Thursday, February 15, 2007

Never Assume Your Intended Reader Received (or read) Your Message

The following is an excerpt from my new book, 135 Tips to Writing E-mails, IMs & More, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in the spring of 2008:

There are all sorts of reasons the intended recipient may not have seen your e-mail. If you don’t hear back from someone in a reasonable time, assume he or she didn’t see your message. Either send another e-mail or pick up the phone. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • You inadvertently sent the message to the wrong address. My colleague’s name is Jan Richards, and her e-mail address is mailto:jpaddington@company.com. Someone in her office is named Jack Richardson, and his e-mail address is mailto:jpaddington@company.com. As you can well imagine, they invariably get each other’s e-mails.
  • You were spammed out. Your e-mail may have landed in the recipient’s spam box.
  • The recipient missed it. People are so bombarded with e-mails, they may not read them all.
  • The message never arrived. As strange as this seems, not all e-mails reach their destinations.

Case in point… Three months after my dear friend died, I received an e-mail from her asking me to meet her for lunch. My breathing quickened. My heart pounded. My palms sweated. After I regained my composure, I looked at the date. She had sent the message six months before she died. That e-mail was floating around in the vast digital wilderness of cyberspace for nearly nine months.

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