Is there a correct way to send email? There are so many articles on the net that explain email etiquette and what’s the right or wrong way to say something. The usual rules are remembering the recipients, adding a subject matter, not putting everything in caps and using the correct salutations. I don’t want to focus on these issues here. What I’d like to do is share with you some of the odd things I’ve come across since the advent of email.
When we were in school, one of the lessons we had to learn was how to write a letter. What I remember is that the standard convention was that when you write a formal letter, you’ll place all the information, like name, address and date, to the left of the paper. When you’re writing an informal letter, all this information is placed to the right.
In the literary world, this was the convention to follow when writing a covering letter for a submission. Then came email and email submissions, but I maintained this convention. I’ve also received emails from people with their full address listed on the right side of the webpage.
Two years ago, I started to rethink the use of this convention when making submissions via email. I had attended a writers’ festival in the UK and one agent said something interesting: when submitting the first three chapters as an email, you’re advised not to have all this address stuff listed at the top. Instead, go straight to ‘Dear Mr. X’. Why this change? Simply because many in the publishing world now read submissions on their phones/tablets. In this ‘instant’ world, if they don’t read the first or second paragraphs immediately, it’s just too much effort to scroll down. So, if you were to stick to the ‘old fashioned’ way of doing things and placing your address right at the top of a covering email/letter, the agent or publisher may just ignore it.
When to Send?
The beauty about working from home is that I can work at any time during the day. Sometimes, what I do is to prepare all my emails during the day and keep them in draft form. Then, after dinner, I’ll look at them and send them all out. Or, I could write a story and have it resting for the night. First thing in the morning, I’ll send it out.
Similarly, I’ve received emails from people and when I look at the time stamp, I can see that they, too, follow a similar pattern. It wasn’t something I thought about very much until three years ago.
I was listening to a friend speak with her co-worker. They’d all been informed by top management that another co-worker (let’s call her Sally) was going to receive an award for work well done. There was no doubting that these two were upset Sally was receiving this award. They felt that she didn’t deserve it. And one of them said, “She even sends her emails at 11 in the evening.”
“What’s the problem with that?” I blurted out this question, interrupting the flow of their conversation. After all it was just an email. Wasn’t that ability to send a message at any time of the day and form anywhere in the world one of the beauties of email? I’ve read so many stories of people sitting at a beach and working away.
No. My friend insisted that since emails were work related, they had to be sent during office hours. It was extremely unprofessional to send a work-related email after office hours.
I’d never heard anything of the sort and decided not to engage them in battle over this.
Is this something you’ve encountered? Something one should be wary about? Something I should worry about?
Get What You Send. Really?
Now, when you send an email, it’s possible that it’ll look something like this:
Dear Mr. Blogs,
How are you? I hope this email finds you hale and hearty.
What you may receive will be something like this:
I am fine.
From: Aneeta Sundararaj <email@example.com> Sent: 5 April 2016. 18:00 To: Mr. Blogs Subject: how are you
>>>Dear Mr. Blogs,
>>>How are you? I
>>>hope this email finds
>>>you hale and hearty.
Here’s the thing. When I was in practice, I would print out this reply (usually from a client) to show the boss. I didn’t bother to print out what I’d sent because I was saving paper. After all, my original email was appended to the reply. My God! How much he scolded me for he’d assumed that my original email had all those carets, which is what this ‘>>>’ was called. I was accused of sending terrible-looking emails, spoiling the image of the firm and not upholding the firm’s brand. It would have been a terribly funny incident had I not been at the receiving end his angst.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, in the middle of preparing for a trial, I had to think about how to salvage the firm’s reputation since I was receiving emails that would come back with carets. Such is the stress that junior lawyers have to endure. I had half a mind to ring every single one of the recipients of my emails and ask them to make sure that when they responded, they remove the carets before pressing ‘Send’. I was desperate to please a boss that could never be pleased.
Once I’d calmed down, I learnt that there was a one way to get rid of these excessive caret: Selecting the offensive-to-the-boss-text.
Press Ctrl+F to use the Find and Replace command to find a caret.
Replace them with nothing.
Voila! All carets disappear.
It’s worked so far.
Do you have stories about how pedantic bosses can be?