Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Email etiquette

First off, thanks to all of you who responded to my request yesterday. Great to meet you and thanks for the kind words. You can still weigh in. The more the merrier (I just made that statement up). Now to today's post:

Is this just me?

I’m emailing someone. Or texting someone. We’re going back and forth. And eventually either the thread gets pretty thin or I have other things to do. I always find it awkward signing off. I want to disengage without being rude.

Sometimes of course I can just say, “I gotta run” but if you do that too often I’m sure the other person is going to feel like I’m just blowing them off.

It’s somewhat easier when I’m bantering with some comedy writer pals. Once one of us has the topper the other acknowledges. We always go out on the best joke. (And usually it’s the other guy who has it.)

But I find myself at times reading an email (after we’ve volleyed a few times) and trying to decide, “is this a good place to just not answer?”

Sometimes I worry that I’m being unintentionally rude. I email a person. I don’t get a response for five or ten minutes. I assume he cut if off. Then I leave the computer to do something else. Two minutes after I’ve gone they respond. And of course there’s no subsequent response from me. Are they thinking, “Jesus, this guy is an asshole. I tell him I thought his play was great and he doesn’t even answer?”

And then there’s the other side to this. I’m corresponding back and forth and suddenly radio silence from their end. Did they just get tired of me? Did something I wrote piss them off?  Is this something I should be concerned about?   Just how insecure am I? 

Nothing drives me crazier on the phone than when the other person doesn’t say goodbye. When they just hang up after they’ve said what they want to say. This is a convention that is used ALL the time in TV and movies. I get it. It’s wasted screen time with people saying goodbye to each other, but in real life it’s incredibly rude. Do you feel that way about email correspondence?

I’m bothered less during texting. It’s kind of understood you’re trying to be as brief as possible. In many cases you’re delivering messages. But email conversations tend to be longer (at least mine do).

The solution might be out there but I just don’t know it. Is there an emoji for “nothing personal but I’m done with you now?” That would solve everything. Thank you.

33 comments :

Ted said...


Ken, Congratulations on the anniversary.

Here's something I searched on the net that I thought you would love. Its about your favorite Actress Natalie - http://worldcinemaparadise.com/2014/01/08/anyone-for-dennis/

Keep going, love all your posts.

Justin Russo said...

If I am in the throws of a conversation and it's late, I simply use "My Ambien is kicking in."

Karan G. said...

Interesting question, to which I don’t believe there is an adequate answer. As an emailer or texter, I’m generally an enthusiastic person and I try to make my point, but not to wear out my welcome and begin to bore the other person or expect too much of their time. My hero was my dad who told great stories and captivated people with his observations and experiences, but did not drone on. I believe friends or coworkers begin to observe people’s communication patterns and realize over time how to respond. As always, I enjoy the blog and podcast and the diversity of subjects! You obviously have many many fans!

Covarr said...

I've always thought of email as a slower form of communication than texting. In my circles, it's not uncommon for an email chain to be dragged over hours or even days for not that many emails. For all I know, someone might not even read it for at least a few hours after I send it. I have mine basically always open, but I simply can't assume the same of anybody else. If something is urgent, I'll text or call instead.

Email? Meh, it's just not fast enough to be truly conversational.

Tom Straw said...

Ken, I have a friend I email with who's a broadcast TV director. Not exactly an emoji, but when I'm done with him, I post an old TV test pattern, like they used to show at sign off. OK, now I'm worried I've gone too long here and I might j----

Neil D said...

I'm kind of the opposite. I don't worry about it too much with e-mail as I consider it's understood that I may have walked away from the computer to do something else. But with texting, I feel like there's an expectation for me to have my phone on me at all times, and unless I'm driving, there's no reason for me not to respond immediately.

Steve said...

As someone a couple decades younger than you, Ken, I think the key difference between emails and texts is that an email is like putting a letter under someone's door while a text is like making eye contact and waving from across the room.

One says 'read this when you get to the part of the day where you are reading your mail' the other says 'if you aren't too busy, look at this'. In that way texting is a halfway point between emailing and phoning (which says 'drop everything you're doing and pay attention to this').

