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I keep on receiving emails that are more like a text message rather than emails and I find this disrespectful as I am always taking some extra time to write my emails in a professional form and manner. But this may as well be just a cultural conflict - I wasn't raised in the US.

I often write my emails in the following format.

Hi XXX,

I hope this email finds you well (or thank you for your email, if I am replying.)

[Address the matter.]

I look forward to hearing from you (if I am expecting a response.) Your prompt response is greatly appreciated (if this is a matter requiring urgent action). Thank you for your time (if I asked for something that will take sometime to get it done.)

Best regards (Sincerely/ Best wishes/ Very respectfully/ etc.)

But in response I sometimes receive one-line responses without any courtesy content. I am well-aware that emails aren’t necessarily like letters, and some warrant short, quick responses. However, I find one-line replies more suitable for a text message and I expect the person I am contacting to share the same level of mutual respect.

Do I have valid reasons to consider these kind of emails rude or am I looking at the things from the wrong stand point?

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    Considering it from another angle -- brief emails are showing respect for the recipient's limited time by not making them read through several lines of pleasantries before you get to the point. – kevinsa5 Feb 22 at 17:01
36

It depends on the context.

  • Between coworkers, absolutely one-line emails are not disrespectful. Internal emails are more or less just text messages in longer form, or that should be saved for posterity, or provide long-term action items that may need to be revisited. Announcements should be a bit more respectful in tone, but conversations can be casual.

  • Between a provider team and a consumer team, it depends on the office culture; I've sent both very respectful emails to internal clients and also very casual ones, depending on the setting and personality involved (I'm a software engineer, and it's generally more acceptable to be "unprofessional" like this in software engineering).

  • Between a company and a client, you need to be respectful always, unless you have a very good rapport with your client, and even then you should show some decorum.

Sounds like you're in the first situation, so feel free to be a bit more casual in your emails. Don't use unprofessional language (e.g. swearing), but you don't have to litter your email with wordy greetings.

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    the fact is, even though you need to be respectful, emails even to a client in the US are far - far! - shorter than in France/Germany. – Fattie Feb 22 at 17:43
  • @Fattie I don't know enough about France/Germany to speak intelligently about that. My point was that emails to a client should be more respectful than emails internally, in North American culture (tagged united-states in the OP, so OP is asking about North America). Longer =/= more respectful, FWIW, although there is admittedly usually a correlation. – Ertai87 Feb 22 at 19:09
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    IMHO even with clients if you start an email chain (stuff like, "can we meet tuesday", "no I can't, le'ts do it wednesday at 15", "That does not work for me", "me neither, friday at 11am is better", "Yep", "yep", "yep", "okay friday", "Sorry guys, I can't let's change time to 10am" [.. omissis..]. If every single email had an opening, pleasantries, question worded carefully, closing thoughts and best wishes it would take weeks to schedule a meeting. After the first reply it's always okay to avoid openings and get to the point and no closing is necessary. – Bakuriu Feb 22 at 20:44
  • This is my experience too. With coworkers, I often just write a single line response, and if I know the person well I may start a conversation this way. If I don't then I start it with more words, but the conversation usually ends up with one liners. It's just so much more efficient for everyone. – bob Feb 22 at 21:25
  • This is all about 'I wasn't raised in the US". Adapt to your local culture, OP, instead of thinking your ways are necessarily better – user90842 Feb 22 at 21:47
30

Again, this varies GREATLY from culture to culture.

In a German email, The Subject may contain vital information, and not be repeated in the body of the email.

In India, the email could include personal information.

In the USA, brevity is often considered polite.

In Japan, if you screw up the honorifics, you will be in for trouble.

From the UK, you may get an email ending with "Cheers!"

Learn what is polite for the culture you are addressing. What may be considered rude in one culture may be polite in another culture, may be overly formal for another.

