Talk Is Cheap

I’m sorry, this will be a little ranty.

We know there’s frequently a difference between acknowledging an email and answering an email, yes? “I’ll get back to you about that,” is not an end of an issue, in itself.

I have a few people in my work life with whom this is becoming a pattern. I send them something that ends in a question. A request for action on their parts. I get a very prompt “I’ll look at this first thing tomorrow,” and then crickets. For days.

The thing I love is that at this point, it can become a knock-knock joke.

Email. “I’ll look at this first thing tomorrow.” Follow-up email. “I’ll look at this first thing tomorrow.” Seemingly ad infinitum. I’d honestly prefer that you answer the email and skip the acknowledgment, if I have to choose. When I ask “Hey, did you get that email?” what I’m really saying is “Hey, were you going to answer my question, there, sometime soon?” It’s just a more polite way of saying it.

I get pretty cranky about seemingly pointless email, though, so maybe that’s just me. A former coworker complained because I don’t always start emails with “Hi” and a personal greeting and end with a formal closing. I admit that my approach to email can seem brusque, to someone who approaches it more formally, because I tend to view it from a more utilitarian, less formal perspective, especially among people who are sitting 15 feet from each other. I approach it more formally with people I don’t know well, but if we’ve chatted four times in a day and I know what you had for your last meal, I might start with “Hey, would you mind…” or a “Could you look into x when you get a chance?”

Okay, rant over. Now I’m going to remind the person again of the thing I’ve mentioned to them multiple times this week, and try to keep the edge out of my tone.


3 thoughts on “Talk Is Cheap

  1. Heck, I’ve gotten to the point where, if possible, I put the entire message in the subject line. If I’m just saying Hey, this is ready for approval, I see no reason to put anything in the e-mail body, forcing it to be opened. A message is only as long as it needs to be. In the case of the question, I might just put that in the subject.

    And, really, that just sounds aggravating. Just answer the question people!

  2. I’ve been known to do that, too. I love a subject line with a call to action. But it does get me known as brusque, or as mom calls it “businesslike.” Businesslike is a synonym for cold, and not at all a compliment.

    • Yeah, I think I only avoid that label because what I’m know for at work are my humorous global emails, usually about leftover food, or stuff that people lost and I have to babysit. Those are the ones they remember. In general, that is a good thing, and several departments send me their announcement-type things because they know people will read them if they come from me. However, the extremely up-tight folks, two of which have been on hiring committees for jobs I didn’t get, have said that they don’t think I can write anything serious (even when I they’ve read more than one I’ve read that had not one ounce of humor in it).

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