(By the way, this is why most people I know under forty have stopped making unscheduled personal phonecalls. At least send a text first to see if its a good time!)

Therefore, I might expect some kind of closer (lol ttyl) to a text chain that went on longer than a couple back and forths but I wouldn't expect a response at all to any email that didn't have some kind if question in it... and I would never expect someone to answer an email in ten minutes! If something was that urgent, surely it would have merited a text.

tavm said...

On Facebook, the only way I can answer back is by Private Message because for some reason, my computer doesn't allow me to write on the comments section! So when I make my own posts on my page, it's either in a question that doesn't require me give back comments to whoever responses or just an opinion that I don't care how one takes it...

Roseann said...

Ken-
Ask someone under 25 years old this question. They usually have this stuff figured out.

Vickster said...

I hope someone answers here with a good idea, because I wonder as well!
Signed,

Twintone said...

Hi Ken-

Andy Richter did this interesting interview where he talked about how over saturated TV is with content now (and the web) so there's less money going around as to be an actor doing guest spots. Wondered your thoughts from writer/producer standpoint.

https://www.avclub.com/andy-richter-says-theres-a-lot-less-money-in-hollywood-1820453080

Sean Robbins said...

I'm usually guilty of the old Irish Goodbye in emails. If I don't have anything else to say, I just don't respond. Probably not the most polite thing, but I can't tell you the number of times I've stared awkwardly at my screen trying to thing of an appropriate response/goodbye. So I say nothing.

Eric J said...

Happens to me all the time, both ways. When I'm done, I'm careful not to introduce anything new. I keep my last (hopefully) email short and sometimes conclude with something they said that summarizes the conversation. They often have nothing more to add to something they've said if we've talked it out to the point where I want to get on with my life. The much shorter response is also a signal.

In her later years, my mom always just hung up. "Your dad had a heart attack. We're on rhe way home after we stop at Sam's Club." [click]

Max said...


Ken, Max here from NY. I follow your blog for movie reviews. Waiting for Dunkirk :(

Here's a suggestion for November 26th post - exact 12 years.

1. Dunkirk review.
2. Spielberg Movie review or rather what you expect it to be by seeing the trailer (snarkier the better :)).
3. Or the best, something about Natalie Wood. You surely must have met her, so tell us about the meeting.

Keep going Ken with the great posts. I am sure before Oscar season starts, you will review Dunkirk.

Thanks.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I do a lot of work via email. And yes, there are times people do not get back to you. For ever...
for less professional conversations...if you want to END your conversation after the banter or hard stuff is over...
here are two things.
1) Say "Thank you".
2) type in :) as a solitary note. They will probably reply :) which means, "we've run out of things to say." If they say something other than :) then the conversation is not done yet.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I say "Thank you" not just "thanks" (which to me sounds dismissive); I use a smiley emoticon at the end of some things; and find that "Best" is a useful sign off when there is no one to thank.

Buttermilk Sky said...

If I don't get a same-day response to an email, I tell myself, "Her computer crashed again." Sometimes it's true; always, it soothes my self-esteem.

Texting? What's that?

Peter said...

If we're still saying what we'd like to see on the blog, I'm still hoping Ken will see and review Happy Death Day. I just know you'd love it, Ken! The comedy is delicious!

Ken said...

Odd
In my case email is usually for longer exchanges that do not require instant response, though that is convenient, but rather a exchange that takes days of perhaps only 1 or 2 emails.
Text messages ar my "immediate" medium of exchange ( "On todays market the exchange rate is 2 texts to an email that's up from yesterdays 1.85 per email")
So on texts I am more time sensitive.
But even that has exceptions like when I don't look at my phone for a day or 2.

Darryl Musick said...

I just put a 'thumbs up' or a happy face image which basically tells the other person that I've enjoyed the conversation, glad to talk with you, but I've got nothing more to day. Also, I treat e-mail like regular mail...it doesn't have to have an immediate response.

Diane D. said...

