Email: The Lost Art

I suppose I should entitle this something like “Reading & Comprehension: The Lost Art” because that’s really what’s about to happen, but since I’m most irritated with the way people treat their email, I went with this instead. Anyway, onward…

Let’s pretend I send you an email. And let’s pretend that in that email I ask you two questions. When you reply, answering only the first question and I have to send you another email with the second question, you look like an idiot. Emails aren’t twitter. Don’t stop reading at 140 characters. Read the whole damn thing.

Extending this, if you are sent an email asking you to do something – for example, to look into a previously reported problem and find out why it doesn’t appear to be being worked on – and your first thought is that you need more information – continuing the example, the ticket number of the original problem report – before you fire off an email asking for the information – “Do you have the ticket number?” – you should probably scroll down and read ALL of the emails in the chain – including the one right below the one you are replying to, in which the ticket number is given. When you don’t do this, you look like an idiot.

Some people – idiots – will defend this behavior, often citing reasons such as “I was reading this on my phone and the screen was too small.” As a solution, try this: Don’t read emails on your phone if you can’t properly read emails on your phone.

Lastly, sometimes when a company sends out an email – specifically an automated one – to which they do not expect a reply – probably because they are just informing you of a status or error – and within the body of the email, either at the top or the bottom or somewhere in between, it says “this email comes from an unattended mailbox, do not reply” or some variation thereof, when you reply to that email, get no response, and then later call up angry that no one replied to your email that you send to the totally non-functioning mailbox that the sysadmin only checks to see if it’s getting a large number of bounces or other error conditions, you look like an idiot.

Seriously, though, I’m saying this for your benefit – and mine – because you don’t want to be thought of as an idiot – and I’d rather get stuff done than repeat myself or listen to you complain about a problem that isn’t mine. For the sake of all that which you hold dear, read your damn emails! In full!

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