A few years ago, as a freelancer, I sent a story pitch to an old high school friend who ran a magazine in California. A few hours later, he sent an e-mail to the editors, with a kind recommendation. “She’s a very smart girl and apparently has some writing chops,” he wrote.
I quickly responded to the letter, thanking him and added a bit more to the pitch for the editors.
A few minutes later a reply came: “Apparently not that smart: you were blind copied on the e-mail. I take it back.” Suffice it to say, the story never went through.
The curse of the BCC function. To me, there is only one time when it is acceptable to use: when sending out e-mails to a large group of people and you don’t want others to see the e-mail addresses. No one can reply in those instances.
If you want to show someone the e-mail you sent to a group, you can easily forward it to that person. Sure, it may take a second more time than otherwise, but it saves so much shame-inducing possibilities.
By far and away, the BCC is the bane of my e-mail existence.
But it’s not the only e-mail pet peeve out there. Here’s a list of some of the more obnoxious e-mail practices that I’ve rounded up with the help of colleagues.
Let me know what your least favorite e-mail practices are too and we’ll create a comprehensive list of #epeeves.
1. The legal disclaimer “This e-mail, including its contents and attachments, if any, are confidential. If you are not the named recipient please notify the sender and immediately delete it. Blah blah. Blah blah.”
The three paragraph disclaimer I routinely get from my friends at big banks and other sundry Important Places To Work is probably not legally binding. So. What. Is. The. Point.
2. Reply All The new mother excitedly cc’s everyone in her address book to brag about her son’s first steps. It’s a sweet distraction from a busy work day. At first. Then come the cooing and ooing replies. From total strangers. Pinging into your inbox at a nauseating speed.
3. Spam filters I’ve only been seeing a few of these lately, but they’re the latest in security spam filters. Send someone an e-mail and a response comes immediately: “Please confirm you are human by clicking on this link. If you are, your e-mail will go on my safe list. You will only have to do this one time.”
So basically, you’re passing the onus onto me to make sure your spam filter is doing the work? Thanks.
4. An old world expectation of courtesy on e-mails A friend complains I do not say please enough in e-mails. Others suggest that leaving out a “Dear,” in a Dear John e-mail is just downright rude. I am of the mindset that you can have two forms of e-mail: letters that adopt all the old style of courtesy. These can be used to write to your grandmother, your old friend, or a future employer. All other e-mails are quick notes dashed off to get work done effectively. If I’m trying to convey some information, I don’t need to dress it up in grandiose language.
6. Out-of-office responses This may put me in the minority here, but I see out of office responses as a symptom of our e-mail’s ball-and-chain control of our lives. If I send you an e-mail and I don’t hear back from you for a week, well, I can live with it. There was a shift in our collective thinking that e-mails automatically reach a person and that person should respond immediately. We need to break out of that trapped mentality.
Here are some of your responses from Twitter:
What are your most-hated e-mail practices? Sending an Epistle. If its THAT long, Call me. Bullets only. & DONT leave blank subjects #epeeves
#epeeves missing or ambiguous subject line so have to guess what for
Ridiculously long email signatures. #epeeves
And an emailed dispute with my original list from a reader: “Have to disagree with you on the “out-of-office.” Working across as many as 6-8 time zones some days and trying to synchronize schedules (and not the most gifted conversationalist either), I use e-mail for much of my job. If I get an out of office response, it's then "Ok, that can wait," or go to plan B if what I am looking for or providing is time sensitive. To me, nothing worse than sending e-mail into the ether and not getting the courtesy of some type of reponse, even if it is “no,” “go away,” etc., but maybe that's just me.”
I still stand by my loathing of the things. But we’re an equal opportunity bashing blog here. So to each their own, my friend.