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Five Nasty Email Habits Guaranteed to Make Everyone Hate You

As an email marketing professional, I have a long list of pet peeves when it comes to email. But that’s just me.

There are, however, email habits that are universally hateful, especially now that spam and over-cluttered inboxes have become a real source of stress for so many people. Here are five habits guaranteed to make you the bane of everybody’s inbox:

1. Forward chain letters.
In my experience, this horrible chain-email-forwarding habit is most common among older people who are new to email and the web in general—like my mom and ALL her friends. 

The Mailchimp blog has an incredibly funny Email Aptitude Test for Noobs, which I really wish everyone would read before embarking on the email voyage. Number three on their list offers some excellent advice:

Speaking of close friends and family, they will be delighted that you have an email address. But don’t send them any funny jokes, or funny web pages, or scary rumors, or chain letters. Trust us, we’ve already seen it. Like two  years ago. Don’t make things awkward for us. Wait at least two years to “catch up” to the rest of us, then you can start sending out links you stumble upon.

How to break the habit: If the email is funny, refer to the “Should You Forward That Email” Flowchart. If it’s not, don’t even bother. Just delete the damn thing. No one wants it. Really.

2. Send huge attachments.
Not everyone is blessed with a super-speedy internet connection.

When you send huge email attachments to people cursed with slow ISP’s, you run the risk of clogging up ALL their email, and are directly to blame for all the teeth-gnashing, desk-banging and possible computer-hurling that are bound to ensue.

How to break the habit: Repeat this 100 times: “Large attachments aren’t meant to be sent by email.” Then look for a decent file-sharing service. I use Yousendit, but you can find more options.

3. Send attachments with viruses.
As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t have the sense to use a frequently updated anti-virus program, then you don’t deserve to be using a computer at all—for email or anything else.

Having said that, I do understand that until I’ve actually achieved my long-term goal of becoming the Empress of Planet Earth, I simply can’t enforce rules like that.

So there are people whose computers can get infected (and totally messed up!) by viruses and worms sent by email—and these are the very same people who will want to have you drawn and quartered if the evil-doing email came from you.

How to break the habit: Get an anti-virus program already! WTH? A lot of programs are free, so you really have no excuse. Check out AVG or Panda ActiveScan or just Google “free antivirus” and you’ll see how many choices you have. 

4. Send bulk email with everyone’s email address in the “TO:” and “CC:” fields.
Bulk email in general is just nasty, period. If it’s unsolicited and trying to sell something, it’s spam. Even when it’s not spam, it’s still often pretty annoying. 

If you’d like to make it even more unbearable than it already is, go ahead and add a cherry to your spam sundae by putting everyone’s email address in the “TO:” and “CC:” fields—in full view of other potential spammers who can swipe your entire contact list for future use.

When your friends, family and business associates start getting all sorts of smarmy sales messages, they’ll know exactly who to thank. 

How to break the habit: If you send bulk email for business purposes, read the CAN-SPAM Act and the story about the guy who was fined $11 Billion for spamming

If you’re just that irritating type of person who likes to send email to everyone in your address book, familiarize yourself with the “BCC:” button and look up the word “relevance” in the dictionary.

5. Get bulk email with everyone’s email address in the “TO:” & “CC:” fields—and Reply to All.
Worse yet, say something short and stupid that no one really needed to see, like “Haha!” or “Noted.” That’ll really endear you to everyone. (NOT!)

Honestly, this whole Reply-All mentality I see so often in both casual and corporate communications is completely baffling to me. While there are occasions when it’s practical to send an email to a large group (for example, in the case of office announcements), it’s really not necessary to reply to everyone on the list.

How to break the habit: Start a NEW habit of just replying to the sender and the few other people your reply might be relevant to. Do everyone else a favor and delete their email addresses from the recipient list.

And that’s it! You’ve been warned.

There are other nasty email habits of course, but they probably don’t inspire as much ire as those listed above. If you’d like to play safe, bookmark Seth Godin’s Email Checklist. Consult the checklist before you hit “Send” and you should do just fine.