February 21, 2016

From McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corporation, the following e-mail usage may be seen:

  • 28% of our workweek is spent reading and answering e-mail.
  • 650 hours per year is involved with reading and writing e-mail.
  • 13 hours per week, on average, is spent with e-mail

There is absolutely no doubt that e-mail communication has changed the manner in which business and personal correspondence is conducted.  In preparation for this post, I counted the e-mail sent and read over a two day period of time.  The results were mind-boggling– two hundred and four (204). I was, and remain, blown away.  I actually had no idea as to the number.  Now, I run an engineering consulting business and write posts such as this in my “spare time” but still, give me a break, two hundred and four.

One of my favorite web sites is  That media outlet provides a great service with several articles or “news you can use” each week.  One that really attracted me was the improper use of e-mail.  Those errors frequently made that produce problems for the reader and the sender.  Let’s take a look at the most egregious, at least in their opinion.

  • Using Improper Tone— Although these are not in order of severity, this one must be one of the most damaging. Who is your audience?  Who are you directing your e-mail to?  I would suspect the tone of your e-mail would be considerably different if it’s your boss as opposed to a peer or friend in the “cube farm”.  Senior management may not have time for the trivia you would use in communicating with a family member or a friend and you certainly would not use inflammatory rhetoric when addressing and informing someone up the line.
  • Hitting the “Reply All” Button—Consider the relevance of the e-mail. Generally, it is necessary to respond to the sender and not everyone on the senders list.  In doing so, you can drastically reduce the number of e-mail received each day.  You really do NOT have to tell the entire world. Now, if you are on a broadcast group and everyone needs to be included, you are perfectly correct in replying to all.
  • Writing Too Much—I plead guilty to this one and really have to watch myself. How much detail do you really need to impart?  Will a few words suffice?  Can a simple one-liner get the communication process taken care of?  Be concise but not wordy.
  • Forgetting Something so Resending Becomes Necessary—We have all done this; forgotten to attach an important document only to have the recipient of the e-mail indicate, with another e-mail, that you forgot to include the attachment. Been there, done that, got the “T” shirt.  I have also been guilty of sending an incorrect document. One I did not mean to send.  This makes it necessary to properly apply a file name that perfectly identifies the document.
  • Providing a Link That Does NOT Work—This is really frustrating if you are the recipient. You try, and try and try but nothing happens. You e-mail the sender back asking for help or another way to access the material.  Very time-consuming and counterproductive.  By the time you get the proper link, you just might be to put-out to give it a try.
  • E-Mailing the Wrong PersonThis one could be a career-ending event. BE CAREFUL.  Make absolutely sure the intended person gets his or her name in the correct block.  This also includes the copy block and the silent copy block.  This is BIG.
  • Too Emotional—When sending e-mail, do NOT wear your emotions on your sleeve—NEVER do this. A phone call or a visit is the way to go here.  Remember, e-mail is ever-lasting.  Long after the “rapture” your e-mail will exist.  Again, be careful.
  • Not Using “Delay Send” – I do not use delay send very much but scheduling the timing for an e-mail sent can be a very good practice when you are faced with a very hectic day. I definitely need, on a personal basis, to consider this one more often.
  • Using Vague Subject Lines—This can also be very frustrating if you are the reader. Be concise. Be distinct. Be exact. Do NOT make the recipient read the entire e-mail before he or she knows, or is required to guess,the subject.  This, in my opinion is certainly rude and time-consuming.
  • Not Reviewing Prior to Sending
    • Spell Check
    • Critique Your Grammar
    • Critique Your Punctuation
    • Do NOT Use Slang
    • Do NOT Use Abbreviations
    • No Bad Language
    • It’s an E-Mail NOT a Tweet
  • Sending Unnecessary E-Mails—If a visit or a phone call will do use them. An e-mail is NEVER a substitute for face-to-face communication. People like that.  It’s much friendlier and allows for questions to be asked and answered.
  • Avoid Sending When You Are Angered, Stressed or Too Tired—Just don’t do this. The importance of the communication will be lost if the message is send during periods of personal difficulty. (NOTE: Of course, this is baring medical or family issues.)  Never send an e-mail at night if it can wait until the next day.  No one likes to hear the “bing—bing” of an e-mail received at two in the morning.  Just don’t do this.
  • Many Companies Have an E-Mail Template—Use it.


I think these are excellent recommendations and ones I personally have violated over the past few years.  I will try harder and certainly hope you will do likewise if necessary.

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