Seattle Community

Erin Lariviere
Marketing / Community Manager
Montreal, Quebec Canada
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5 Email Killers to Look Out For

Feel like you're just not getting your message across? Projects going off track because of small details and loose ends? Your emails could be the culprit.
Written Dec 21, 2010, read 1695 times since then.


It should go without saying: coherency is key.  But again and again, we’re missing the mark when it comes to emails between colleagues, clients and partners.  It happens.  You feel rushed, you want to reply quickly, you're on the phone, too many thoughts are happening at once…

The end result is often an ineffective communication that throws a wrench in your otherwise well-oiled machine.

A good habit to get into is proofreading before sending – the email equivalent of thinking before speaking.  When you do, look for these 5 common blunders that could be killing your email coherency:

Ambiguous or Lengthy Subject Lines

Not good:  Revisions

Not good:  My comments regarding the document received from Bill last week

Good:  Acme proposal revisions

See what we did there?  Your recipient knows right away what he or she is receiving. 

Also, a clear and coherent subject line makes it easy for recipients (and you) to find the email if it’s needed again down the road.

TMI (Too much information)

Not deep dark secrets (though you should probably keep those to yourself as well), but unnecessary information.  The stuff that leaves recipients wading through the muck trying to get to the core.

Good:  We would like green headers.

Not good:  We want something consistent with our branding that looks good with the surrounding colors, fonts, etc., so after much deliberation we’ve decided to go with green and would like this to be the color used for the headers.  We also really like green a lot.


No Contact Info

This one should be obvious, but it keeps popping up.  If you’re asking someone to call you, include your phone number.

On a related note, some people might not immediately look at your signature.  If your number is there, include a mention in the body of your email, such as, “please use the phone number in my signature.”

Missing CTA (Call to action)

What do you want your recipients to do?  Is this just an FYI, or is there an action for them to take?

If you’re sending to a group of people, who needs to do what?  In fact, this can be especially important with groups.  Send a task to five people and watch as everyone assumes someone else will get it done.


Too many people

Does everyone on your list need to receive it?  The saying "too many cooks spoils the pot" comes to mind with this one.  A little feedback is great.  Too much stalls the machine.  Keep your recipient list as short as possible.

Make use of BCC as well.  Anyone who needs to receive it as an fyi only, and can be spared the reply-alls, put in BCC.

Also, when you limit invitees you pass on some good email karma by helping others keep their inboxes clear.

When working with a group, or even one-on-one, but across company boundaries, coherency is key to getting things done.  Give yourself a minute to proofread before sending anything.  When you do, put yourself in the shoes of your recipients.  Ask yourself – would I know what to do?  Would I know why I’m receiving this?  Do I have all the information I need, and nothing I don’t need?  If you can answer ‘yes’ to all those questions, you’re good to go.

Learn more about the author, Erin Lariviere.

Comment on this article

  • Junk Removal & Recycling 
Seattle, Washington 
Angel Stevens
    Posted by Angel Stevens, Seattle, Washington | Dec 27, 2010

    I always forget to add the contact info and I always forget to add the link to what my email message is referencing.

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Feb 02, 2011

    just what the doctor ordered