Technology eReport
Volume 6, Number 4  •  October 2007
Table of Contents  |   Past Issues

SurvivingEmail
Tell Me You Love Me Only If You Mean It

By jennifer j. rose

Only in the rarest occasions were letters, written in the old-fashioned way with pen and ink and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, addressed to “Tom, Miguel, Leslie, and Larry.” Email really should be no different, but because the recipient field allows missives to be addressed to multiple individuals, many of us can’t resist doing just that. And that makes for a great deal of needless confusion.

This afternoon I received an email from Jim, addressed to “Tom, Miguel, Leslie, Luis, Jennifer, and Larry.” I started to respond, mostly in an effort to move one more email out of my inbox, and then I sat back and thought.

I didn’t have to answer that email.

The message wasn’t a statement of fact, opinion, or news, and it didn’t distribute a report to a select group of people. It didn’t ask for the opinion of the group. It wasn’t intended to poll the recipients.

It simply asked, “When is the next meeting?”

Did Jim want a response from each named recipient? Did he want only one response? Did he actually think that the recipients would collaborate on a joint response? Did he think the odds of a response would increase by the number of recipients? Or was he risking getting absolutely no response whatsoever, just because the recipients might decide to let someone else respond? Did he really intend to deliver that message to only one person, naming the rest just for informational purposes? Was he just playing the electronic version of Spin the Bottle? Who knows what he wanted?

I took the easy way out and deleted the message, deciding to leave the response up to someone else. I’ll lay good money that the other recipients did likewise.

Maybe Jim just wasn’t thinking when he sent out that message. Maybe he was just in a sharing mood when he opted to send that message to multiple recipients. Maybe he just didn’t know any better. It didn’t cost him anything to send that message to more than one person, but his actions cost each of the recipients an unwarranted expenditure of time and energy receiving, opening, reading, and deciding what action to take on that single email.

  • If want me to answer your email, address it to me. And only to me.
  • If you want responses from everyone in the group, make that clear by your message and by including the names of everyone as part of the salutation preceding your message.
  • If you simply want others to know that you’ve sent a message to Garcia, then add the names of those other individuals in the cc: field.

More is not always merrier when it comes to addressing email. It’s a sure-fire way to irritate others and have your message ignored.

jennifer j. rose, former editor-in-chief of GPSolo and Secretary of the GP|Solo Division, receives her email at jjrose@jjrose.com in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.

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