Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What are your e-mail "pet peeves?"

I am indebted to my good friend Dennis Moran, one of the finest graphic designers in America, for stimulating this discussion. Dennis asked that I address failures of e-mail etiquette in my blog and I can't think of a better time to do it. So, let's start with Dennis's pet peeves. Says Dennis:

"I have a few pet peeves related to e-mail use that maybe you could address to your global audience.

1. People who don't respond when you send them something. I'm talking specifically about clients who NEVER respond, when I send them PDFs of design work, or invoices, even though I ask for confirmation of receipt, just so I know that they got it (mailer-deamon does alert us to most undeliverable mail, but not all).

2. People who refuse to use even an abbreviated letter format in e-mail. They just respond. No "Hi Big Boy" or "Hello Sweet Cheeks"...they just start typing, often in all lower case, and often with serious spelling errors.

3. Responding to a phone message with an e-mail--immediately after NOT answering the call. Hey, e-mail is great, but there are some things which are better handled with conversations particularly when immediate responses are important.

4. Related to No. 1.--Don't assume that just because you sent an e-mail, that it was received. There are hundreds (OK, at least 10) reasons why the e-mails that are sent are not necessarily received: server error, mailbox full, etc.

PS: here's another one: always include an e-mail signature with full contact info--it makes it extremely easy for people to find your phone number and address in an instant without searching a database."

Dennis has not only identified some of the errors of e-mail etiquette, but he has also done it with a great sense of humor! And, I wholeheartedly agree with him on each point. To those I add some of my own:

1.) I routinely receive e-mails with no subject line. I encourage my students to use the subject line to abbreviate the entire message. For instance, I will write to business colleagues and say in the subject line, "We need to meet this week." If you can, always use an action verb in the subject line, especially in business where you communicate for action.

2.) I routinely receive e-mails with NO MESSAGE, just attached assignments from students. I ask them to say something, anything, even if it means sharing a little-known fact or interesting quote. If nothing else, they might say, "I have attached my assignment." No one likes wordy e-mails, but no one likes blank e-mails, either.

3.) I routinely receive e-mails disguised as text messages, complete with text acronyms (or perhaps I should say incomplete), spelling errors, and a casual tone not appropriate for business.

So, tell us, what are your e-mail "pet peeves?" What steams your windows? Jump into the fray!

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