Writing effective emails is an art; not everyone is a master of the craft, though we're all basically glued to our inboxes these days. From excellent out-of-office replies to how you sign off your emails, every word matters.
You must also practice a little emotional intelligence and be careful not to annoy your recipient. Surprisingly, we do this more often than we realize. Seemingly innocuous phrases can to slip into our emails as our fingers type.
Here's one that's particularly grating: "Not sure if you saw my last email ..." In Adobe's annual consumer email survey, the company surveyed 1,000 white collar workers to learn more about their email habits. Adobe found this is the phrase people find most annoying in work emails. The company asked about several annoying phrases that show up in work emails, including the dreaded "Per my last email ... " and "Any updates on this?"
Across all age ranges polled and for both men and women, "Not sure if you saw my last email" took the cake as the most annoying phrase.
Admit it. You've done it. I'm certain I have.
But I've also received my fair share of not-sure-if-you-saw-my-last-email work emails. You probably have too, and can attest to the utter obnoxiousness of this phrase.
Here's why I hate it: It makes it seem like the problem is me. It implies that I failed to stay on top of my own inbox, and that's why I failed to reply. In reality, the reason I haven't replied yet -- or perhaps never will -- might be entirely the fault of the person who sent it.
Here are four reasons people hate it when you use this phrase and what you should do instead.
1. Your cold email was totally impersonal and irrelevant.
You may be in a position in which you have to cold email people for work. That's fine. But make sure the emails you send are really compelling and captivating. Otherwise, you can expect to get a lot of radio silence -- which is a loud and clear message the recipients aren't interested.
Remember, from important work emails to spam-y marketing emails, the email bombardment never stops. Your recipients can't reply to every single one. So make sure to personalize your email. Sending the same blanket email to 100 people is a sure-fire way to get ignored.
Oh, and a super-duper important tip: Triple check the recipient's name before hitting Send. Yes, I definitely saw your last email. But you didn't just spell my name wrong. You used someone else's name entirely because you're copying and pasting the same message to 100 people. If you didn't take the time to get my name right, why should I take the time to reply? Ignore.
2. You're being passive aggressive.
"Not sure if you saw my last email" is the digital version of the passive-aggressive note posted above the break room sink about washing your dirty dishes.
Yes, they probably saw it. Reminding them of it is not going to make the situation any better. Take a page out of Mark Cuban's book and just get to the point. Keep the email brief and tell them what you need and why. For example, if you're waiting on them for a decision and you have a deadline, let the person know. Don't expect them to be a mind reader.
3. You're potentially being disrespectful of your recipient's time.
How long has your email been sitting in this person's inbox? A day? Maybe two? Remember, not every email demands an instant reply. So following up 24 hours later to ask if they got your last email might not be necessary. Give them a chance to reply first!
And on that note of respecting people's time, was the request in your last email clear? If you're prone to writing emails several paragraphs long, that could be part of the problem. People might be ignoring your emails because they don't have the energy or time to wade through the epic novels you send.
And while you may be writing your emails on your computer, it's likely that people are checking them on their phone. The Adobe survey found that more employees are checking emails on their smartphones compared with last year.
Your long-winded emails feel even longer on a tiny screen. Reread your emails before sending and see if you can slim them down.
4. Email might not be the right medium.
If this is someone you work closely with but can never seem to get a reply, consider a different medium. Maybe this isn't the ideal way to get in front of this person. Consider that they might be overwhelmed by their inbox. It's entirely possible they didn't see your last email because there are hundreds of others demanding their attention.
Perhaps scheduling a regular one-on-one meeting with this person every week could be more productive. Even if it's just for 30 minutes, you can quickly run through all your requests when you have their undivided attention.
Don't beat yourself up too much if you've recently used this phrase. "Not sure if you saw my last email" is simply a symptom that we all send -- and receive -- too much email! But you still want to stay on people's good sides. So it's wise to try to phase it out and improve how you craft your emails.