How not to send anxiety inducing emails

Monday, January 6, 2020

By Etin Obaseki

Emails remain an important channel for organizations to pass critical information across. Do they have to sound so bad though?

In the space of 24 hours, I’ve received at least 6 emails from the same organization, each poorly written and altogether combining to give me an anxiety attack.

This isn’t the first time either. In October last year, after reading several mails from them, also sent in a short timeframe, I had to go outside and get some air.

With this being the second time it’s happening in two months, I’ve decided to try to articulate what exactly ticks me off so much about these mails and how I’d fix it if I had the chance.

1. Don’t send multiple emails in such a short time

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to keep my inbox at zero. I panic whenever I have a ton of unread mails.

Sending multiple emails, from different people by the way, at the same time and about the same thing is a useless strategy.

If I didn’t see one mail sent at 11:15, it’s unlikely I’d see the one by 11:16.

If the point is improving deliverability, then use multiple channels. Text messages for instance. But don’t abuse that either.

2. Send Time Sensitive Notices Early

What, exactly, is the use of a notice to make a payment before the close of business that is sent a few minutes before the close of business?

Notices should be incrementally dire when a deadline is approaching, not suddenly dropped at the last minute when there’s little that can be done.

3. Enumerate the options

In the case of notices regarding deadlines, if there is a next step or remedial action, tell people what it is. Don’t leave them guessing like your email is the penultimate episode of a soap opera.

If there are no next steps be clear about that as well.

It’s written communication, you can’t leave things unsaid and expect us to read your body language.

4. Be careful with your choice of color and emphasis

I received an email with several lines of text in red. Naturally, I panicked and feared the worst.

I read it and it was regular information being passed nothing particularly serious. The last line in red was even a complimentary close!

There was no need for the different color highlighting and even if it had to be added, why in red? As if there were some emergency or danger to be conveyed?

The email signature on the emails were also arbitrarily large. Larger than the text in the body of the email and making it harder to focus on and read the main message of the email.

Save the big font energy for concerts and tours please.

5. Be Empathetic

Maybe empathy has become overused. If fact, maybe my usage of it is unnecessary.

I don’t think we can ever overconsider other people, especially when making decisions that affect them.

Simply questioning how the email that’s we’re sending is going to affect the recipient will go a long way to ensure that we don’t send rubbish mails that get people unnecessarily in their feels.

Get someone else to review what you’ve written and ask them if they’ve gotten the intended message.

You know, it’s entirely possible that this whole thing was unnecessary and I’m the only one who feels this way about those emails. I’ll ask a few other people who also get these emails to get their feedback.

Someone definitely thinks I’m just trippin’ though.