10 Email Sins You Must Stop Committing Right Now

10 Email Sins You Must Stop Committing Right Now

1480654854 09d8d35b29 n - 10 Email Sins You Must Stop Committing Right NowEmail. Whether we like it or not, it is part of our lives. We love it when it’s easy and when others use it in a way that works for us. The rest of the time, we hate it. And when we hate it, we really hate it.

Even though I often communicate through social channels, such as Facebook, Twitter or chat messages, my mailbox remains a sacred place where the most important conversations take place. This is the reason many people are careful about with whom they share their email address. Allowing unwanted noise into the mailbox makes it more cluttered and harder to find the important email, plus it’s so darn irritating when someone abuses your time and attention by sending something you don’t want.

Do you know an email sinner? Might you be committing some of these sins yourself? Here are a few email sins. Take a peek and see if any sound familiar.

  1. Name Sin: You sent the email to Jeanette, yet the email begins, “Dear Richard” or, just as bad, “Dear {first name}.”  Either way, it’s obvious that you are sending the email to many people, but trying to make it appear personal. It didn’t work.
  2. Subject Line Sin: The subject line is vague and does not make the intent of the email clear. “Saw this and thought of you” = bad. “Need your help at a sales meeting Wednesday” = better.
  3. Bait and Switch Sin: The subject line and beginning of the email seem to make it seem that you are interested in the recipient, but it quickly becomes clear that this is a marketing message. You tried to sneak into the backdoor of someone’s mailbox by pretending to be a friend when you should have knocked on the front door and announced that this was a sales call.
  4. CC and BCC Sin: You don’t know when to use cc: and bcc: on an email, so you end up ticking off everyone in the process. Don’t copy anyone on an email who does not want that email. Ask yourself: Am I including them because they want to know about this or because I want them to know about this? If it is the latter, stop right there. And, if you must copy others on the email who don’t know each other (or have other connection, such as working for the same company), don’t expose their email addresses by including them in the cc: field. In this case, be considerate enough to protect their email addresses by adding them as a bcc:.
  5. Viral Forwarding Sin: Just because your Uncle Henry thought it was a funny story or an opportunity for everyone to win a free iPad or a warning that drinking milk on Saturdays will cause children to grow an extra arm, you do not need to forward that email to every last person you know. You don’t need to forward it to anyone, for that matter. Whether you know it or not, you likely have friends sending these email directly to the trash. They may not even bother to open them anymore. And, for the love of god, before you forward another email, do yourself and your friends a big favor and check to be sure the information is accurate. I can’t even count the number of times a friend has passed on something, only to be embarrassed later when they learned it was a hoax.
  6. Email Signature Sin: Your email signature is longer than your email. It includes 37 links to various sites, along with your favorite philosophical quote, today’s astrological horoscope and a lovely photo you took of the kids at the lake last summer. It’s all just too much. You’re awesome, we get it. You’re talented, thoughtful, lucky and love your family. Just make it easy for us to read the damn email and how to contact you <full stop>.
  7. Have a Point and Get to It Sin: Your email started with 3 paragraphs about the weather and your last vacation before the sales pitch (or request for a favor or offer to help on a project) in paragraph #4. If someone read the first 3 paragraphs, they probably don’t want to buy your stuff. If they did want to buy it, they stopped reading after the 1st paragraph and never made it to the pitch.
  8. Newsletter Sin: Just because someone once handed you a business card does not make it OK for you to add them to your newsletter email list. And, before you reply by explaining that there is an easy way to unsubscribe and opt-out if they aren’t interested, understand that this reasoning is extremely inconsiderate, presumptuous and likely ineffective. People who do not want to be on your email list may unsubscribe, but they also may mark it as spam (not a good thing for you). The ability to opt-out is not the same thing as opt-in. Unless someone has done business with you or has otherwise requested to be added to your email list, don’t send them your junk. Seriously, don’t.
  10. IM Speak Sin: Like OMG, you know what I mean? ROFL LMFAO LOL Unless you are sending email to a 14 year-old (or someone who knows you extremely well and/or you use these terms ironically), stop it. 🙂

These are just a few of the email sins which cause me to overlook or send an email to the virtual trash. What email sins do you see being committed day after day? Please share them in the comments to make the world of email a better place for us all. LOL 🙂


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 Image courtesy of iamqui


  1. Frank March 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    Where is the [LIKE] button ?

    • Irene Koehler March 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Frank. By the way, there *are* like buttons on the post. Feel free to use those buttons as you wish! 🙂

  2. Esperanza March 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Had to laugh at the one about sig lines. Good grief! I love it when people do this at WORK and then forward you a really long email thread that requires your attention. You spend half your time filtering through signature line clutter.

    Kudos to all of these, though.

    And by the way, at first I thought the image you posted was a line of slot machines – ha!

    • Irene Koehler March 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Exactly, Esperanza! What a waste of time it is trying to wade through the clutter. Argh!

  3. Karen Swim March 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Okay, number 8 is one of my biggest gripes lately. It’s amazing how many professionals really do not understand that it’s not okay to add everyone you’ve ever emailed to your “list.” For pete’s sake take the time to actually sign up with an email marketing service and do it the right way!

    • Irene Koehler March 23, 2012 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      You tell ’em, Karen! So many people don’t take the time to learn best practices. It just slows them down. Probably is that they may not realize that this is doing them more harm than good.

  4. Lance-Robert March 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Great list, Irene! Lest we forget, there are also the Reply All and This Should Have Been a Meeting Sins. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read what should have been private conversations shared with my colleagues and me in emails, or been part of a lengthy, back-and-forth “design by committee” thread.

    • Irene Koehler March 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      Spot on, Lance-Robert! Fabulous additions to the list. If only there was a way to recover the hours lost to these email sins.

  5. Lance-Robert March 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    One more: The Duplicate the Subject in the Email Sin. If you’re just going to repeat the subject line in the message, put or at the end of the (hopefully informative) subject so we know we don’t have to open the message.

  6. Lance-Robert March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Hmm. The EOM or END in my last comment (surrounded by angle brackets) were stripped from my last reply. I guess WordPress thought they were tags.

    • Irene Koehler March 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      That must have been what happened, but I know what you mean. It is very helpful for very short emails to just use the subject line to convey the message *and* let the recipient know there is no need to open to email. For example: “Subject: Meeting confirmed. See you at 3pm. EOM” The only challenge I see with this is that you need to be sure you’re communicating with someone who understands this protocol.

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