Email Workshop: 10 Things To Avoid When Writing Emails

Following on the Email Do lists I posted recently, here are 10 missteps to avoid if you want to feel confident that your emails are doing their job.

Some of these will ring bells. Others may offer new insight. Either way, if you want to improve your service emails (and strengthen service results), give these—and the previously posted email writing Tip Lists 1 and 2—some thought.


Email Writing No-Nos!

  1. Resist stock language that repeats in every one of your service emails.

    The thinking behind this is smart—recruit space in every email for extra branding efforts. Or for a call to action. Unfortunately, this can backfire and get on your customers’ and prospects’ nerves—especially if your response hasn’t solved their problem (and, just maybe, has made it worse).

    If someone doesn’t get the specific help s/he needs—maybe after a prolonged back-and-forth attempt—imagine how a sign-off like “If you have other questions, be sure to let me know! Have a super-duper day!” could aggravate things.

  3. Avoid scripted language.

    This is a variation on the stock language warning in #1. Resist it as well. Scripted language is impersonal by nature.

    People get it pretty quickly—scripted language can be a sign that someone isn’t listening to THEM. Yes, I know this isn’t always the case. You may use scripted text simply as a way to speed up your response because time is limited. (To which I can only write “Hmmm”.) But it often IS the case. Most of us have learned through experience that we shouldn’t trust that the writer really understands our situation and will solve our problem. And reading the same script repeatedly with every support request is just irritating.

  5. If a customer’s email angers or confuses you, do not respond immediately.

    Hands up and step away from the keyboard! Take some time to calm down. Re-read the email later to be sure you’ve read it correctly and gotten the intended meaning. Then compose your calm, kind, polite and sincerely helpful response. Because that’s what you are—calm, kind, polite and sincerely helpful!

  7. Don’t stick your important message in the subject line.

    It’s too easy to overlook or misunderstand. Those who recognize your name in the summary message list may skip the subject line. Haven’t there been emails you’ve received with nothing in the message body except a signature? Finally you think–check the subject line!

    If you must put your main point in the subject line, expect that your customer or prospect may miss it. (So repeat it in the body of your email.)

  9. Don’t reply with (or forward) long message threads unless it’s important, Part 1.

    Reading through a long, involved thread can be a pain. On the one hand, things can get missed unless you point them out via your latest (top-most) message. On the other, you may be forcing someone to read through a lot of text that doesn’t apply to him or her.

  11. Don’t reply with (or forward) long message threads unless it’s important, Part 2.

    People forget what’s in a long thread that’s moved among various people over time. You don’t want to offend or surprise anyone (either your main recipient or someone in your CC: field) with something written “messages ago” that wasn’t specifically addressed to or intended for them.

  13. Avoid attaching overly large files or files that aren’t necessary.

    It takes time and bandwidth to download/receive attachments. Plus, I’ve often asked myself “why the heck am I receiving this?” when someone slaps an attachment on their email without really thinking whether it’s to my benefit to read. (And won’t waste my time . . . .)

  15. Don’t create a new message with an old email without updating the subject line.

    This is when, to save time or effort (or so it seems), you open an old email from someone and just click the Reply button to create a brand new message to that person. Be careful. That old subject line could mislead and confuse. It could even send a shock through someone if they don’t realize the subject line is out of date. Example: It’s 11 am and you get a message with subject line “Meeting with new client now at 10 am!”

    Why not create a fresh, new message with an empty subject line that you can fill with timely, relevant words. The small added effort is worth it (and shows that you care enough to make it).

  17. Don’t shortcut your message.

    Especially if you’re supposed to be responding to specific points your customer or prospect made. Or if you’re instructing.

    Use words that tie directly to the request. People often need context to make sense of someone else’s messaging. Especially if they’re not familiar with or have forgotten about the topic being discussed.

  19. Don’t jump directly into “solution mode” without expressing empathy.

    Be sure to acknowledge the nature and tone of your customer’s or prospect’s request for help or complaint.


That’s it for now. If you understand email’s powerful ability email to strengthen or weaken your customer and prospect relationships (and revenue results), then be sure to share these and your own ideas for better email writing with your work colleagues. (For some recommended email writing steps, check out To Do List 1 and To Do List 2).


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