On Responding to E-mail

Someone in my e-mail queue has just– I suspect unintentionally — pissed me off, so let me make a general statement here so I can refer people to it later:

I am not your e-mail monkey. I receive dozens and sometimes hundreds of non-spam e-mails each day. I try to get to most of them. However, I don’t generally respond to non-critical e-mail immediately, because:

a) I’m not always on the computer.
b) When I am on the computer I am usually doing something else.
c) When I am on the computer not doing something else, sometimes I don’t want to bother answering e-mail.

I usually try to respond to non-critical e-mail within a couple of days. If I’m really busy (like when I was on tour, for example), it might be longer than that. Additionally, if you send me something for which I do not feel a response is necessary and/or expected, I may not respond at all. Finally, given the volume of e-mail I get, if I do respond I may be brief. Also, of course, I am the one who determines whether an e-mail is critical to respond to immediately, not anyone else.

I expect that most of you, as humans who are also busy with life and work, understand this. For those of you who don’t, I will make this simple:

Pestering me about not immediately answering your e-mail will piss me off. It will make me less likely to respond, and if I do respond, you probably won’t like it.

This is not the same as following up an e-mail after several days time. That’s entirely legitimate and indeed I encourage that, since sometimes mail slips through the cracks. Please feel free to follow up after a few days (briefly if possible); you’ll likely get a response and an apologetic tone.

But, say, sending the same e-mail more than once in a few hours and sending another less than a day later demanding a response is just going to irritate the living crap out of me. Yes, this has happened recently. Indeed, it has happened more than once recently (no, it wasn’t from any of the usual gang who frequents here. Relax). People who don’t get the concept that I am not slavering to pounce on their e-mail the second it arrives in my queue — and perhaps are even offended that I am not — really need to be struck about the head several times with a clue stick.

There, I’m done venting.

8 Comments on “On Responding to E-mail”

  1. As a monkey, I find this post mildly offensive. I think I speak for the entire primate family in saying you should, perhaps, have chosen a different animal for your screed. I’m partial to “e-mail possum” or perhaps “e-mail whale” (for its rhyming qualities.)

    Further, when not not engaged in my full-time contract work of typing randomly on typewriters, I often take part-time work answering e-mail messages for a major computer company in Redmond, WA. So, one could say I AM an e-mail monkey and you’d know not a thing about what it’s like to be one.

    Sincerely yours,

    – E. J. Simian

    Ps. – sorry about the subterfuge in the required fields, I’m supposed to use the name of my owner in all official correspondence.

  2. Hello,
    I was wondering if someone could put me in contact with the Booth Family Historian. I have been searching my grandmothers side of the family. Her name was Marie Helen Booth b. 1893 her father was Webster Booth b. 1862, his father was Jonathan Booth b. 1832, his father Thomas Booth b. abt 1805 in Va. I have his father as Jonathan Booth b. around 1780’s maybe in Berkeley Co., Va. do not have a wife for him. I do have a photo of Webster & his wife and my grandmothers brother Leo. If I could have attached those photos to you on this email I would have but I’m not that good to know how to do that except on regular emails. When my son was in school and studying Lincoln & Booth he came home and ask me why we had a photo of John Wilkes Booth in our family album. I told him who it was, he ask if he was related to Booth, I told him I didn’t know. If I could I would like to match photos.
    If you think you can help or want to please email me. Be sure to put Booth in the Subject space so I know who you are. If I don’t know the email I don’t open it.
    Thank You.

  3. [Deleted because off-topic. Concerned Friend, there is such a thing as e-mail. Look for mine under the “contact information” heading in the sidebar of the site — JS]

  4. [Deleted for passive aggressiveness. Dude, the “Contact Information” link is on every single page of the site — JS]

  5. Hello Mr. Scalzi,

    I respect your privacy. I just wanted to say that having read Redshirts, I’ve kinda lived it. When I was 17 I ran my car head on into a Ryder rent a truck. It was exceptionally unlikely that I would survive… if it wasn’t for a defective seatbelt that we had already gotten a recall notice I wouldn’t be breathing today. It was a very painful time. My friends called me the $60,000 man. They said “Vern, we have the technology, we can rebuild you”. They were right, but it wasn’t fun.

    So, well, Hello. And Best Wishes and all that.

    Thanks for the book, I appreciated it.


  6. Hi John,

    I wanted to thank you for answering a question I had yesterday about first publishing rights. It means alot to me that you took the time to not only answer the question, but also give a little bit of your own insight into publisher’s minds and stuff when it comes to previously-published work. I shared your email with the blogger who had originally broughten the issue up to my attention, and she also sends her thanks. I admit, I have fallen behind on my reading lately, but have just started Old Man’s War and already your writing style has me inspired. Hopefully when my own novel is done I’ll eventually be able to write an Big Idea piece about it.

    Thanks again John!!!

    John Siebelink

  7. Pingback: Conserving My Time and Energy

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