Nasty Email Errors and How to Avoid Them

You’ve written your email and checked it twice.

You hit send…

When you get no response, or even worse, a negative one, it’s probably due to one of these typical errors (which I’ve compiled from my years of helping international writers with their English).

Before I tell you what they are, you might be thinking something like:
I’ve got a spell checker.
I write in English every day and I get no complaints.
Why should I care?

I get it.

But think about this. If you work in publishing, the vast majority of your professional output is writing.

How clients and coworkers judge your effectiveness at work is largely down to the writing that they read. 

They think things like:
Publisher X has got her sh*t together
Publisher Y is careless and sloppy.

This is why I’m passionate about helping publishers communicate better in English. Keeping others well informed, and getting them to take the action you want is your path to project success and career development.

So, on to the errors.

What are they? And how can you avoid them?


Email errors

ERROR 1: Being too direct when making a request

e.g. When can you send the manuscript? We’ve been waiting for you to do this for ages.

Why it’s bad: In English speaking countries, the norm is to make indirect requests. It’s more time consuming, but asking for things directly sounds rude.

How to fix it: Check out this post with suggestions on how to use indirect language.

ERROR 2: Poor formatting and structure

e.g. long blocky paragraphs or too many one-liners full of emojis.

Why it’s bad: We don’t read emails like we read novels. Nor are they like WhatsApp chats. Your contacts read your emails quickly, but expect easy-to-follow text. Even if you write perfect English, it can fail if the formatting is poor.

How to fix it: Use white space. Use bullet points and numbers. Don’t include everything in the text. Use appropriate attachments. More tips here.

ERROR 3: Comma errors and poor control of sentence length

e.g. I wanted to tell you and your team about ‘x’ because it seems like if you still have the budget it could be the perfect opportunity but we need a response by the end of the week; what do you think?

Why it’s bad: Too many ‘ands’, ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’ without adequate commas makes readers lose the thread of what you are saying. This is true for both native and non-native speakers of English.

How to fix it: learn the rules of English comma use. Don’t use semicolons – they’re easy to get wrong and don’t make text clearer. Use dashes appropriately – they’re much more visual. Check your emails for sentences with more than four commas. Do your sentences need to be so long?

Remember: a high percentage of your output is email, and people will judge your work based on your English writing.

Follow these principles to get people to take the action you want!


❓Unsure about a particular aspect of writing in English❓

Feel free to reach out and ask me. I'd love to hear from you.