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10 October 2017

Hope I’m well? Then don’t ask me in an email

Written by: Alex Eeles, Principal Writer at Edelman

Innovation, Technology

Hope you’re well. How many of us have sent and/or received emails starting with that sentence or similar? Maybe even the grammatically puzzling variation hope you’re well?, which seems to imply the writer is wrestling with whether they actually do hope you’re OK.

But this isn’t a rant against the misuse of interrogatives. I’ll save that for another time. No, this is about pointless copy in a world where words are coming out of our ears. And, yes, I appreciate the irony of decrying ‘pointless copy’ in such a spurious blog post, but I’ll press on anyway.

Firstly, do you really care if I’m well? Probably not. Especially if you’re someone I don’t know or if you’re emailing me from an organisation I’ve never engaged with. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to think: well, at first I didn’t want to go on a pointless treasure hunt for non-existent PPI, but now you’ve enquired after my health… Even if you’re a colleague or professional contact, do you really want to know how I am before asking me to write your Op Ed or edit your Brand Narrative. If you do, well how kind, but what about asking me in person instead?

Conservative estimates put the number of emails we receive at work every day at 122. Assuming each of these is around 300 words long – again, conservative and note here that the titanically important Gettysburg Address was only 271 – that’s 36,600 words we have to read on a daily basis before we get around to doing any actual work. Ditch the hope your wells, happy Fridays and other meretricious platitudes, and we could cut that figure considerably. And save a whole lot of time in the process.

If you’re still reading, then you’re probably either nodding passionately or thinking I’m a lazy, curmudgeonly old so-and-so. And someone who, after this, will soon be sitting on his own in the office. Yet while that may be true, I do think this is the tip of an important iceberg. As consumers, colleagues, voters, we have never been so besieged by content. Anything we can do to help ourselves and our clients get to the point quickly and impactfully can only be a good thing.

Do we need a full press release when a tweet would do? Can an image or infographic do the job better than a 600-word by-line? Should our white paper be half the length if we want people to read and digest it?

For me, these are the questions we should all be asking when we put finger to keyboard, not how was your weekend? Like I said, maybe I’m just grumpier than the average person, so, of course, feel free to email me to disagree.

Just please don’t ask if I’m well, because I won’t be.

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