Monday, April 11, 2011

Can We Teach My Mother to Use Email

     This is the most recent email I received from my mother:
 Aunt Frieda passed away yesterday 4/10.
That was it.  There was no greeting and no salutation.  There was no other amplifying information.  This is how my mother sends this kind of information.  This is a very typical email for my mother to send.  The structure of it makes me laugh.  Of course this means an email comes in from my mom, I read it, start laughing, and someone nearby says "Nancy, what are you laughing at?" and all I can say is "my mom just sent an email that my Aunt Frieda died."
     It's not funny.  I don't think it's funny that my Aunt Frieda died yesterday.  I do think it's funny that this is how my mother chooses to tell me.  I have to try to be fair to my mother.  She's just not good at emailing.  She doesn't know that that's an odd email.  She thinks it's fine; she finds nothing wrong with it.  Also, I'm not great on the phone; I won't answer during working hours and our lunch hours don't line up well enough to coordinate a phone call. 
     I just wish we could teach my mother how to use email.  One habit I seem to be getting her out of is her inexplicable use of ellipses.  It was an uncomfortable conversation.  Also, full disclosure, she didn't just use ellipses [...], she used as many periods as it took until her brain could start the next sentence, often twelve of them.  I haven't received an ellipses laden email in quite a while, so I claim a small victory.  She's now on to text sized emails.

     There should be a class that teaches her how to send emails.  Somewhere along the way someone has told her brevity is the key.  I don't disagree.  However, they missed that a greeting is also appropriate, and a little bit of lead in can be nice too.  Consider the information you're sending, and consider your audience.  The subject line is a tool, use it.  There is not a character limit in email.  You won't get charged if the email is too long.  You can write more.  That being said, brevity is still nice. 
     I should use this as a teaching moment.  There are two ways to go here.  I can teach by example and reply with a well thought out, composed, and structured response and hope seeing such an email will seep into her subconscious and she'll start to understand email etiquette better.  Or I can teach by responding in a similar manner, hoping that receiving my curt response will cause her to see the errors in her ways.  Something like this perhaps:

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