Wednesday, March 03, 2010

E-Mail: A Modest Proposal

In this techno, fast-paced, get-it-done-now world, one can become overcome by envy when watching old films where a character receives a letter and then ponders the response for days or even weeks.

At some point shortly after e-mail became a popular form of communication, an expectation arose that e-mail messages, even those of no urgency, must be answered promptly. Well, if there was an election, I didn't have a vote.

E-mail is a marvelous form of communication and yet informal ground rules have turned it into a generator of stress. Its convenience causes people to send far more e-mail messages than they would have sent had their means been paper, envelope, and stamp. Unfortunately, we have not developed standards to civilize the process.

Until now.

I propose this simple rule: Unless an e-mail message is marked Urgent, it should be treated the same as a regular letter. That means it can be answered within 10 days without the stigma of tardiness. This is faster than the old paper version, but is still timely and it forces the sender, rather than the communication method, to declare the urgency of the matter.

We have no choice. Some technology here and some more over there and before long we will have lost many of the quiet pleasures of life, one of which is the time to think.


At 2:47 AM, Blogger TwistedByKnaves said...

Thank you for your post. this deserves some thought. I'll get back to you in a couple of weeks. Please do drop by my blog/ call me/ IM me if you can't wait that long.

Thanks and Regards,


At 8:37 PM, Blogger Michael Wade said...


I will definitely drop by your blog. I'm glad you have the spirit of the "in a couple of weeks" thing.

At 2:45 AM, Blogger TwistedByKnaves said...


Thank you for your simple and thought provoking suggestion. As I indicated in my initial response, it has always been quite possible to have a boilerplate reply that (re)sets expectations about the timing of your reply.

However, once you have set those expectations, it is vital that you meet them. So in that spirit, there are a few thoughts on the tyranny of the instant response culture here: .

(I tried to post as a comment, but it is too long and I don't have time to write anything shorter: sorry.)



P.S. word verification asks for "Coherati". Is Blogger revealing a secret society that is trying to make some sort of coherent sense? Bad news for Dan Brown, I fear.


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