Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsDo you send and receive emails? If you do, you’re in good company. According to the Radicati Group, specialising in Technology Market Research, you’re one of about 3.7 billion users worldwide, with over 6 billion email accounts, sending something like 270 billion emails every day - that’s more than 1 million every second. And the numbers are growing. If we’re going to keep using email, it’s vital we understand how to exploit its strengths and weaknesses. So here’s a quick guide to how you can annoy other people using email. Firstly, send email on impulse - don’t stop to think. That way, something else can occur to you after clicking ‘send’, enabling you to write another few emails full of PS-es.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsInstead of 1, you can send 5! Impulsive emails are a great idea, too, if someone annoys you, or you simply got out of bed the wrong side. Thoughtlessness can create all sorts of havoc that takes ages to unpick. Leave the subject blank or put something meaningless like ‘Hi’. Then they’ll have no idea what it’s about and have to open it to find out if it requires attention. Next, write long, meandering sentences in lengthy paragraphs, making sure you never really get to the point. Then, a few lines from the end, ask an important question, but follow it up with more meandering.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsBearing in mind that you can’t include vocal or facial expression, include sarcasm and humour that is ambiguous when read on screen. YOU know you’re only joking! If you need a quick answer to a question, send an email, and follow it up with another one every 10 minutes if the person doesn’t reply. This is particularly important if you both have access to telephones, and even better if you’re sitting in the same room where you might be tempted to talk to each other. Make your questions vague and imprecise, and with perseverance you can start an email ‘conversation’ that lasts for days and runs to a dozen or more messages.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsThis is much better than using the telephone or a collaborative application to work with your colleagues. When you notice an email you have received was sent to several people, use the ‘Reply to All’ feature and send your reply or comments to everyone, regardless of whether it might be relevant to them. You can waste a huge amount of people’s time this way - if your message takes 5 minutes to read (remember the meandering sentences) and it goes to 12 people, that’s an hour’s worth of time you’re managing to waste! And finally, think of the environment.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 secondsPhys.org calculate that each short email puts about 5g carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, when you take into account running the equipment needed to store and transmit messages. Do your bit, and you can increase global temperatures all by yourself! Follow these guidelines on a daily basis, and in no time at all you could end up being the most annoying person in your circle of friends and work colleagues.

How to annoy people with email

In the video above, Mike Dunn talks about how you can annoy the people you know by using email in ways that exploit its weaknesses rather than its strengths. Sending emails like this contributes to information overload and will mean people miss out on important messages.

Rather than annoying people, there are plenty of ways to use email thoughtfully and effectively. When used right, email is a great way to communicate with colleagues and friends without needing to be in the same place or free at the same time.

Consider when email is the right (or wrong) tool for the job.

What are you trying to achieve by sending that email? If you’re looking for a quick response, an online chat service, a phone call, or a physical conversation may work better. A group chat tool can be useful if you need to discuss something without creating a long and confusing email chain. If your email is going to a regular update to multiple people, then a blog or social media website may work better and give more power to your recipients.

Look at how your email is written.

How long is your email? Where have you put the key messages or actions you want the other person to take in? Remember, people have a lot of emails to read and will skim them for the most important points. Get quickly to the point and use concise sentences and short paragraphs, putting anything particularly important separate from the rest of the text. Keep your email short, using links to external pages where necessary.

Use the features of email to your advantage.

Give your email an accurate and concise subject. This means whoever receives it will immediately know what the email contains and can prioritise accordingly. It will also help stop that email getting lost in a sea of imprecise or empty email subjects in their inbox. Understand the difference between ‘reply and ‘reply to all’: when an email is sent to multiple people, you can either send your reply to everyone or just to the person who sent it to you. Make sure every email is only sent to the people that it is relevant to, so you’re not wasting people’s time (and in return, they should hopefully try to avoid wasting your time by not sending you irrelevant emails either).

Think before you send.

Emails are very easy to send on impulse. They’re not so great to delete or amend when you realise you made a mistake, missed something off, or even said something that, on reflection, could have been put a bit more politely or calmly. Before you click ‘send’, check that you’re sending it to the right person and that you’ve thought about whether you should be sending that message at all.

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This video is from the free online course:

Digital Wellbeing

University of York