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    Since January, I've sent/received 200 emails containing the word cheers. Some with smiley faces and they echo how a conversation would appear if I went over to the co-worker's desk and asked/resolved the problem in person (Always polite and no swearing as if anyone around you can hear) - Software Engineer in Ireland – Dean Meehan Feb 27 at 15:18
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    @DeanMeehan cheers, mate ;) – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 27 at 15:26
14

Shorter (hah!) version:

In the US, longgg emails are, in fact, supercilious.

The example email given by the OP, would literally be seen as rude in the US - it would appear that you were trying to be a smart-arse, or otherwise supercilious.

Cultural norms are strange things; it's professional to simply be aware of the prevailing cultural norm.


Your speculation is correct:

In the US context, your example format is basically "wrong".

  • In the US, emails are just like texts or a chat room

  • In (say) France or Germany, they are (often) more like letters

So in the US,

  • It's totally OK to often completely forget about - totally - the "formatting" of "letters" which those among us old enough learned in school. So, the "greeting part", "signature part" and so on - often just forget about it, as in a text

  • One word replies (notably "Understood") are totally OK

  • Even addressing a senior boss, you can still keep it extramely brief. (Perhaps just adding a bare "Thanks Sir, Fattie" at the end.)

  • Definitely forget forever your "I hope ..." introductory sentence :)

  • You can treat it as if a chat room

In total contrast, dealing (in general) in France or Germany, you can write "actual letters".

Regarding asia (say, China, India) ... things are too fast paced for me, anyway to form an opinion either way! Regarding Japan, it's inscrutable.

Hence, to answer your questions,

Do I have valid reasons to consider these kind of emails rude

You are totally incorrect. They are not rude.

However, I find ... [your cultural expectation]

You're in a different country.

"Your" convention is rude, surprisingly!

Cordialement,
Fattie

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    Everything you say about emails is true until it isn’t (in the US). If it’s something you would send a letter about (job offer) formality matters, if it’s something you say in conversation (send me a quick reminder about that and I will reply) it really doesn’t. – Donald Feb 22 at 18:36
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    That you write simply isn't true. I've lived both in the US and several European countries. Yes, communication in the US is a bit less formal. But in no European country I know would the letter OP quoted be treated as normal. My first thought after reading it was the OP comes from India since that's the only region I know where people communicate like this. – BigMadAndy Feb 22 at 19:25
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    @BigMadAndy, I changed it from "are" to "often more like". I really think it's a distinct difference. – Fattie Feb 22 at 19:57
  • Just goes to show that it's hard to find working generalisations on these things. I'm Austrian and worked with large German corporations and I can't remember a single email that started with anything like "I hope this finds you well". I can see this with smaller companies, but in larger corporations people higher up the chain of command are simply busy and get hundreds of mails a day. Be courteous, sure, but don't waste anyone's time is more how I'd characterize German culture there. – Voo Feb 23 at 10:39
  • @Voo - sure, you make a good point. ( Note I mentioned ... "Definitely forget forever your "I hope ..." introductory sentence!" ) The OP's actual example is almost humorously over-the-top. I would say though that "German" email is indeed a little longer than US email. So, there's usually at least an "mfg" at the end, or a name at the start and/or end. Whereas US email is - and this is a nice point someone made - treated like a text message, or as part of an ongoing chat room. – Fattie Feb 23 at 11:43
7

As several of the previous answers have stated this is largely culturally driven. Generally, in the US, brevity is appreciated and is itself respected.

While this is a cultural value and therefore not entirely subject to rational analysis, let me offer a rationalization for choosing shorter emails.

I typically get over 100 emails each day (not counting spam). My boss gets over 1000! If each message was full of respectful chit chat that has to be read and digested to extract the action items he'd never be able to keep up, and important items would be overlooked in the mass of verbiage.

4

Thank you for your question. :P I hope you are well.

First of all, good for you for taking the time to ensure you are being respectful.

The short answer is that abrupt emails are not generally indicative of rudeness on the part of the sender. The ubiquity of electronic communication has driven a stake through the heart of most people's willingness to engage in the pleasantries which characterized written communication in the lower-tech past.

