The Problem and Necessity of Email Clichés

“I delete 95 percent of the PR emails I get within seconds of opening them.”

That’s senior associate editor Julie Beck of The Atlantic in a piece titled “Thank Heavens for Email Clichés.” It’s good. I should read it once a week.

Beck goes on to say, “I couldn’t possibly read them all thoroughly—let alone reply to them all—and still get any work done, but sometimes I do feel bad, because the senders clearly spent so much time writing them.”

Sound familiar?

I both write and receive these types of emails, hoping mine get opened and instantly deleting ones I receive.

Email is so out of control. Beck mentions a colleague who reported that the average person writes a novel’s worth of emails every year, or more than 40,000 words!

Is this not insanity? Writing so many words that so many others will delete within seconds?

With so many emails to write and send, we resort to “shortcuts,” Beck says, clichés such as “I hope you’re doing well” and “Best.” (I plead guilty to this. I could do a life sentence for all the times I’ve trotted out those two.) But wait. She says they’re not all bad because they represent a kind of email decorum, even though they lack spark and personality.

Beck gives examples and offers alternatives, but closes with this admission about email clichés: “They get the job done without taking too much energy. And unless the email firehose lessens its pressure, we need them.”

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