I probably should not write this post because people are going to become afraid to email me. Some people already are afraid to post on my Facebook page. They think they’ll make a grammatical error, and I’ll attack them with my red pen. I’ve tried to explain that isn’t the case; I want people to ask grammar questions so that I can answer them. I never meant for my “Write Right” series to strike the fear of the red pen into people.
I digress. Back to email etiquette. I’m afraid that it’s a dying art. I hate to think how many emails I receive that read as text messages. Others don’t have a subject line, or the subject line is used in place of an actual message. I try to be forgiving, but I tend to think email is both a matter of form and function. They have to work together.
My viewpoint may be biased since I’m a writer, an editor, and a poet. I’m concerned with both the message and how it’s transmitted. If one or the other is missing, I tend to become aggravated. I start to wish for a red pen.
I think, though, that form and function matter regardless of one’s status as a writer or editor. It’s too easy to misread an email when the message or the transmission is lacking. If the email doesn’t answer questions that have been asked, communication suffers. If the email provides too many details, which happens all too often with lengthy, rambling replies, communication also suffers. If the email provides the pertinent information but is shared in the wrong way, such as a text message format, communication suffers again. When punctuation is lacking or is used incorrectly, the message can be hard to understand. The tone itself may seem dismissive or disrespectful.
Is there a solution to the email etiquette dilemma? I don’t know. It’s not as though I can require everyone to attend an email etiquette class, even if that is my desire.