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I am employed in a consultancy company and I work at the client workplace. Monthly, I have a client employee sign a timesheet to certify the number of hours I have actually worked.

I then scan the timesheet and send it by email to a colleague in another department, I'm not sure if HR, Accountant or something like that.

In the body of the email, I just kinda repeat the content of the object, being sure to write the month and the year to which the timesheet refer and greetings at the start and at the end, but obviously, the email tends to be pretty boring since the real deal is the attached file.

So, I wanted to start adding something unique, like a quote taken from the internet or some kind of random curiosity. I would pay attention to be as neutral as possible to not offend my colleague or the managers I add in CC.

Would you consider such a behaviour a unprofessional? What do you usually write in the body of emails which really have no body?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Apr 1 at 8:44

11 Answers 11

190

Just leave the email with the attachment and state

This timesheet refers to X.

Please see attached.

Regards, Bracco

Just leave the quote out of it and keep the email basic. Your emails are for the recipient to do their job. As long as you allow them to do that then don't complicate it or confuse them.

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    Or just "Timesheet for X attached. Regards,". – a CVn Mar 29 at 18:09
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    And automate this process where possible through email templating/mail merge type software, perhaps raise the issue with somebody, there are better ways for the company to make use of your time. – Vix Mar 30 at 5:57
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    @Abigail I've noticed that sending a blank e-mail with only attachment tends to get caught in spam filters. It's a technique where spam or phishing content is sent as an attachment or image to bypass content filters. That's one reason why many clients complain when you don't have body text. Also modern clients warn you when you say "attached" and forget to put in an attachment. – user71659 Mar 30 at 7:20
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    Related: The Email Charter – mgarciaisaia Mar 30 at 17:34
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    @Abigail Internal emails need to be filtered for malware and phishing due to the risk of account compromise. – user71659 Mar 31 at 22:02
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If the e-mail is basically "complete" with subject line and attachment such as your example then I might add "see attached" or something but there's really no point in bulking the e-mail out with "fluff". They want the attachment - they get the attachment and use it. Job done.

Random quotes from the internet will just make you look immature - not that it will be a big deal though since people probably won't read them.

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    @bracco23 Immature is a matter of opinion, but in business you should focus on business: getting things done. If it's not relevant to business, leave it out of the email. When it's someone you work with personally and have a decent, friendly relationship with, that's different. This is not one of those cases. Keep it strictly professional. – only_pro Mar 29 at 14:34
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    @bracco23: Sharing irrelevant information like quotes etc is something teenagers often do (and that's okay, it's part of being a teenager to figure out and display your identity). The behavior is therefore generally perceived to be that of a teenager, and thus immature. It's not direct proof of immaturity, but it's a lack of profssional experience combined with a behavior commonly found in teenagers that leads to the inference of immaturity. – Flater Mar 29 at 14:52
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    @bracco23 The point is that you aren't on the other side of the email. A different person is, and that person will probably consider the quotes immature. It's unfair that they form independent opinions of your behavior based on standards other than your own, but that's out of your control. It's one of the things we can't change. – Ed Plunkett Mar 29 at 15:33
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    I can see something like that not being perceived as immature, in specific company cultures. (Maybe if your company is selling essential oils? :D). – Lichtbringer Mar 29 at 23:23
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    I wouldn’t say that quotes are immature. For example accompanying a long-awaited release announcement with a «“It’s finished when it‘s done” – Duke Nukem Forever CTO after 13 years of development» certainly adds some spice. We are humans after all. I do agree that random quotes shouldn’t be included in everyday emails. – Michael Apr 1 at 9:26
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 Hi bracco23,

please see my answer in the attachment.

Greetings, Chris

There is no reason to bloat your email with unnecessary text. These people will handle a huge bunch of those emails, you will disturb their workflow if you keep adding noise.

Also your boss might not get offended by your random quotes, but he might get offended because your browsing the internet for useless stuff.

Keep it short and simple.

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    @Zabba Sorry, this time with attachment. – Chris Mar 29 at 22:44
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    To those people who have problem getting the joke: don't edit this answer. – L. F. Mar 31 at 5:58
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    Why are you using quotation formatting to write your answer and not using quotes to format the fictional text? This is just confusing... – brasofilo Mar 31 at 16:14
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    @L.F. What about those of us who instantly saw the "joke" and wanted to turn it into a readable answer that is easier to parse for people with disabilities and search engines? – pipe Apr 1 at 11:54
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    @pipe Well ... Let’s respect Chris’s choice then ... – L. F. Apr 1 at 11:56
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Is it professional to write unrelated content in an almost-emtpy email?

No. Why would you confuse the reader by adding something random?

Try to keep it short and simple.

10

Informality and unrelated content in work messages are not professional. That does not make it unprofessional.

