E-mail format etiquette

I probably don’t say it enough, but I could live without e-mail and actually get some real work done. I’m a face-to-face type of person who prefers using e-mail mostly to communicate a complex process to many people, although I still feel that in-person meetings are much more effective. With that said, I still use e-mail for many day-to-day operations as well, such as sharing notes and collaborating (don’t get me started on using Web-based technology in the workplace such as blogs and wikis). But if there is one thing that frustrates me to no end, it’s the use of funky backgrounds and goofy text in e-mail messages.

Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind customization. I’m all for people showing some level of individuality and creativity in the workplace. But when you get some of these dark backgrounds with dark letters, my eyes leap out of my face and demand that I don’t make them view such hideous and torturous images again.

What prompted me to express this was a recent e-mail in which I had to read blue lettering on top of a brown background with gray cat tracks on it. First, I don’t think the funky background images and script fonts are appropriate in e-mail. Second, I feel it’s wrong if I have to squint just to read what people write. I especially don’t like dark text on top of a dark background.

Moreso, I cannot stand it when people use these funky backgrounds in the workplace. Some people put up tranquil clouds, others use some funky plaid pattern. I think I even saw someone’s vacation pictures once. It’s pretty tough to read the message in front of someone’s goofy smile with a picture of a cruiseship in the background. I find these “cutesy” approaches to e-mail totally unprofessional.

If I had my way, the e-mail software companies would do away with the facny stuff. E-mail is written, and people should treat it as such. If you want to add graphics along the side or bottom, that’s one thing, but please keep it to your personal e-mail. When it comes to reading e-mail at work, remember that curmudgeons like me have to read it.

NY Time article: How to Be a Curmudgeon on the Internet

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