13 Email Pet Peeves That Drive People Crazy

Last week I facilitated two days of customer service training for a manufacturing firm. One of the topics we covered was email pet peeves. Here are just a few that drive people crazy. Any of these strike a chord with you?

email tips and pet peeves


  1. Email to everyone. These are emails sent to large groups of people. Maybe the sender doesn’t want to leave anyone out for fear of hurting their feelings. But “less is more.” Only send emails to 2-3 people at a time. Otherwise it can create confusion and clutter in-boxes.
  2. Conversation emails. Numerous back and forth messages. It’s better to talk to the person directly if it’s going to take more than two messages to handle the issue.
  3. Bad news. People who criticize others by email and then (to add insult to injury), copy a number of other people on it, including the person’s boss or client. Don’t do this.
  4. Confusing email. No clear call to action or direction or addresses numerous issues. You’re left not knowing who’s supposed to do what, with whom and when.
  5. Emails to impress. People who use “high falutin” language or million dollar words in order to impress. It can leave people feeling confused or intimidated. Keep it simple.
  6. Off-topic emails. When someone on a group email replies to all and switches the topic to something totally irrelevant to the original email. This is similar to using a group conversation on social media as a platform to air grievances, promote their business, sell a product, etc.
  7. Urgent email. Sent by people who think you check your email constantly and wonder why you didn’t “hop to it” in response to a message they sent two minutes ago. If something is that critical, call, text or (when possible) get up and talk to them face-to-face.
  8. High priority. People who put each email they send into a “high” priority category.
  9. Cryptic subject line. A message where the subject line is confusion or has nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the email.
  10. Partial subject line. Messages where the subject line is a partial sentence ending with “…” and the rest of the statement continues in the body of the email. Don’t be overly creative. Put in a normal subject line and make the message in the body a complete sentence.
  11. Scavenger hunt email. These are message where the recipient must hunt for the main point hidden somewhere in a lengthy email. As they say in the newspaper business, “Don’t bury the lede.” State your main point right up front. You can say, “The reason I’m writing you is to: _____.”
  12. Acknowledge receipt. People who habitually use the function where the recipient must acknowledge they received/read the message. Some people get so frustrated with those who abuse this function that they answer “no” to be rebellious.
  13. Reply all. Responding to everyone on the list when it’s not necessary. The worst offender? People who reply to say “thank you” and send it to everyone. One department actually sent out a company wide notice saying they do not need to be thanked and preferred people didn’t do it because it generated so many extra emails.


  1. It’s never going to stop unless you decide to do something about it. Contact the offending person directly (NOT by email) and offer a better approach. They may not know what they’re doing. (Let’s try that again.) They may not know what they’ve been doing that’s causing a problem.
  2. Bring it up in a team meeting and agree to some norms. Maybe you all agree that “thank you” messages are not necessary or you’ll avoid “reply all” like the plague unless it’s crucial everyone is in the loop.
  3. Hold a class that only covers what we can do to reduce the volume of email (not simply move the deck chairs around on the Titanic.)
  4. Ask to be removed from irrelevant group distribution lists.

Got a favorite pet peeve I didn’t mention here? Or maybe a tip or two? Please share in the comments below or heck, send me an email!


  1. Judy, you are too funny! My daughter tells me “nobody” does email anymore!