Steve has the perfect answer, IMHO. That is what felt natural to me, and since he is a couple decades younger than me, I assume I do it right. However, sometimes I don't check my email for several days, which really is unintentionally rude. I just assume if something needs to be read today, it will come in a text. I agree with him that only the text chain in real time needs a sign off. He gave a good one (ttyl).

Diane D. said...

I noticed that Max is asking for a review of DUNKIRK. I don't know if he is the one who was beseeching you for one when it first came out, but I understand why and will add my plea. It is the most unusual war movie I have ever seen. At the beginning I thought "what the hell?" Then I pretty much fell in love with it, but I wouldn't even know how to begin describing it, which is why your thoughts would be so interesting to me (and apparently Max.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Maybe you have a thinner skin than I do. To me a rude response would be, Hey jerk-face! I'm sick of you and your putrid, fetid drivel. Why don't you f%@#-off and DIE?!! Not that I've ever personally ended an e-mail string that way. That might hurt someone's feelings.

VincentS said...

I think this is a Larry David kind of problem, in which case the solution would be to figure out what he would do and do the opposite!

thirteen said...

Back in the days when people talked to each other on the telephone regularly, I knew a guy who'd always say, "I think I smell smoke." I don't know why he did that, since everybody knew all he wanted was to get off the phone.

Then again, there was an old-timey science fiction magazine editor named Horace Gold. You'd be visiting him and his wife Muriel in their nice little apartment, and suddenly he'd excuse himself and leave, presumably to go to the bathroom. However, the phone would ring, and Muriel would simply hand you the receiver. It would be Horace, calling from another line in his bedroom, ready to continue the conversation. Horace had a thing about not staying in the same room with someone other than Muriel for very long.

VincentS said...

Friday Question: Have you ever seen THE MUPPET SHOW and if so what did you think of it? I think it was a great comedy show.

Charles H. Bryan said...

For any man of a certain age, "I have to pee, and it could take a while" ought to work.

Max Clarke said...


Shorter replies to their emails say a lot.

They usually get the point, and it let's them know it's okay to stop emailing.

By the way Ken, congratulations on 12 years. I've been reading for maybe eleven years. A screenplay site - back when people maintained lists of links to sites they liked - endorsed your blog. I don't read that other blog anymore, though.

One reason I keep coming back is that you are so competent in so many areas. You can write about baseball one day and staging a play the next. I've never seen you go through a "losing streak," and that's something considering how hard it is to present something interesting day-after-day.

DwWashburn said...

If I am IM'ing someone on Facebook, I usually find out it's time to end it when the responses get smaller and smaller. While our first statements may be two or three sentences long, by the time we get to the end of the conversation you're seeing replies like "OK", "Will do" or "I hear you". I know by that time it's OK for me not to reply.

Kaleberg said...

Email is mail. People only check it every so often, so why expect an immediate response.

Text is usually higher priority, when it actually requires a response. 90% of the text messages I get are from bots reminding me of stuff. If it's urgent, my friends know how to make telephone calls. They'll even call my landline using their landline if they want me to understand what they're saying.

Amusingly, emails rarely take more than a minute or two to go from end to end, but text messages often get hung up somewhere en route and can take from a few seconds to a few days to come through. I think they go to the same place that voicemail hangs out.

lucidkim said...

When I'm tired/done with texting someone, I respond with emojis only - thumbs up or a smiley face that shows teeth. If they keep going I might explain that my battery is about to die on my phone. I've noticed younger people just stop texting when they're done - feeling less guilt than I do about ignoring the other person. Emails - if they don't respond I assume they're busy - most people don't email like they used to, which I miss. I don't miss the phone calling though, glad that's considered kind of rude now as I hate talking on the phone! :)

Loosehead said...

Writing "cya" in email or text feels right to me. Even the "agree to disagree" sort of exchanges.

Andy Rose said...

I sometimes get texts from a friend of mine when we’re both at work... he’ll just think of some random thing. If the conversation stops, we just know that the other person had to get back to work. Sometimes it will pick up again 3 hrs later right where it left off.

On Facebook Messenger, I’ve started just using the thumbs up to the other person’s last comment to indicate I have nothing more to add to it.