Email Horror Stories: The 7 Sins of Email

We’ve all had that email come into our inbox… That email that ruins your day.

Sometimes the email is just inconsiderate, other times hostile, and sometimes it’s just plain tone deaf. No matter the issue, you’re on the receiving end having to do some unexpected emotional labour to keep your day on track.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! We’ve all received bad emails – and unfortunately, we probably have sent a few ourselves. Here’s a collection of email related horror stories we can all relate to and learn from.

The 7 Sins of Email

1. That’s Not My Name…

“There’s one person I email with who never gets my name right. Sometimes they spell it incorrectly, but they often just call me by a name that starts with the same letter. It’s almost comical, but really it’s just disrespectful at this point.”

It’s frustratingly easy to do, especially for names with alternate spellings, but it’s a sure-fire way to leave the person on the receiving end unimpressed. This mistake is easily avoided simply by slowing down. When we have a lot of messages to get through or a big to-do list, slowing down may feel counter-intuitive, but trust us, taking that extra moment to make sure you’ve got the name and spelling correct will serve you well.

2. ALL CAPS!!!

“Emails in all caps are the worst. Why are you yelling at me? When someone sends me an email like that, the last thing I want to do is prioritize their request.”

But what if it’s super urgent? Give them a call. It’ll be quicker and less likely to damage your relationship. If you choose to send an email, try putting something like “URGENT” or “Action Required” in the subject line. This will get your audience’s attention without putting them on edge.

And if you’re mad? Definitely don’t send an all caps email. Take a break, try a breathing exercise, and come back to the email when you are calm.

3. Cold Email Crash and Burn

“One morning I open my work email to an email titled ‘Hoping to help you out’. I guessed that it was another email pitching media services – since a recent promotion I’ve been getting a lot more cold emails due to my new title. But when I opened it up, it was a fitness consultant telling me she could help me lose weight and tone up.

I was really insulted. Why was a complete stranger assuming I wanted or needed to change my body? The world is already telling me I don’t look good enough, but I wasn’t expecting to be bombarded with that at work. It was so rude.”

Before you send a cold email take a moment and step into the recipient’s shoes. Now ask yourself – is this rude? Maybe you need to reframe your call to action, or maybe cold emails aren’t the right approach for your business.

4. Attachment Mishaps

“I worked at a law firm and a paralegal had been working on a document that’d been revised numerous times. Out of frustration with the project and the revisions, she ended up renaming it “poop” then again to, “recent poop”. Unfortunately, when it was ready to send to the client and opposing counsel, she attached and sent the most recent version before changing the title back to something more appropriate. So she sent a document titled “recent poop”… Did not go well for anyone.”

To prevent this, it’s worth it to always keep appropriate names on your documents. But it’s a good practice to always double check the title and content of the attached document anyways. We’ve also heard stories of people who accidentally sent the wrong files, sometimes with damaging results.

5. Rude Reply

“In my last company, a senior leader forwarded a client email to another senior leader and included a snarky comment about the clients. She called them small-minded idiots and minions, among other things. However, she didn’t forward the email, she accidentally sent it to the client! Long story short, they fired us.”

It can be so tempting to let off steam like this. You’re having an annoying day and you get a frustrating email from a challenging client… it’s natural to want to vent. But remember, emails are forever and very easy to forward. Take your recreational venting offline.

6. Rushed Reading, Rushed Reply

“Nothing is more frustrating than writing a thoughtful email and getting a response that makes it clear they didn’t read the email. If I ask two questions, I need two answers… Now this is going to take much longer than it needed to.”

We’re all guilty of skimming emails and hurriedly answering without taking the time to fully read the email. At best this leads to frustration for the person you’re communicating with, at worst you’ve just had a miscommunication. Properly answering questions is fundamental for a strong communicator.

Take the time to read your emails. Instead of rushing, wait until you have a moment to reply properly. Your relationships and your reputation are at risk when you don’t read before replying.

7. Reply All Purgatory

“Please stop replying all to mass email communications! I don’t want to know what type of sandwich you’ve ordered for our Lunch & Learn, Linda. Please, please leave me out of it.”

When replying to a group email, think about who needs to know the information you are sharing. If it’s whether you want an egg salad sandwich or a cobb salad, just reply to the person asking the question.


Email is a fantastic tool but is only as strong as the person using it. With 333.2 billion emails being sent every year, and only a third of them being opened, we know this is a pain point for many people and companies. Yet hardly any of us have received training on how to do it well.

Of all written communications at work, email is the most essential to get right. They also are a record that last forever, so despite them being an everyday activity, they are the most high-stakes form of written communication you’ll do at work.

If you’re looking to step up your email writing skillset, check out our new Open Enrolment course As Per My Last Email: The Art of Writing Killer Emails.

Become intentional and effective with each click of the send button.