Email etiquette

IWSGA post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

In the 19th century, it was considered impolite not to answer your personal letters. With the advance of electronic mail, the etiquette of correspondence seems to have changed. We all receive dozens of emails – it’s relatively easy to get anyone’s email address – and many inboxes are inundated with spam. Nevertheless, politeness dictates that we reply to personal emails, doesn’t it? Even if the reply is negative, I always send it, but some people don’t bother even to acknowledge their emails.

Mail-icon2As a writer, I encounter this phenomenon in several variations. One is familiar to every writer. We submit our stories to magazines and publishers, and if they don’t want our stories, in half the cases, they don’t reply. I understand their predicament: they get tons of submissions and not enough staff to reply to every rejected author.

Another type of non-answered emails is entirely different, and I can’t comprehend it. As I cultural journalist, I regularly get an assignment from my editor to write about a certain artist/writer/actor/etc. I contact them through email, often out of the blue, to ask for an interview for my articles. Most people reply. They are happy to talk about themselves and flattered that our newspaper is interested in their stories.

But occasionally, my subjects don’t reply. Maybe they don’t want anyone to write about them, or maybe they don’t want me in particular to write about them. It’s possible, but would it kill them to send off a short negative reply? “Thank you, I’m not interested,” takes three seconds to type, and you don’t have to go to the post office to reply to your emails. Why don’t they? I don’t believe they get hundreds of offers from other journalists or other newspapers, so what is the reason for their digital rudeness?

It’s still considered rude not to answer your personal correspondence, isn’t it?





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12 Responses to Email etiquette

  1. Lidy says:

    Sorry to hear that. It really is a missed opportunity for writers, but I can also understand. With all the hacking issues and fear of downloading viruses, more than likely they’re not opening unknown emails. Probably even deleting them. So maybe it’s not just lacking email etiquette but being overcautious.

  2. Zan Marie says:

    How hate the “No response means No” that many agents use, too. But then, I’m a responding type. 😉 Good luck!

  3. It bothers me, too, when people don’t answer e-mails. I know people are busy, but as you said, “No thanks, I’m not interested,” takes only a few seconds to write and send.

  4. nellirees says:

    Ah well, never mind! 🙂

  5. rbyrnes says:

    There’s something about the time and courtesy involved in answering a query…of any kind. Social invitation, business meeting, even just a quick hello from someone. I personally like postcards. 🙂

  6. doreenb8 says:

    It really bothers me too. Sometimes though I think our e-mails go into a spam folder. I always look through my spam folder, just incase so of course I think everyone should be that considerate.

  7. dolorah says:

    Its a busy world out there and sometimes, it is rude of necessity. I know I’ve been guilty of letting an e-mail sit unopened so long I forget its there. Shame on me.

  8. I find it extremely rude to ignore a personal email, or message of any kind really. I take great pains to respond to every email, text, blog comment, YouTube comment, and Tweet, even if it’s just a smiley face to let the other person know I did actually read what they wrote. I can’t stand the idea of people thinking that I don’t care that they took the time to say something to me.

    And I HATE the whole publishers-who-dont-get-back-to-you thing. Maybe they can’t send a personal response to everyone, but would it be so hard to have a stock email that just says something like, “Thank you for your submission but we are not interested at this present time”?

  9. MK Smith says:

    Rudeness is often gauged with consequence. When one receives many emails in a day, even of different sorts, it diffuses the sense of responsibility to answer any one of them.

  10. Maybe it got sent to their spam folder? Or maybe it was sent to an email account that they don’t check carefully. Who knows. Sometimes I get email replies to a comment I left on someone’s blog and I don’t always answer those. It feels like sending a “thank you” note for their “thank you” note at some point.

  11. Olga Godim says:

    I see the prevalent opinion is the same as my own. Thanks, everyone, for visiting my blog and commenting.

  12. I am not a submissions officer but when I look at my personal email I see I have received 83,120 emails. Not in a single day. But as a ‘regular type person’ I can see how an email, personal or important, might slip through the cracks.

    The virtual pile of emails a publisher/editor has must be e-huge.. e-towering, even.

    If the guidelines indicate a time period between submission and response I would wait that out and then follow-up. If there is no time period then you will need to make the call on when to make the call.

    This is also where a very clear subject line can move you up the list or at least cause a longer term memory to occur…

    I can see how not replying to an email can be considered rude. To put it in some sort of perspective, my new favorite pet peeve is ‘death notification by group text or FaceBook post. That I think is rude, You don’t want to know how I reply to those…

    Nice topic, Olga!

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