12 Career-Limiting E-mail Mistakes You Can Learn to Avoid

Last Updated Jan 25, 2011 8:59 AM EST

A hundred years ago, we would have written a post about the most common work telegram mistakes you should avoid. These days, Google "telegram mistakes," and you won't find anything useful. No surprise there: E-mail is the lingua frana of the workplace.

Indeed, most of us rely on e-mail more than the phone and sometimes even more than face-to-face. So why do we still see so many stupid, career-limiting e-mail errors? Here are the most egregious:

1. Don't forget that e-mail lasts forever, and it can be subpoenaed years from now. Not everything needs to be said in e-mail. If in doubt, have the conversation in person.

2. Review your message before you click send. Frequent typos and nonsensical phrases make you look like a moron.

3. Don't bury the lede. Use the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) strategy: Put the most important part of the message in the first paragraph, and then go nuts with context after that. But don't bury the lede at the end of an 800-word e-mail; most folks will never see it.

4. Don't spam your team. Avoid forwarding messages and links, or you'll go into everyone's spam filter. Even if you are the boss.

5. Include the attachment you claim is attached. While you're at it, be sure to enter a subject so it doesn't show up as blank in everyone's inbox. You can use an automated tool to ensure both of these things happen.

6. Don't use those "sent from my iPhone" mobile signatures. They're obnoxious and imply you're gloating that you have a shiny gadget. If you mean to say, "sent from my mobile, please excuse typos," then that's what it should say.

7. Don't secretly add recipients to the BCC line so they can inappropriately "overhear" private conversations.

8. You shouldn't send drunk mail, so don't send angry mail either. Your project just got cancelled? A partner fired your vendor without talking to you? Someone dropped the ball on a big account? Wait until you've calmed down before clicking send, or you will certainly regret it.

9. Use Reply All appropriately. Don't reply to everyone if you genuinely only need to talk to one person on a thread. Likewise, don't drop specific people off a large thread without explaining your reasons to the "slighted" parties.

10. Don't break Outlook Rules. If you're in a thread with a large group of people, don't move group aliases to the BCC line to get them out of the conversation. Yes, it drops them out of the mail, but not before they get one last message that Outlook can't automatically file per the rules they've established for that message.

11. Don't be rude. Give thanks in public, and deliver criticism in private.

12. Know who you're talking to. If you get a strange request or unexpected mail out of the blue, look the sender up before you click Send. It might be a VP, a partner, or some other influential whom you should be very nice to.

Do you have anything you'd add to this list?

More on BNET:

Comments