Ah, the work email. A minefield of misinterpretation, ambiguity and passive aggression. I once received an email that was so laden with classic passive aggressive venom that I’m surprised it managed to waddle into my inbox:
Hideous, yes? No. Being a happily passive aggressive person myself, this gruesome missive in fact provided me with the holy grail: the Smug Passive Aggressive Email Counter Attack. I swiftly responded with:
Listeners, that gem of an email encounter kept me going for weeks.
Aren’t work emails fantastic? Oh, the multitudinous ways you can imply that you consider the email recipient to be a moron! The unabashed glee of being able to write ‘For clarity…’, knowing full well that the email recipient will, quite correctly, translate that short phrase to mean ‘To hammer home this point that has been made literally millions of times before and which you seem incapable of grasping and which is screamingly obvious to the other 3,407 people who are copied in to this email, who now also see that you are a monumental luddite…’
The giddy revelry of beginning an email with ‘Thank you for your email’, being completely aware that the recipient will – again, correctly – translate it as ‘I am about to launch into the most scathing attack on the pitiful incompetence you have displayed in your previous email and I will do it under the guise of polite professionalism so there’s no way you can complain that the obvious subtext is YOU’RE A MASSIVE DICK’.
And, if you’re very lucky, the perfect beauty of being able to end an email with ‘Happy to discuss’, which basically means:
But emailing is not all glee and smugness.
You must deal with non-responders.
There are various levels of non-responders, dependent upon their previous experience of not responding, their incompetence, and their inherent knobbishness. They all deserve a lifetime of misery.
The softcore non-responder will be embarrassed into submission after a couple of ‘I look forward to hearing from you’s, and may well display some contrition in their eventual response, however unfeeling:
The hardcore non-responder is a different beast. The hardcore non-responder will retreat into a mire of silence, sit back in their chair and simply watch as your emails get more and more desperate and less veiled with professionalism.
The hardcore-non responder is not even flustered by the dynamite of passive-aggressive email tools: the Read Receipt. A hardcore non-responder simply will not accept your Read Receipt, and therefore you have no way of knowing whether you are emailing a rude person or a dead person.
But there is a level above that: the extreme hardcore non-responder. This Dr Evil of the workplace will accept your Read Receipt, knowing that this will trick you into thinking that, as they have definitely seen your email, they will, at some point, respond.
So after 2 years and 437 increasingly demonic emails from you, it becomes patently clear that this extreme non-responder saw your email and made the conscious decision that you are not worthy of a response, and, they not only do not care that you know this but they want you to know this.
This warrants only one response.
Then there are the email typos.
Unless you have actually made this mistake yourself, you won’t necessarily appreciate how perilous the innocuous phrase ‘Kind regards’ is, and how the proximity of certain letters to other letters can result in a potentially catastrophic email sign-off:
Fortunately, in the half-second before I pressed ‘Send’, my eyes fell on my terrible error, and my left hand was able to stop my right hand from committing a potential disciplinary.
And as for email greetings and sign-offs – well. Just look what a difference it makes.
This is okay, isn’t it?
Then this. This is not okay.
What about the accidental kisses? A strongly worded email to your local MP advising them that you think they are a useless sack of balls is slightly undermined by:
Equally, a misplaced ‘xx’ at the end of an email attaching a job application may as well scream ‘I WILL SUCK YOUR TOES IF YOU GIVE ME THIS JOB’.
I look forward to your comments.
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A few lovely examples…