This is exactly how many exclamation points are appropriate for a work email

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Although Slack might have won your heart when it comes to instantaneous workplace communication/idle chatter, we still have to rely on email. And some mornings, it seems like managing your inbox is like the scene in Bruce Almighty where Jim Carrey frantically taps at his keyboard with one hand while drinking coffee with the other. And then there’s the fear of striking the right tone⁠—do you want to sound cheerful, businesslike, or faintly menacing?⁠—or the risk of being misunderstood.

Grammarly surveyed 3,400 people about the current state of the workplace email and these were the findings.

Get used to it

First of all, email isn’t going anywhere: only 6% of respondents “strongly” felt they could do their job without email.

In fact, 36% of respondents spend over three hours of their day dealing with email.

Almost no one gets email right

A full 93% says they’ve made email gaffes, from typos or grammatical mistakes (64%) to prematurely hitting “send” (63% then went whoops!), to writing something that the recipient misunderstood (50%.)

Email is a daily work stressor

It may not be a game of high-stakes poker, but we treat it that way. After all, who wants to spend two hours smoothing over bruised egos caused by a thoughtlessly-worded email—or even worse, hop on the phone?

  • Three out of four people are worried about being misunderstood.
  • Three out of five people have been embarrassed by an email they’ve sent in the workplace.
  • One out of two people is concerned about sending an email that’s too long.
  • One out of two people is concerned about striking the appropriate tone over email. A fifth has been told that their tone is too harsh.

Some employees need outside help: almost a third of respondents have had their supervisors look over an especially important email before sending it.

Generation wars? While 95% of people ages 26-44 have worries about sending an email, only 82% of people over 65 do.

How many, how much?!!!

Sometimes, an exclamation point is needed to express exuberance, excitement, or even soften the tone (just in case!) of a message. The survey asked how many exclamation points were work-appropriate, and came up with exactly one, with “as many as necessary” coming in at second place.

But be judicious with those exclamations: one in six professionals under 36 responded that they had been told that their tone was too informal. (Only one in 10 professionals in the over-55 set had ever been told such a thing).

It’s hard to hit ‘send’

It’s read, read, and re-read before hitting “send message”: over half of respondents read their drafted emails two to four times before sending them out into the ether.

And from there, you’re just one or two more emails away from getting tangled up in a massive email chain. And the cycle starts all over again.