14 Email Rules that Everyone Should Follow

It is 2010, you would think that everyone would have their email etiquette down to a science at this point, but sadly, there are people out there that send emails that annoy, confuse and generally tick us all off. This is a blunt look at email rules that everyone should follow.

I am sure there are other email annoyances that exist and I invite everyone to put your gripes in the comment section so that the uninformed out there may craft emails that are eloquent, to the point and useful rather than obnoxious, rude and moronic.

For those of us that follow the rules, I hope that you enjoy this post, think of all the people that do these things and forward this post to them so that they may learn.

For those of you that don’t have a clue, this should be considered your ticket to the “Clue Train”…..Have your Ticket punched and hop on board because this baby is leaving the station.

These are in no particular order because they all should be followed. No one item is more important than another.

Turn off the Return Receipt/Read Receipt  function:

This is a feature that is useful if you are sending something that is mission critical, not for “hey did you go to the party”. This is one of the most annoying things on the planet and is overly used by sales people. They are usually the same sales people that call you 15 minutes after they send the email to make sure that you did indeed get the email.

I know a person that has this feature to be set on every email she sends and she sends me about 20 emails a day….. do the math. I always hit the “don’t tell this moron that I read their email” button.

Turn it off, turn it off now.

Get a real email address:

It is 2010 for God’s sake, use a real email address for your business. Check out my post on Simple Web Tools for Associations and Event Planners for my recommendation on where to get a real email address before you loose any more business. The sad fact is that if you are in business and using a @Yahoo.com or @Gmail.com email address, no one on the planet is taking you seriously. You look unprofessional, it is time to step up.

Add your signature to replies and forwards:

This one should be self-evident. It is imperative that your signature be in every email that you send, not just an original email.

Here is a scenario, I am on my phone checking email, you reply to my email and say “call me”. That’s great Bob, I would love to call you but I am standing on the corner of 5th and Main. If you are not programmed in my phone, how in the hell am I going to call you without replying to your email and saying “email me your number goofy”.  We have just missed connecting, you may have missed a sale, a print deadline or worse.

Make subject lines clear and concise:

When an email is about the menu for an  event on March 4th, the subject line should read “Menu – March 4 Event”. Also worth noting, don’t forget to change the subject line if the topic of the email thread has changed. This makes searching for emails easier.

I must admit that I am bad when it comes to this, I am guilty of those subject lines that say  “Hey”. Bad Keith, Bad. I should follow my own advice.

Carbon Copy and Reply to All:

Many WTF moments are caused by those individuals that insist on hitting  Reply to All or Carbon Copying every bleeping person on the planet. I am on the board of an association chapter and we have one member that copies every flipping person on every little trivial matter. If it does not concern me, please leave me off the list. Every time I see her emails come in I cringe and sigh because I know that this is going to be a monumental waste of time.

For us email pros, these poor people are just doing it because they think that they are being helpful or covering their own asses. What they don’t realize is that they are actually wasting the time of untold numbers by forcing us to open and read emails that have absolutely nothing to do with us. We get 300 emails a day, please, please lay off.

Learn your Alphabet:

NRN, RN, and other acronyms can be very useful. This is one that not many people know about so no one gets crap for this one. NRN means “No Reply Necessary” and RN means “Reply necessary”. Use them liberally in the subject lines of emails.

How great would it be to get an email with NRN in the subject line? Then you know that you just have to read it and move on.

Out of Office Replies:

Thank you. Thank you for letting me know that you are out of the office for the next 7 days. I will not expect a reply until you are back.

Now stop telling me over and over and over and over and over. Most email providers allow you to limit OOO (out of office) replies to once per email address. Use it so that I know that you are out once, not 47 mind numbing times.

Giant email attachments:

But Keith, What is wrong with giant email attachments? I really want to send you that 10 MB email with pictures of cats making funny faces! Didn’t you enjoy my last email with the 97 pictures of people that look like their dogs? They are so cool and funny, I bet they make your day and I have only sent you 50 of these emails this week. That is not too many.

No Bob, I hated the emails and hate you. Here is why. If I am in a hotel, coffee shop or airport with slow as shit wifi you have just clogged the pipe and are preventing me from getting other emails for 10 minutes. If I am in a hurry and bail on downloading the emails, you have just caused me to miss something that is important. If your attachment is over 2MB, use YouSendIt. This free service allows you to send me large attachments that I can download when I want or when I am on a better connection. You can also use it to send large attachments to a group.

For future reference, if you continue to send those giant emails you are on notice. While waiting for your email to download, I am plotting ways that I can get back at you, some of them are not pleasant… do you really want me to do that?

Email Backgrounds:

Are you one of those people that love to have the wonderful, purple background in your email? What about that totally rad checkerboard background or that really swell stripy one? Let me tell you Mr or Mrs email champ, they look really, really, pretty. Pretty freaking stupid. What level of idiot do you aspire too? Are you looking to make it into the idiot hall of fame or is an honorable mention good enough?

Frilly backgrounds of checkerboards, colors or stripes are for 10 year-olds…….. are you 10? No? Then ditch the background and join the adult community before I put you in a time out.

JPEG Images for Signatures:

Are you a sales person that has a great “logo signature” that uses an image instead of text?  Let me clue you in here Einstein – image signatures cannot be copied and pasted so chances are, you are not going in my address book.In fact, some people do not allow images in their emails so they have no idea that you have that little custom signature.

Check Your Emails:

  • Sending out multiple marketing emails using Outlook rather than an email blast service like Constant Contact to save money? FREE
  • Copying and pasting from one email to the next to save time: FREE
  • Personalizing each email to show you care: FREE
  • Forgetting to change the recipient’s name from Becky to Keith: PRICELESS

Marking Emails as Urgent:

Sorry Charlie, your networking event,  sales brochure or trade show is not URGENT so don’t mark it as URGENT. Are you that narcissistic that you think that they qualify as URGENT, if you are I probably want to avoid you anyway so I might as well delete the email.

Urgent is for when the event registration system has crashed, my grandpa has been sent to the hospital or someone will not be able to pick up my kid from school at 2:30. Use some common sense you idiot.

Copy and Paste:

If you copy and paste from one application to another, use the format painter to make sure all of the fonts match would you please, if you don’t, it is a clear sign that you are lazy.

Joke Emails:

Are you one of those awesome people that forward all of the awesomely funny jokes that made you laugh so hard you peed your pants at your desk? Do you want to spread the love right now and just make the day of all 908 people in your contact list? Well, the joke is on you. That was fun to do when email was new and everyone had an email address that ended in @aol.com. We have all gotten over this little stage in our lives. In fact, we got over it about the time that Windows 98 debuted.

We will forgive Aunt Becky, she is 93 years old and does not grasp that I am at work. Besides, she is too cute to be mad at. For the rest of you, we don’t wany your jokes. When we want to laugh, we turn on Comedy Central or go to the movies. I am at work, I have work to do, leave me alone.

There you go! Live and learn, take it or leave it…..




Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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