Five bad email habits and how to break them

Woman looking at laptop with surprised expression on face
To avoid unpleasant surprises, break your “Reply all” habit

We all spend a lot of time writing and replying to emails. So it’s not surprising that we sometimes cut corners or become careless. But a lot of the times we shoot ourselves in the foot with bad habits that  ignore security concerns, annoy our correspondents or result in unprofessional emails. Here are five of the most common email faux pas. If you are not prone to any of them, congratulations! But if you recognize yourself anywhere here, we have a few pointers to help you become a better (email) citizen.

1. Weak password

It has often been reported that the most popular password for email accounts is “123456,” closely followed by “password.” Weak, easy-to-guess passwords like this leave all the personal and sensitive information in your mailbox virtually unprotected.  Start using a strong password that contains at least 15 characters, including capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. If you can’t come up with one, you can always use a password generator.

2. Hitting “Reply all”

We have all heard the horror stories about snarky emails meant for just one trusted coworker going out to the entire company – including the big boss. But even when the cringe factor isn’t so high, no one should be replying “Ok, see you there” to all 150 people who received the same invite. Be sure to hit the right “Reply” button and you’ll prevent a lot of annoyance, if not embarrassment.

3. Resurrecting dead email threads

It may seem easier to dig up an old email from the bottom of your inbox, hit “Reply” and add new information to the thread than to start a new one. However, a subject line like “Re: Fw: Fw: Re: Re: Re: Quick question” doesn’t just indicate an email thread that has spun out of control, but also  makes it hard for the recipients to know what you actually want and judge how important your message is. Adding a new, unrelated message to an old email chain simply causes confusion – and might mean people don’t bother reading the email because they think it’s already been taken care of. Create a new email with a relevant subject line as soon as the content of the email chain changes.

4. Not proofreading

Always read what you’ve written a second time before you hit “Send.” Forgetting to proofread can mean you send a client an email full of unproffesional spelling msiteaks or even incorrect information. Whether you are writing to your boss or your grandmother, you want your emails to make sense. And when the topic is contentious or emotional, it’s even best to wait an hour or two before giving your message a second read-through and sending it – this helps make sure you’ve struck the right tone and don’t write anything you’ll regret later.

5. Attaching ginormous files

If you’re attaching photos or documents to your email, make sure the files are not so huge that they’ll cause a problem for the person you’re sending them to. Although allows a generous attachment size of 30 MB, the email provider used by your recipient might be limited to 20 MB or even less. It’s usually better to resize images and refrain from attaching five Word documents when one PDF will do. Keep in mind that nowadays a lot of people read their emails on their phones and often have data limits. How will they feel if you send them 2 GB of attachments? This especially applies to photos, which everyone knows take up a gazillion MB each. Learn how to create zip folders, compress files, or use a file sharing service like’s free Cloud.

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