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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette:  How Not To Write An Annoying Email

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

 

Not meaning to be rude, we've all unintentionally, inadvertently sent emails that were either too brisk or else long-winded. A common etiquette question to Didi Lorillard at Didi's Manners concerns how to write the most effective email. 

Q.  There is nothing more annoying than a bothersome email. With my requisite Starbucks coffee container in hand, I arrive at my desk at nine o'clock five mornings a week greeted by twenty emails that I'll have to get behind me ASAP. Knowing full well that I'll probably have to deal with a hundred more in my inbox during the course of my day. Some of which are unintentionally rude, and I find it a tiresome chore keeping up the politeness. Sometimes I want to write back "Don't type at me like that." In retrospect, I'm assuming my emails at times might be equally as irritating. How do I not write an annoying email?  H.M., Providence

A.  Well, excuse us Mr. High and Mighty, who receives over a hundred emails a day. Aren't you important. Do you ever think to unsubscribe to the daily, weekly, monthly repeats? Treat every work-related email as potential public information. You can control them -- or let them control you -- by handling your emails in batches over the course of the day. While you're at it, control the length of your sentences.

Annoying

  • Asking for a response in the subject line: Urgent - reply by 5:00 p.m. today
  • A greeting that doesn't get to the point right away. I really don't need to know that you just got back from Aspen.
  • Please, don't sound like a fourth grader with an assignment to write an email.
  • Don't crowd the email with paragraphs. If you really want me to respond immediately, try cutting down to between 50 and 150 words. Studies show that response rates actually decline 50% after 125 words.
  • If you want my attention, use both strong positive and negative words.
  • When an email uses too many bullet points or a variety of color texts to hold my attention, I know the person is trying way too hard.

 

On that note, I know that you're being annoyingly strategic when you use Yesware (because I see that your email arrived by way of a software tracking device in my inbox between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.). I get it that you're hoping for a high response rate. 

Most Annoying Phrases

  • I'm sorry
  • I mean (when at the start of a sentence)
  • I have a stupid question
  • I have your back
  • This is my opinion
  • This might be off topic
  • Allow me to be the devil's advocate
  • Please don't hesitate to contact me
  • No offense, but
  • No worries
  • No problem (instead of you're welcome)
  • price point
  • secret sauce
  • break the internet
  • walk it back
  • giving me life
  • to be honest with you
  • you know what I'm saying
  • it is what it is
  • at the end of the day
  • throwing (someone) under the bus
  • game on
  • check all the boxes
  • how ya doin'
  • step up your/my game
  • bring it
  • safe space
  • microaggression
  • you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts

Crib notes for being not annoying

  • Don't be wishy washy.
  • Shorter sentences are more to the point. 
  • Keep the email to no longer than 5 sentences.

Most Annoying Words

  • out-winded
  • synergy  
  • pivotal 
  • whatever
  • huge
  • unsure
  • like
  • amazing
  • basically
  • problematic
  • stakeholder
  • presser
  • physicality
  • twerking
  • awesomesauce
  • fap
  • literally
  • so (when used as the first word in a sentence)
  • conversation (when you mean discussion or debate)
  • absolutely (when you mean "yes")
  • honestly (when it tends to mean the opposite)

 

Abrasive Tone

Watch your tone. During face-to-face conversation we pick up on your psychological as well as physical demeanor. We listen to the tone of your voice. Happy voice or angry voice? We know from your composure, posture, facial expression, and gestures how you're reacting to the subject at hand. I'll remember the emotional tone of your email long after I've forgotten the topic.

Before clicking Send, ask yourself: How will the receiver of this message interpret the intention and mood of your words? Will I be making this person feel sad, mad, guilty, self-critical or stressed?
Sarcasm is considered derisive or condescending.

Annoying Cuteness

  • In a professional email, especially when you don't know the person well, don't use text speak (LOL, ASAP, BTW, FOMO, etc.). Or ALL CAPS, because it feels as though you're screaming at me, when in fact you may simply be too lazy to switch from upper to lower case. 
  • Never overuse punctuation!!!!!
  • Never use emotions because to most of us they are super annoying.

 

Lastly, consider whether a phone call might be the more efficient route to getting a read on the recipient, before jumping to a false conclusion in an email.

And finally, in the workplace assume that every message you send is read by two people -- other than you.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at Didi's Manners.

 

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