With Warmest Regards: The 12 Most Annoying Email Habits You See Every Day

We're all locked up in our inboxes. But some habits make you a worse cellmate than others.

Email is a universal plague, though some people make it feel more of a plague than others. And since we've already seen that phrases such as "trusting you are well" and
"picking your brain" are guarantees for annoying your recipient, we at Fast Company figured we'd, ahem, "reach out" to our readers to find the other habits that cause email aggravation.

So please find a dozen of our community's most-loathed annoyances below, as culled from a few epic Facebook and Twitter conversations. If you have even more misgivings about how people misuse their missives, let us know in the comments.

1) Your email doesn't help people contact you.

The moment you send an email, it becomes someone else's reference point. This is why you should take care when you write searchable subject lines. It's also why you need to have your info obvious.

As Iza Zbonikowska told us:

No phone number in email signature. Drives me nuts in business correspondence.

2) Your sign-off is over-doing it.

Kate McElroy thinks your sign-off is trying too hard:

3) You is not doing it good, the grammar.

And so you get sloppy. With, as Taylor B O'Neal tells us on Facebook, misused ellipses. . . .

4) Your email thread is getting ridiculously long.

By virtue of the fact that you keep replying to the same emails, breeding threads that have been unspooling since 2001.

5) You’re doing your reasoning within the email, rather than before you write it.

Think through your thoughts. Then boil them down to five sentences.

6) Your sign-off is a little too tender.

Jakie Canavati wants you to keep it real, rather than romantic, when you sign off:

7) You spend way too much time disclaiming.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum is loading every message with legalistic baggage. Twitterer @fann_c puts the problem of the over-disclaimer perfectly:

8) You keep a quote in your signature.

The thing about email is that you're sending 70 or so of these things a day. So attaching various fun aspects of your identity—like, say, your taste in aphorisms—can blur the line between grateful and grating: "Thanks for the wisdom, person I email several times a day."

9) You're too cute with the way you sign your name.

Please leave out anything emoticon-like. as Matt Warrilow says:

10) You're lazy with your conversation editing.

Be mindful of your forwarding: If you're sending a decade-long transcript of conversation to someone who wasn't involved in said conversation, you need to trim it down to—or at least highlight—the relevant text.

11) You use obscure non-emoticons.

As Wayne Smallman told us on Facebook, a half-assed emoticon is insufferable. His biggest email pet peeve:"People finishing sentences with J, which I'm told is supposed to be a smilie symbol, but not."

12) You don't know when to reply all.

But the biggest source of inbox sorrow is the over-used "reply all," especially if you're just writing "thanks" or "got it." (This is such a big problem that someone is even making a Zach Galifianakis movie about it.)

Remember: Not everyone needs to be emailed about everything you do. That's what Twitter is for.

[Image: Flickr user Andy Rennie]

Add New Comment


  • Lisa Schichtel

    Regarding #11 in which the sentence is followed up with a "J", I wondered the same thing and had later learned that the "J" was actually a smiley face sent from a cell phone generated email, that when opened on the PC, is transmitted as a "J" instead. I continue to see that happening and not sure if it is isolated to the iPhone products or not but this particular scenario involved an email sent from an iPhone.

  • Trevor Bisset

    The strange J's are a perverse byproduct of Outlook and autocorrect, and they occur when messages are sent from that archaic wasteland out to normal cloud-based email clients here in the present.

    Baby boomers don't mean to write insane J's all over email correspondence, they are just trying to be e-Friendly in their own adorable way. Don't berate them, educate them: http://lifehacker.com/5574668/get-rid-of-the-smiley-j-problem-in-microsoft-office-applications

  • VaultofHorror

    First-world problems. Such cynicism. Also, there's no problem with ending a correspondence with "Sincerely", for crying out loud. That's been pretty much an across-the-board standard since the dawn of written correspondence.

  • Honestly. Does reading an extra word or two in an ending of an email physically pain someone? The degrading of communication starts with the loss of common manners and is only made worse by grammar and usage errors. When used properly its a nice addition. People use it for the same reason others don't, its how they were raised. As ever, I continue to be

    Sincerely yours

  • Dabba McDoo

    OMG. If the above is all it takes to ruin our day, we all may have much bigger issues.

  • Irene Velveteen

    Number 5.
    My God, 5.
    "You’re doing your reasoning within the email, rather than before you write it."
    Cannot tell you how frustrating it is to receive a client email the size of War & Peace only to reveal at the end they have not made a decision.
    This issue goes beyond email etiquette.

  • User2434

    After reading this and most of the comments, I feel strongly that if any of these items really, really bothers you--particularly choice in sign off language, ellipses, exclamation points, or emoticons--just pick up the g-d phone and talk to somebody in person.

  • kelly

    What about when people reply with just a "thanks!" or better yet, reply ALL with "thanks!". Really? You just wasted an email, and wasted my time.

  • Haywood Jay Bloemei

    I could give a ratz azz, I don't read my freakin email anyway so screw it. Great to be the CEO!

  • Jerry Stevens

    "@drake_baer @FastCoLead i hate the "Sincerely," like if it was a love letter! com' on dude you're requesting for statistic data!"

    I don't use "sincerely" in email because it seems too formal but if you think "sincerely" is romantic, I feel sorry for your partner if you have one. It's actually a traditional business letter closing.

  • Chris

    How about the business email with NO signature. Get in Tune, keep simple, but it is a must to have a signature. --great article.

  • Badbartimus

    I HATE "Thanks." emails. Even more-so when they're cc'd to a group, like the author mentions in #12. I will ask you to respond, if necessary (please confirm you rec'd this, etc.), otherwise, save the bandwidth and my time. I'll just assume you're grateful that I fulfilled your request, answered your question, whatever.

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    I would've never believed it until I saw it, but "Reply All" problems cut both ways. Last summer, I was heading a team of 5 people and would send out a note about an issue with an implied "let's discuss this". A dozen notes, four other people, not once did they use "Reply All" -- even after I'd send a follow-up saying, "Well, John said .."

  • Chuck Reynolds

    - disclaimers or legal paragraphs
    - lines that say "don't print this please"
    - .tiff images or any images of a signature or anything

  • Ogre

    I have to disagree with 1. I won't put my phone number in emails if I don't want the recipient calling me. They already have my email address, they can contact me that way.

    In regards to 5, sometimes I feel like I do need to do my reasoning in the email, because otherwise, the recipient will just ask me for my reasoning as to why I think the solution is best.

    10. Yes. I hate this one. I have managers who will send me a single email that says "Please look into this" or "Why is this happening?". It always takes me a moment before it clicks that I need to scroll down and look at what someone else once said to them.

  • cosmati

    People who don't reply to emails. I notice this particularly among younger people. It seems they are so used to Twitter and FB they don't realize how unnerving it is. I can never tell if its passive-aggressive or just poor email manners.