Email Excellence: Email writing course for business professionals Call us at 203.748.9078

Who We Are|News|Contact Us

Email Writing

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Posted Feb 8, 2013, by Roy Speed

Blunders in email
Here I'll review a catalog of blunders in email that may embarrass you and undermine your professional image. Some are more obvious than others, but I'm sure you can relate to most everything on this list; it should certainly peak your interest.

Or is it "peek your interest"?

It's neither. It's "pique your interest" (from the French piquer, meaning "to prick"). Using peak or peek in this expression is literally nonsense. It suggests that you don't know what you're saying and, worse, don't much care.

That's the trouble with writing: it's infinitely more exacting than speech. Think about it -- In speech, the pique-your-interest error simply does not exist. Misspelling does not exist.

And that's not all:

  • In speech, there are no apostrophes, so you can't mix up it's and its, or you're and your. Nor can you blunder into something like We visited three country's.
  • In speech, there are no headaches with capitalization: company is identical to Company, manager to Manager, department to Department.
  • There are no commas in speech, only pauses, and therefore no comma errors.

The point is that in writing, there are thousands of ways to go wrong. And with email now so dominant in business communication, our writing is on permanent display.

Carelessness
Many errors in email have nothing to do with ignorance of grammar or usage; they represent sheer carelessness, which may be even more damaging than ignorance.

Want your boss to view you as someone who's conscientious, with high standards for everything you touch? Fine. But imagine that in an email to your boss, you write --

What is the client has no activity and
the term date doesn't advances as expected?

What you meant to write:

What if the client has no activity and
the term date doesn't advance as expected?

In email, such errors make it pretty difficult for the boss to see you as "conscientious," with "high standards for everything you touch." Worse, the boss may begin to wonder whether you can even be trusted with writing to customers or clients...

Another common self-inflicted wound is one mentioned above: messing up it's versus its, or you're versus your -- an error to which I myself am prone. Like me, when put to the test, you probably know the core distinctions, that it's is two words, always means it is. All it takes to correct such slips before hitting SEND is a little effort: you stop the world for a moment and look -- really look -- at what you've written. So when we consistently write things like Its Harriet's responsibility to review every order, or Your not going to like this... -- what we reveal about ourselves is that we don't care.

But anyone in business should care, must care. It's not just your personal image that's on the line; in the eyes of many readers, you're your company.

Blunders in email
Genuine ignorance

Here I'll address an entirely different kind of error -- a type that's not lethal, but readers who spot such an error in your writing immediately assume you're less well educated than they are.

Here's a brief catalog of such errors:

  • Misuse of reticent. Example: The client was reticent to sign the contract. Should be reluctant. "Reticence" is one specific type of reluctance: the reluctance to speak. So a person who is shy may be reticent, but you can't be reticent to do something.
  • Misuse of effect. Here's an example of what I mean: This price increase is unlikely to effect sales. Should be affect. When you're looking for the verb that means influence or alter or have an effect on, the verb you're looking for is "affect." (When used as a verb, effect means implement or produce: Administering the correct dosage will effect a complete cure.) These days, many of us try to dodge this affect/effect confusion by using "impact" as a verb: This price increase is unlikely to impact sales. -- Not my cup of tea, but then I'm pretty oldschool about such matters.
  • Misuse of infer. An example of what I mean: In her email to the VP, the client inferred that our process is slow. Should be implied (meaning said in an indirect manner; suggested). Infer has a specific meaning, and it's not just a sophisticated way of saying imply: it means to interpret or draw a conclusion from something someone else has said or written. Example: I think we can safely infer that the client is unhappy. Rule of thumb: If you're tempted to use infer, try substituting conclude; if the substitution doesn't work, you probably mean imply.
  • Misuse of principle. Example: Burnout was the principle reason for Kevin's departure. Should be principal, which is the adjective meaning the primary or chief aspect of something. Principle is always a noun meaning a rule or guideline, so you can never use principle to describe something.
  • Would of. This one's truly mortifying, and the same error occurs in could of and should of. What's meant of course is would have, could have, and should have. This error comes from writing the way we speak (would've).
Remember: Writing is a different version of English, one that's infinitely more exacting than speech. And email = writing.

COMMENTS

Superb post! Thanks for sharing all of the information. It is true that sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot. Check out our website here regarding Pest control Philadelphia

- Posted on Mar 28, 2020 by loganjensen

Great information thanks for sharing the content. We provide pest control for a small number of cities and could not agree more. Pest control Raleigh. Raleigh pest control
- Posted on Mar 28, 2020 by loganjensen

I am a web developer and software engineer currently living in the United States. My interests range from technology to entrepreneurship. I am also interested in web development, programming, and writing. office.com/setup office.com/setup office.com/setup office.com/setup
- Posted on Mar 28, 2020 by robertmorris

Existing without the answers to the difficulties youve sorted out through this guide is a critical case, as well as the kind which could have badly affected my entire career if I had not discovered your website Kevin Costner John Dutton Western Jacket
- Posted on Mar 28, 2020 by Anderson

roof replacement roofing companies near me Handyman Minneapolis
- Posted on Mar 28, 2020 by raleighroofingnet

This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post! help with college essay
- Posted on Mar 27, 2020 by muneebkhatri

Microsoft Outlook is a personal information manager from Microsoft, available as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. Although often used mainly as an email application, it also includes a calendar, task manager, contact manager, note taking, journal, and web browsing. Read More: Hotmail not working
- Posted on Mar 27, 2020 by nycella

Delete browser history from the Internet. Also, delete specific sites or pages from your browsing history. Depending on the version of your browser, you can easily delete its browsing history. Are you looking forward to getting assistance in configuring email addresses, installing modems, setting up internet connections, setting up broadband connections, etc.? If yes, contact the certified technicians and choose browser support services. At a very affordable fee, they will offer you standard services.
- Posted on Mar 27, 2020 by camahill

Superb! Read your post its great thanks. Waiting for more new about this and also write on get angel investors for startup.You have touched some pleasant things here. Any way keep up writing.
- Posted on Mar 27, 2020 by learningsupports

All your best painting contractor in Fort Wayne, IN! Fort Wayne Painters
- Posted on Mar 27, 2020 by Mark

Completely agree with this whole article, I've used this resource when I set up www.sanantoniopoolcleaner.com thanks so much for the information
- Posted on Mar 27, 2020 by pool cleaner

Log in to post a comment
Your name:
Email address:* * will not be displayed.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Our Email Writing blog is about getting your head screwed on straight about what it means to write effectively. It's also about getting more mileage out of email — using our time efficiently.

For issues related to email performance across organizations and business units, please see our blog on Email Leadership.

 

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOURoy Speed

I'm eager to hear about your challenges with workplace email. I won't reveal anything shared in confidence without your express permission. Email me about any of the following topics:

  • the stakes — how costly email can be, what the stakes are in your job or in your company;
  • best practices — smart approaches, cool techniques;
  • academy-award-winning emails — messages you think embody effective communication (and it's okay if they were written by someone else);
  • email annoyances — things people do in email that bug you, and why.

BLOG ENTRIES - EMAIL WRITING

Useful links

For individuals:

For training managers:

Copyright © 2019 Salient, Inc. All rights reserved.