It remains however, rude in general, to always be focused on yourself when interacting with others, and abrupt messages devoid of pleasantries are certainly one potential sign of this. Context will generally provide the rest of the clues as pointed out by @Ertai87 in his/her answer.

I am of the habit, like the OP, of always making an effort to compose messages in a format very similar to the one he/she provided:

  • greeting (with recipient name)
  • past/current wish (had a nice weekend, having a good day, are well, etc.)
  • matter
  • invitation of response / other followup / seeing you / etc.
  • personal wish (my best wishes, etc.)
  • sender name

This was a conscious switch I made many years ago. I find it to be very mindful: it increases my awareness of what is outside of me generally, and specifically my correspondent. I find that it is those few seconds where I am writing something routine are the ones where I can really think about the recipient getting the message.

The best part is that I find what you write really is not simply boilerplate, but actually the truth. Yes, you choose much of it from a small set of canned sentiments, but if you are doing it right, when you write that you hope they are well, you feel it right then and there, for the few seconds it takes to write it. And extending your best wishes - for a second or two, you really are wishing well upon someone, not just saying it.

I look forward to seeing other people's comments and reading the discussion.

Please accept my best wishes.

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    Resisting the urge right now to edit out the fluff in this answer – CDspace Feb 22 at 22:54
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But in response I sometimes receive one-line responses without any courtesy content. I am well-aware that emails aren’t necessarily like letters, and some warrant short, quick responses. However, I find one-line replies more suitable for a text message and I expect the person I am contacting to share the same level of mutual respect.

Have you ever thought of it in the opposite direction? That the reader is simply too busy to dissect each segment of your email to answer?

My thought is I would love 1 line emails. In my professional experience, I found the shorter the email, the better. I try to answer every email in just one sentence and if I send an email, I write it in a couple of sentence. Anymore, I found the individual does not read it.

So in the future, try to write out an email with just a few sentences, if you can. In your sample, you don't need anything but the person's name, the matter addressed, and then a signature closing.

X,

Do you want me to submit task 123?

Thank you, csg

Phone: 123-123-1234

email: 4321@example.com

"Some slogan from your company"

Or when you answer emails, maybe,

X,

Yes, proceed with task 123.

Thank you, csg

Phone

Email

Slogan

  • If someone sent me emails this long, I wouldn't get to the first comma before I completely lost concentration, closed the window, and went on to form another startup or something. :) These are the US version of "extremely long, pointed emails!" – Fattie Feb 22 at 18:11
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    Many people reply to emails on mobile devices. If your getting short responses, consider your audience, they might be too busy – Donald Feb 22 at 18:39
  • Length of the email should also be relative to the situation, e.g. emails of "product x isn't working" ranges from "we can't access feature 'a'" to "the application crashes whenever we open it" a little more detail and it can be handed to the appropriate team. – Aaron Feb 22 at 23:10
1

I don't think you are wrong to find short one-line emails slightly rude, they are at minimum, rushed responses sent without a lot of care. However it's a very minor and excusable level of rudeness that you are best to just ignore, it's not a kind of rudeness directed at you in a personal way.

Context is very important overall, because email can fill both the role of formal written communication as well as informal conversational communication.

Personally I would find it rude for an email thread to be started by a message that didn't include any pleasantries or introductory text. As the conversation develops and the thread grows, it's common to dispense with the pleasantries and send brief emails that get right to the point, and usually when a discussion is finalised you might have some parting pleasantries as well.

I think the key question to ask yourself is if the response you receive addresses the points of your email or not. If your points are being addressed as needed, the respondent has taken the time to understand your email and replied accordingly, the style of their reply is less important than the fact that they are granting you the courtesy of reading your emails and getting you what you need.

Ultimately, if everyone is understanding each other, you can keep writing your way and let them write theirs, and try not to let this kind of low-level rudeness get under your skin.

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