This Is the Most Annoying Way to Start an Email, Research Shows
This email greeting is not likely to win you any points with the recipient.
There's a certain air of seriousness to emails, which is why email etiquette is so important. You want to make sure your emails are well-written so they get taken seriously. Unfortunately, you may be making minor mistakes that you don't even realize are making people grimace at your emails in their inboxes. In fact, you could be starting your email off on a bad note with a bad introduction. According to research, the most annoying way to start an email is by giving no greeting at all.
At the beginning of 2020, Perkbox Insights, an employee experience platform, conducted a survey of nearly 2,000 people to determine the ultimate dos and don'ts of email behavior. In their findings, they found that more than half of the respondents (53 percent) believed that the worst way to start an email was with no greeting at all.
"Email word choice is so important because people judge everything all the time," says Caio Bersot, a communication specialist at Rank-it.ca, a product review and collation site. "As super social animals, we still rely on our instincts a lot. When reading an email, all we have are words. We can't see facial expressions or use other ways to analyze the sender's communication, so all we can do is pay special attention to people's verbiage. This often causes many communications issues."
And it's particularly concerning to start out an email in such an annoying manner when 73 percent of people said that email was their preferred method of communication for work-related situations.
"The issue with skipping over a greeting is that it lacks effort and formality," says Kimberly Smith, a marketing manager who oversees email marketing strategy at Clarify Capital. "Emails are expected to follow a more structured format. When senders disregard social norms inherent to email messaging, we often interpret the exchange as unprofessional. Immediately, the recipient feels as if they've been disrespected."
So, how should you start an email instead? Out of the respondents, 49 percent said a simple "Hi" was their favorite form of introduction, while 48 percent said they did not mind a "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" email greeting. However, not every introduction received such praise. For more email greetings people find annoying, read on. And for other ways you could be annoying people without realizing it, This Is the Most Annoying Text You're Sending All the Time.
"To whom it may concern"
From the survey, 37 percent of respondents said it was pretty bad to start your email with a "To whom it may concern" introduction. Sherry Mae Mandajos, a seasoned email marketer and chief marketing officer at Tankarium, says this introduction "infers that the sender didn't bother naming the recipient."
"When people open their emails with a 'To whom it may concern' phrase, they'll feel unacknowledged. When this happens, the chances are high they'll not be as accommodating compared to when you address them using their name," she says. "If you don't know the recipient's name, you should exhaust all your resources in finding their name. Doing so ensures your greeting statement acknowledges them." And for more email help, try these 17 Email Management Tricks That Will Improve Your Very Existence.
While people said they did not mind a "Hi" greeting, "Hey" is another story. In fact, 28 percent of respondents said it was the worst way to start an email. After all, "Hey" can often be seen as informal language, which should only be reserved for close contacts, says Brett Downes, founder of HaroHelpers, an SEO firm that helps consumers assess and optimize their emails.
"There is nothing wrong with being informal or friendly, but you have to have earned that right and build up a rapport," he explains. And for more behaviors to avoid, This Is the Rudest Thing You're Doing All the Time Without Knowing It.
"Happy [insert day]!"
Starting your email off with "Happy [insert day]!" may also come across as a little too informal and unprofessional, with 23 percent of respondents saying you should skip this greeting. Not only that—it may also make your email seem as if it's trying really hard to come across as not automated, which in turn makes it seem that much more automated.
"Setting up a simple mail merge field to automatically enter today's day is incredibly easy and perhaps the quickest way of creating the impression that your email isn't 100 percent automated," explains Mark Webster, co-founder of Authority Hacker, an online marketing education company. "The most important thing you can do to introduce yourself is prove that you're an actual human being and you're actually spending your time to write an email that will actually add value to the recipient."
On the other hand, starting your email off with the phrase "Greetings" is often seen as too formal, says Michael Anderson, a marketing specialist for GeoJango Maps. And many people agree. From the survey, 22 percent marked this as the worst greeting for a work email. And for more useful content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.