When this is acceptable and when it isn't is very nuanced, and depends on the office culture, the audience, how often you do it, how well it is received, your particular relationship with everyone who will see it, your reputation, your age, etc. Generally, if it in any way impedes business functioning the only professional response is to stop.

People who have these social skills are more popular, more influential, and can see concrete advantages in their careers.

  • The OP doesn't even know who he's sending these timesheets to. Unsollicited communication is spam, not related to any social skill.. – user90842 Mar 29 at 22:02
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    @GeorgeM Sending timesheets to the timesheet person isn't unsolicited communication. It's literally a part of that person's job to receive timesheets. – David Richerby Mar 30 at 0:08
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    The timesheets are not unsolicited, but random quotes and personalized messages are. – user90842 Mar 30 at 0:12
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There's no reason or need to "adorn" the email with superfluous text. There's also no reason to write the same thing in the email as is contained in the attached time sheet.

Attached is my time sheet for the period xx/xx/xxxx through xx/xx/xxxx. Thank you.

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The random quotes probably are of no benefit to the recipient, the people who choose accounting like staring at numbers all day, they don't need a surprise package from the real world, if they need a break they can go to the water cooler, stare out the window, make some paper airplanes, etc when they are ready for it.

Stating your name again in the email is probably not needed it's already in the from header and in the signature at the base, the date also is not needed.

The summary is also not needed, but it is not without merit. having a precis there (like say just the total hours) could help with resolving disputes in a timely manner eg if the attachment is hard to read or if there is a misunderstanding, and they notice that your number does not match the time-sheet you could find out and resolve it before pay-day.

If you are submitting the timesheet late, having the date could be useful to help you find the email at a later time should you need to. So having the date in the subject line on late submissions could be useful.

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This really depends on your client company. I've seen different companys. In some of them (mostly young and related to creativity), people would do funny things, play jokes on each others (and also on their clients, but they never crosses a line), use "4-letter-words" in their day-to-day-language - things which on this site would not be seen as professional. In others, those things could be your death sentence (not literally).

So, I would suggest you to take a look on them. How do they speak? How do they write? How "funny" are they and how serious is work for them? Are they like the members of this Stack Exchange site? I think those questions may help you evaluating what to do.

  • For what it"s worth, I would be delighted to read your e-mails (if they are really funny). It would make my day. – Guest Mar 30 at 18:25
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As many have said unrelated information is not needed. If you state the time period that is fine, because it can let them see at a glance which time period without having to open the attachment.

Putting the time period in the subject can be a big help help also. Not only can they find the appropriate email it can also help to avoid the situation where the email software tries to group all the email messages that have the simple subject such "timecard" into one conversation.

The worst situation is to only have fluff and no other useful information. You might be training them to always skip reading the short emails because they believe they always only have fluff.

Always include a signature block with all your expected contact information.

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Re: Timesheet 01/04/2019

We've talked about this. Please stop including inspirational quotes in your timesheet reports.

Thanks,
Michael


Attachments: timesheet-2019-04-01.xls

Hi audit team,

Please see attached timesheet for 01/04/2019.

smooth seas do not make skillful sailors

Warmest regards,
Bracco

  • I had still a few doubts about the applicability of the other answers to my case, but this answer has made the situation clear. Damn, I hate those inspirational images when out of context. – bracco23 Apr 1 at 9:33
  • Also, comic sans makes everything better. – bracco23 Apr 1 at 9:34
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    @bracco23 Don't ever get the tube. – Michael Apr 1 at 9:40
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Yes, but no fluff. Boring is not a big deal. But repeating subject, attachment, and mail body can lead to false positive with their anti-spam. Making the mail more human readable. For now you have a mail with only an attachment, in 2-3 process you will have a mail box with unknown data and no way to filter them.

To avoid that you can add a lot of things even for simple email like:

  • Tag and introduction/description to ease the research.
  • Content information: From [date] To [date], about [serviceXY/CustomerZ], [process name]
  • File/Process information: hash, creation date, process date, source, sheldured/user demand ..
  • Disclaimer about the sender beeing a robot and mail for error and response.

Once your canvas is ready, ask everyone if they are ok with it. Explaining the purpose: human readable, easy to find and filter, hash to validate data, and disclaimer so user stop talking to the robot.

Be careful to not break people integration, and send test email to check if the hash doesn't trigger the anti spam.

  • Subject should contain the keywords "timesheet bracco 03/19" - the body of the mail should be written to be read fluently starting with an adress "Dear Mr. .." and a greeting in the end. One does not need to copy/paste subject to body and thus repeat phrases. – Bernhard Döbler Apr 1 at 9:54
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    Well a simple querry on my Mailhost tell me that i have 4 digit of mail where subject == attachment == mail body. So many people do copy past thing when the mail have no other meaning that sending an attachment. So my point is "Don't copy past thing.". And if the body is empty put something usefull in it. – user95634 Apr 1 at 11:30

protected by mcknz Apr 2 at 12:31

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