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20-40-60 Etiquette---Email answer?

(Have an opinion or a question? Email Helen at hwallace@oklahoman.com)




By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: Does every email deserve an answer? Several times I have sent an email and thought the recipient would reply with an answer or comment, but they did not. My feelings got hurt, but then I started thinking, maybe people don’t always respond to every email. Is there a set rule for this?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Did you ask a question? Not every email needs a response. The email conversation has to end at some point.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: It can be frustrating when emails are constantly ignored, and some people do that more than others. If they aren’t answered, then you are left wondering what they mean — Are they snubbing you? Is the answer something they’re afraid to tell you? Did you say something wrong? However, that’s not always the case. If you need an answer to something, I think it’s OK to ask again. I’ve noticed that as social media sites have proliferated, people take in information in different ways and attention spans are scattered. While this isn’t an excuse, sometimes a person might overlook your email by accident. Emails aren’t always the primary way people use to connect with others these days — I’ve recently learned that my kids sometimes get their news from CNN on the ephemeral Snapchat. Who knew? Others connect through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or texting. It’s hard to cut through that noise with an email.

The other problem is that people might read the email on their phones and intend to answer it later, when they sit down to a computer with a keyboard (I do this) and then they forget. Just like every phone call doesn’t need to be answered right away, neither does an email. But I do think it would be nice for the person receiving the email to respond eventually, even if it’s a quick “I will get back to you later; remind me if I forget.” People should answer emails that have questions, but at some point, you have to drop the back-and-forth correspondence and pick up the conversation later. And sometimes, it’s nice to do so in person or by phone.

HELEN'S ANSWER: No, I don't think every email gets an answer.

If you asked a question and the recipient did not answer, then ask again, as some mailboxes overflow with emails and your friend might not have seen it. Otherwise, pick up the phone, and call.

Some people check their emails daily and some check them weekly. Some people have cluttered mailboxes and some people delete their emails as they come in. We are not obligated to read and answer everything that comes our way.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Richard Rosser, author of etiquette cartoon, "Piggy Nation": Fortunately, every email does not deserve an answer. If so, none of us would have time to eat, sleep or write new emails.

Unfortunately, many emails that DO deserve an answer, don’t receive one because the recipient is overwhelmed with emails and other social media. Try not to take unanswered emails personally.

You can always send another email, or threaten to expose the recipient as an eSnubber on Facebook and Twitter!

GUEST'S ANSWER: Jeary Seikel, local civic leader: I am not aware of set rules on email etiquette, but believe that how one responds should be the choice of the receiver. When receiving solicitations, political jokes, chain letters and things that are not personal, I simply push delete if I find the content something that does not interest me. Just because the sender likes to spend their time on such things, does not mean that I do.

Easier to push delete than risk offense by asking that my friend not include me in such correspondence.

There are times that an answer to an email is expected, other times comments are made that might not alert the receiver that a response if necessary. Some people check email all day, but many of us check email only once a day or less.

Rather than allow yourself to suffer any disappointment in your friend's lack of response, do yourself a favor and send a follow-up email or pick up the phone to call.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›

Lillie-Beth Brinkman

Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman Read more ›

Callie Athey

Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a... Read more ›