Saturday, July 15, 2017

6 Ways to Write Bad Gmails

Over the years Google has improved and expanded Gmail to make it one of the easiest but most powerful email programs in the world. Despite the simplicity and flexibility of Gmail, if you really try hard, you still can use the program poorly.

That's right! It is still within reason that you can misuse this amazing tool so that you stay disorganized, send confusing messages, mishandle attachments, reveal people's personal addresses, display poor judgement, and more.

See below for six ways that you can send bad Gmails, while avoiding all of the tools and options designed to make your life easier.

Tip #1: Reveal everyone’s email addresses

What to do:

When sending an email to a large group of people, be sure to put everyone's email addresses in the "To:" box. This way everyone who receives the email will be shown a full list of everyone else you sent the message to. What better way to help people connect and make everyone feel included than revealing people's personal email addresses? And let's face it, who doesn't like scrolling down through a wall of text to get to the actual message. It builds suspense! And if there is a vendor in the list, they especially appreciate you providing them with a premade list of potential clients … I mean friends.

What to avoid:

To properly reveal the email addresses for everyone you sent a message to, be sure to avoid using the "BCC:" option. BCC stands for "Blind Carbon Copy". When you put people's email addresses in the BCC field, they receive the message just like normal, but their email address is not revealed to the other recipients. Using BCC completely protects the privacy of the other recipients, definitely not the mark of a bad Gmail message.

Tip #2: Send email when mad

What to do:

Written emails lack certain helpful indicators of typical conversation. People can't hear your tone of voice, nor can they see your facial expressions. Therefore it is important to fill your email with as much emotion as you can. If you are angry, tap into that anger to write your message. Get in the zone. Then once you have your first-draft thoughts written out, be sure to click the send button right away. That's the best way to capture the true essence of your ideas before you try to edit or revise them. Your recipient will appreciate your candor.

What to avoid:

Whatever you do, do not enable the "Undo Send" option. This is a feature of Gmail that gives you time to cancel an email you have already sent. A thoughtless person would click the gear icon in the top right corner of Gmail, choose "Settings", then scroll down to the "Undo Send" section. Here they would check the box to "Enable Undo Send" and would pick a delay of 5, 10, 20, or at worst, 30 seconds. Saving these settings will delay a message from actually being sent for up to 30 seconds, giving you time to catch mistakes, reconsider your liberal but creative use of profanity, and potentially cancel the message.

Tip #3: Send massive attachments that get blocked

What to do:

A great benefit of email over paper mail, is you don't pay per ounce. In the old days if you tried to mail a heavy letter, you might have to add extra postage stamps to cover the size. With email you can attach anything you want for no cost. Got a 1,000 page Word Document? Attach it! Got MP3's ripped from your favorite Nickelback album (let's be honest though, who can really pick just one favorite?) Attach them! Got a 45-minute recording of your 5-year-old's violin recital? Definitely attach it!

Now sure, some people may have email programs that put limits on the size of attachments that can be received, and your valuable email message may end up getting blocked or bounced. If that's the case, then you are doing them a favor. Think of your "overly-attached email" as a stress test to help them realize they are using a sub-par email system, and it is time for them to upgrade. They will thank you. Eventually.

What to avoid:

Attachments are classic, so there's no reason to go changing things up. Respect the tradition! Don't get distracted by Gmail's option to "Insert files using Google Drive". Right next to the classic paperclip icon for attachments, you will find the new-fangled Drive icon. If you click that icon you can choose any file from your Google Drive to send along with the email. However, the file won't actually be attached to the email, but instead will simply be sent along as a link to the cloud file, taking up no room at all. This means you could theoretically send a file up to 2TB in size. Who could possibly ever need such a large file? If you can't say something in 25MB, is it really worth saying? Drive even goes so far as to make sure the file is properly shared with the recipients so they will have no problem accessing it when they click the link. Kids these days.

Tip #4: Change the subject without changing the "Subject"

What to do:

Have you ever received an email which made you think of a totally different topic, problem, or issue? There's no need to start a new, separate conversation. Just reply to the current email with your new topic! For example, let's say your building principal sends an email reminding everyone to have their grades completed by Friday. Well that is obviously going to make you think of the movie "Friday", which stars the actor Ice Cube, which will remind you how people keep forgetting to refill the ice cube trays in the refrigerator in the staff lunch room. You should definitely respond to your principal's grade reminder email with this different concern. She is a multitasker and will appreciate having everything in one big email thread.

What to avoid:

Obviously avoid the urge to simply write a new, separate email. That takes too much time. However, you also need to avoid the feature in Gmail that lets you change the subject line when responding to a message. This in effect will start a new conversation, since the subject will be different. What people do is click the normal reply button, but then they click the arrow button on the top left corner of the email and choose "Edit subject". This breaks the email away from the main conversation thread, and let's you type in a new subject. I am getting tired just thinking of all those steps.

Tip #5: Keep your Inbox disorganized by not pre-labeling messages

What to do:

There is no need to try to organize your Inbox. It's like letting the lawn at your home "return to nature". Your Inbox should be organic, natural, and wild. The best way to do this is to avoid using labels (like folders) to move your emails out of the Inbox and into categorized bins. Even more importantly, avoid pre-labeling your email messages when you first send them out.

What to avoid:

Gmail has a feature that let's you put a label on a new email message before you even send it out. This option is thankfully somewhat hidden, so chances are you never even knew it existed. (I am hesitant to even tell you about it, but want you to be prepared in case you accidentally stumble across it.) When composing a new email message, you can click the down arrow button in the bottom right corner of the email window, then choose "Label" and pick the label from your list. Now when someone writes you back, the email conversation will already be properly labeled and can just be archived when done. How unnatural.

Tip #6: Take the time to write repetitive responses by hand each time

What to do:

One of the dangers of technology (besides world domination from super intelligent machines) is making our communication less personal. Chances are, you probably get frequent similar email requests that could be answered with the same boilerplate message each time. For example, I often get meeting requests from vendors asking where my building is located and how to find my office. Sure the temptation is there to use "technology" to reply quickly and easily with a saved response. Instead I prefer to type by hand the same information over and over and over and over again. It only takes time, and we all have loads of free time. Don't we?

What to avoid:

What you don't want to do is take advantage of the "Canned Response" Gmail lab. This is an optional tool you can enable that let's you save common blurbs of text, which you can then insert into any email message you are writing, providing your recipients with consistent, accurate, and heartless information. To turn on this lab, a person would click the gear icon in the top right corner of Gmail, then choose "Settings", then choose the "Labs" tab, click the "Enable" option for "Canned Responses", and save your changes.

Now you will be able to access this tool whenever replying to an email, or even when creating a new message. Simply click the down arrow in the bottom right corner of the email composition window, and choose "Canned responses" from the pop-up menu. This will let you "Insert", "Save", or "Delete" your canned responses. If you want to let the machines win.


As mentioned before, Google is constantly adding new features to improve and expand Gmail. The ease of use of these tools makes it more and more difficult to communicate inefficiently and ineffectively, but if you work hard at it, you can still manage to send bad Gmails.

If you are aware of any other tips and tricks to avoid, be sure to add them to the comments below so we all will be warned.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips Eric! I will work at using the labels. 🔖📝 My email needs organizing.