Email has been the preferred messaging medium for more than a decade. Its conveniences have transformed correspondence forever, but at what cost to the sender and the recipient? Listed below are my top email pet peeves. Many of them are fine examples of email’s convenience impacting users for the worst.
Expectation of Immediacy
Email is a swift medium of communication, but that doesn’t mean that all of the messages we receive have to be acted upon immediately. Sending someone an email might be instantaneous, but it takes time for the recipient to read the message, conduct the appropriate action, and compose a corresponding response. Sending an email should never be an expectation for an immediate reply. After all if email was truly meant to be instantaneous it would be called instant messaging, and we wouldn’t have inboxes.
What You Learned in Grade School
Email may be considered informal by some, but when it comes to conveying information nothing is worse than an unclear email. Poor grammar and spelling only help to confuse the situation, making the period between responses more stressful as the recipient tries to decode a message’s intention. This problem only gets worse with the more recipients an email is delivered to. Do yourself a favor and write clear and concise while using proper spelling and grammar. Your recipient’s may not thank you, but at least they will know what you are writing about.
The Spaces Left Behind
Out of all my pet peeves this entry has the least to do with email and the most to do with a personal annoyance. Leaving two spaces after a period is an obsolete tradition passed on from the days typewriters were restricted to monospace fonts. When each character was the same width and kerning was nonexistent it made sense to exaggerate the space after a period for legibilities sake. Not anymore. Proportional width fonts have made the habit of adding an extra space after a period redundant. Modern type corrects for a periods skinny width by automatically amplifying the space behind it. Don’t believe me? Look at any major publication printed in the last two decades and you see why you are doing it wrong.
The Less We Need to Know About You…
We might not all know what you do, but we don’t need to know your companies address, or corporate fax line. Email signatures have gone from being a convenience to being a unrequested under-the-radar advertisement. Your name, fine. Your position or company, great. Your phone number, if you want to give it out. But supplying your companies address when we all know how to Google you or ask for directions is one step two far, and your fax number is a specific we didn’t need to know in the first place. Have more than one title? Then have more than one signature! Stop trying to cram every last bit of information into the bottom of your email. If we need to know it we’ll ask. And as for that reminder to save paper by not printing our email, well who the hell does that anyway?
Down with Decor
There is a place for quick concise script, and there is a place for over-the-top decoration. When the two meet it is never pretty. For most emails plain text will do. I understand the purpose of flashy email newsletters, and promotional business flyers, but the majority of email should be in the form of a plain text message. There is nothing worse than sending all of your email in some ungodly Outlook stationary, and the biggest offenders are usually the IT staff who should know better. Use your powers for good. Keep email accessible and clutter free while saving bandwidth for the message that matters.
Don’t Be Afraid to Throw It Away
My worst email pet peeve is something that doesn’t even effect me, but that I run into everyday. When did it become a requirement to keep everything anyone ever sent you? For some reason email empowers the hoarder in many of us simply because we can. I know people who are proud of the fact that have every single email they have ever received. Where is the accomplishment in that? Keeping important receipts, and memorable correspondence is fine, but what is that confirmation for lunch five years ago doing for you now? People collect email because it is easier than sorting through it and throwing it out. But just think of all of those thousands of messages you must search through, backup, and maintain every time you want to use your computer. Email was never meant to be life’s personal organizer, and the fastest way to a leaner mailbox is by starting today and separating the meat from the gristle.
Remove attachments and store them elsewhere. Act on email and then delete the original message. Stop playing those games of he said she said. Delete the paper trail and start going by your word. You are better than that. Finally if you receive so much email that you can’t possibly respond to all of it why on earth are you saving it? If it means nothing to you throw it away. you wouldn’t keep every physical piece of mail someone sent you, so why are you saving every email now?