Bad Email Contest Results

Email & Voice Mail

Thanks to all of you who responded to the Bad Email Contest.  There were some terrific rewrites, but I should remind many of our readers that the passive voice should not be used (stet). Before I announce the winners, let’s review the email and address some of the main blunders:

Subject: Hi Peter!

@Peter- our Sales Department reached out about scheduling a high-level during the November timeframe on premise. Attached is a questionnaire about potential topics which is proprietary in nature.  Please action and advise and don’t hesitate to reach out to Sam and I.

Best Regards,


The subject line:  I’m a friendly guy, but “Hi Peter!” doesn’t tell me what I need to know or do.

@Peter: Not everyone has seen this Twitter salutation and many who have think it’s too informal and kind of bizarre for an email.  Save it for Twitter only.

reach out: This phrase has become viral in some organizations.  I’d save “reach out” for emergencies (e.g., “Please reach out to your neighbors the next time you feel a pang of loss for your dear departed ferret, Shep.”

high-level:  You can interpret this anyway you want, and that’s the problem.  If you mean to refer to a senior staff meeting just say so.

timeframe:  Way too redundant; “November” itself is a timeframe.

on premise: Even though the person means “in our office,” which is more specific anyway, I’ve seen people use this phrase when they really mean “on premises.”

which:  “Which” is always preceded by a comma when it introduces a non-restrictive clause and should always be next to what it modifies, which in this case is “questionnaire” not “topics.”

proprietary in nature:  As opposed to in captivity?

action:  Is not nor will it ever be a verb.  Ever.

advise:  Also viral in organizations, but it is very unspecific.  Advise about what?  Whether I should take an umbrella?

to Sam and I:  Review your notes from elementary school. “I” never comes after a preposition.

Best Regards:  Only capitalize the first letter of the first word of your close.


1. The only caveat on the winning entry–there’s no due date mentioned in the subject or email body:

Subject: Potential Topics for Nov Sales Meeting

Hi, Peter,

Sales would like to schedule a strategy meeting here in the office in November. Attached is a confidential list of potential topics for your review. If you have anything to add, don’t hesitate to send it to Sam and me.

Best regards,


2.  I hate potty humor, but this is one of the lowest order:

Yo Peter, sales department is in the toilet. idea constipation of the highest order. Creatiive production needed ASAP. They are looking for some relief. Use discretion. They need to have movement by november.

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