Have you ever received an email that left you scratching your head, confused, upset, or questioning the professionalism of the sender? I would hazard a guess that all of us have received (and possibly sent) at least one of those emails throughout our professional careers. These emails remind us that while the ability to quickly send and receive written communication is important, emails can also be problematic since they can serve as documentation of unprofessional communication mistakes.

Make sure that you aren’t responsible for filling coworkers’ inboxes with unprofessional emails by checking them for the following seven mistakes before you hit “send”.


  1. “I Know You Are Busy But”

When you start an email with “I know you are busy but” and proceed to send them a lengthy email, you are essentially acknowledging that although they are busy what you have to say is more important than what is currently keeping them busy at work (or at home). If you know that a coworker is swamped, don’t email them unless it pertains to a project that they are working on or simply cannot wait until they have some free time.

  1. Long Explanations

If you start writing an email and realize that it is beginning to sound longwinded, think about editing it down so that your email is clear and concise. The person on the receiving end of your email will appreciate a direct and succinct email rather than a novel. If you need to explain something in depth, pick up the phone and give them a call or schedule a face to face meeting.

  1. Venting and Ultimatums

It’s after hours, but you are worked up about something that happened at the office. Since it’s too late to call, you figure that an email is the best way to get your thoughts and feelings heard. Unfortunately, these emails are rarely well received, especially if they involve an ultimatum such as “if ____ doesn’t change, I am going to be forced to _____.” In addition to being unprofessional, emails containing these types of statements can come back to haunt you.

  1. Serious Concerns

If you have a serious concern, send an email to set up a time to talk rather than using it as a means of voicing a serious concern that impacts you or anyone else in the office. Emails that try to cover more serious concerns leave the reader with unanswered questions and confused.

  1. Gossip

Belittling, making fun of, or gossiping about a fellow employee is not appropriate email content. Even if you think it’s harmless, that email poking fun at a coworker’s outfit choice or annoying habits can cause others to view you as the office bully. It’s also important to note that emails can be easily forwarded around the office, making it possible for a written copy of your gossip to make its way around (and ruin your reputation).

  1. Non Work Related Content

Keep your emails at work professional by sticking to work related topics. Memes, GIFs and links to YouTube videos are not only inappropriate uses of company time, but can even be considered offensive to coworkers. If you are friends with someone at work and wish to share a humorous video with them, do so through text or personal email (and on your own time).

  1. Lies

Whether you are emailing your boss that you will be staying home sick (when in reality you just had a late night out with friends), or you are exaggerating your contributions to a project, it is never a good choice to commit a lie to writing. Somehow these lies have a way of coming back and can have an impact on your reputation and career.


Remember that anything that you put in writing and send to a coworker, employer or employee should reflect your professionalism. The seven email mistakes listed above should be avoided so that you don’t leave your coworkers confused and questioning your ability to communicate effectively.