation goes on without you.

The coping mechanism: As a rule, send one topic per email, and consider when a meeting or a phone call could make things easier.

6. Typo traumas

Including, but not limited to: misspelling your own name, misspelling your boss's name, accidentally putting an 'x' after an email to a client, writing 'flies' instead of 'files' and 'moaning' instead of 'morning'.

The coping mechanism: Know that spell check can be deceitful. Unless you've been unwittingly offensive, make a joke of it and move on.

7. Reply-all fail

Your reply-all story will never be as bad as someone else's – everyone has done it. Hopefully, you'll only send your menu preference around for the company lunch and everyone will find out you like quiche and onion rings. There are worse things.

The coping mechanism: 'Enable undo send' your emails and set the timer to two minutes, so you can double-check before they go out.


8. We're spamming

Think twice, maybe thrice, before sending round robin emails to everyone. Sad as it might be, people do not care about your lost fork as much as you do. And some people get far too many emails a day to respond with anything other than rage/ further theft.

The coping mechanism: Set up a company notice board - these often save thousands of emails a year. And, guard your cutlery with constant vigilance.

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