The Anchor: 5 ways to piss people off via email

11 Dec,2012

By Vidya Heble


Email is a great way to reach out and stay in touch… but it is also only too easy to make the mistakes that make people mad. Here’s a shortlist of what to avoid


#1 Signature

Coloured, no. Bold, no. Large font size, no. Lots of words, no. JPEGs or GIFs that some mail programs turn into attachments, certainly no. If your company has foisted a signature upon you, nothing you can do about it. But if you choose to do it, if you must have a signature, keep it simple, informative, and to the point.


#2 Font

It sounds unbelievable that people still use Comic Sans. In purple. And bold, and a large font size. Chances are, the formatting was done by someone about three generations up the chain who had discovered Microsoft Word and the delights of a colour monitor. And never got over it. But hey, YOU can click “send as plain text” or something like that, or just select all (ahem, Ctrl +A) and make the font something sober like Calibri or even, heck, Times. In a normal sort of size, and black. If the email is worth sending on, it’s worth doing this much.


#3 Subject line

If you yell “Must Read!” – and, worse, do it in all caps – the recipient may do just the opposite. Because chances are you are forwarding someone seven generations up the chain who first screamed “Must Read!”, and that forward has probably already reached your audience through other sources way before your breathless email. And it has probably reached them twice, at least. Seeing “Must Read!” may just make them go Aargh! So, if you are forwarding something that you liked and you would like your friends to read (assuming you still want them to be your friends after this), take the trouble of saying something about the content of the email in the subject line.


#4 Tone

This is a true story. No, really, it happened to me. A PR person visited our editorial offices and met each person who she thought was important, in turn. We found it a bit amusing but we went along as we believe in encouraging young things. About two emails later, in the next couple of days, she says this to me suddenly, in an email with no other salutation or ending: “Listen, why don’t you interview XYZ?” I may have imagined the punctuation in that sentence but those were the words (XYZ was a client’s CEO). That was supposed to be her interview pitch. Even I, with the kindest of hearts, could not look kindly upon this. I was only one among many other journos. Not her bosom buddy. Even if I had been, an interview pitch is an interview pitch and this is not how it is written. So, make sure your tone is appropriate to your email’s contents.


#5 And, of course, spam

A baby was miraculously saved from a rare disease. A little girl is dying and needs your email to survive. You can win untold riches from Microsoft with just one little forward. Changing room mirrors have cameras behind them and there are gangsters in the parking lot and the world is going to end because NASA said so. Drop it, get a grip, and stop spamming people with lies, damned lies and bullshit.


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