On the Peculiar Emailing Habits of the Human Race

E-mail in notesEmails. What a fantastic invention, a speedy way to deal with both business and pleasure. A way to reconnect with friends and family you’d otherwise lose touch with. I shoot emails back and forth all day with friends sometimes and I love getting an email from an old friend. Emails and IMs have completely overhauled our daily communications and it is wonderful.

But. And there’s a big but.

As it turns out, many people out there are rude, ignorant, lazy, and completely incapable of exhibiting the simplest degree of social skill. And all of this comes oozing out in their emails. It’s also where you see the devolution of language and communication and major support for the idea that we are headed down the road towards social Armageddon. And that road is paved with no punctuation and the inability to capitalize.

Here are some of my pet peeves.

The Mystery Email

This seems to be a specialty of students, who are so busy providing the nucleus of the universe that they believe technology is there to streamline messages to the walking monkeys who do their bidding. So instead of, say, an email query for information regarding a course, I get this:


I need the syllabus for the new semester.

Things they forgot to add: my name, their name, request language (such as please, could you, or would you mind), or any information about the class they are in. They also forgot a question mark, a reasonable sign on, a sign off, any sort of polite greeting, or the words thank you.

But maybe I am looking at this all wrong. I bet the students realize that my life is sort of boring. I have a cat, I spend too much time reenacting the battle of Hogwarts with silverware, and I need more mental stimulation. So they jazz up my life by throwing me a mystery.

I do indeed get baffled.

So I typically respond like this:

Dear human person

I give up! I can’t solve your mystery. You’ll need to send me more information. And forks.

The ‘no email’ email

Let’s stay with the idea that some university students don’t have the common sense Vishnu gave a table saw. There is my favorite kind of email, the ‘no email’ email. This is usually when someone sends you an attachment – in my case students sending an essay – and they send only the essay, with a completely blank email. Nothing.

Now, I understand that you have exhausted your considerable writing abilities on the essay itself and that the thought of writing one more incoherent, poorly worded, and unsupportable sentence makes you sad. But a blank email seems like wasted space. So please, do something fun with that space like write a little joke. For example:

Two students walk into a bar. The first one says, “I handed in a shitty paper to a professor today”. And the second one says, “Well, as long as it’s cited correctly it should be fine,” and the first one says, “what does ‘cite’ mean?”  



The Late Responder  

On June 7th, 2012, I received one of those Facebook messages we’ve all gotten:

Hey man, I think we were in college together. Europe, huh? How did you end up in Prague?

On June 8th, 2012, I responded:

Hey, yes, we did know each other. Blah blah. Obligatory joke about running from the law blah. How are you these days?

Four days ago – on March 2nd 2014 – I got my response in the form of a thumbs-up. He is well. Finally, after nearly two years I know he is doing well. Day after day of checking my email to find out how he was doing has finally paid off. Now, my friends, I can live again. I can live again.

What the hell?

I have another friend who writes once a year that we should communicate more because he misses me. I respond the next day with an email about my life and asking about his. And 360-ish days later I get another email telling me that we should communicate more because he misses me.

These emails do not anger me, they only leave me wondering with true confusion why these people take so long to write back and what compels them to write when they do. Insight, please.

No caps. No punctuation. No care. No nothing.  

AKA: The “i put so little effort into this email that it actually took effort” email.

Really, though, nothing says “I care about you zero” like an email with no punctuation, no capitals, and no greetings. I got the following from a professor during my masters program.

this isnt the right way to do it i told you how it was suposed (sic) to be done ill grade it anyway

b –

I rationalized this by assuming that he was being pushed out of an airplane and this was his last act of academic assessment. Then I ate a unicorn sandwich.

OK, take my advice: DON’T SEND AN EMAIL LIKE THAT. EVER. I don’t care who you are and I don’t care how busy you think you are, you are not so busy that you can’t show someone the mildest degree of respect in an email. Take the extra 11 seconds necessary and craft a two sentence email with punctuation, capital letters, and a sign on and sign off. It will go a long way in telling someone you think somewhat highly of them. Moreover, you will give that person a far better impression of yourself, because whether you know it or not that is exactly what you’re doing when you correspond with any other person.

Now, I have to go since the spoons and ladles are attacking the Forbidden Forest again.

Over to you!

Some of you receive twenty times the emails I get, so I am sure you have some major pet peeves. Tell us!

  1. #1 by greg galeone on March 6, 2014 - 12:21 am

    A pet peeve-People who have a lower boarding number than I do and take the overhead space above my seat before I get a chance to reach the god damned seat. These are invariably individuals who are too cheap or lazy to check their luggage in. Their definition of “carry on” is any container or containers that a mule could haul. good post and hi damo.

  2. #2 by Eddie on March 6, 2014 - 2:26 am

    My email pet peeve at work is the reply to a month old subject line with a new email email. Just send a new email or at least erase the subject line. So I see something like(RE: URGENT MEETING STATS UPDATE) and in the text I see “do you have any extra notepads” with poor grammar and no thank you to top it off

    • #3 by Damien Galeone on March 7, 2014 - 10:11 am

      hhahahha. That’s right, Ed! Same thing happens to me too and it is annoying.

  3. #4 by Mary Widdicks on March 7, 2014 - 1:18 am

    I think my biggest pet peeve is using text-speak, twitter-speak or overly familiar language in a formal email. “OMG Prof Widdicks ur test was 2 hard, u should make it shorter LOL”. FAIL!!!

    • #5 by Damien Galeone on March 7, 2014 - 10:13 am

      Mary – I could not agree with you more. I get it from students and professionals alike. “Hey, want 2 meet l8r?” I always think – really? You can’t waste the time to type four more letters? We need to fix the world, Professor Widdicks!

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