E-Mail Etiquette

Posted By on January 8, 2009

A few weeks ago, my friend Schwerer and I were having an email conversation strictly through the passing of Someecards. It started when I sent her one to brighten her day because she had been through a lot with her mom. And then, well, it just kind of snowballed because that site had SO many cards and they are all hilarious.

This is one of the ones I sent her.


I didn’t send it because I was trying to stop emailing with her. I actually sent it because THIS IS SO MY PROBLEM!

It is actually a problem with personal emails, with blog emails, with instant messages, with texts, with work emails. I don’t know when I can just stop the thread and it is OK. I tend to be the last voice in a thread. This isn’t because I always have to have the last word or anything, I just don’t know when to stop. It is a sickness people.

As an example, say you are in an email conversation with someone, say it is a thank you email situation. (Clearly this is all made up.)

Me: Thank you for the awesome fudge that you made me. And the way you packed it, wow. You’re a top-shelf fudgepacker!

Other Person: Oh, why thank you! I’m so glad you liked it! I learned to hone my fudge packing skills while I lived in San Francisco. Enjoy! Have a wonderful rest of your week!

(Now, this, is an acceptable ending to an email chain. There is a succinct end and there is no need for further conversation. “Have a wonderful rest of your week” is almost like a big neon sign saying END OF CONVERSATION. But I? I can’t stop. Because now I have to thank the person for thanking me for my thank you!)

Me: No problem. I really did enjoy it! As did my whole family! You know, I used to live in the Bay Area myself.

And then crickets. Because I should have never responded back. I mean, really, just let it go. CONVERSATION OVER. WE ARE DONE HERE.

I think I get it from my mom. (Although, how can you inherit something from your mom pertaining to something that wasn’t even INVENTED when you were born?) We exchange emails throughout the day and if I ever send one that even I think is the end of the conversation, I’ll always get another email back from her that says “You too!” or “Later gator!” or “You got that right!” (Which no, my mom never says “you got that right” and if she were to say it over email, she would be grammatically correct and say “You have that right!” My grammar Nazi skills I did inherit from my mother.)

So since I’ve probably exchanged at least one email with almost all of you who read my blog, I wanted to see what you all think. Is this an annoying trait that comes with being my friend? Like having a friend who picks her teeth?

Am I the only one with this problem? Does this happen to you too? How do you determine when to stop an email thread?

I need answers, people! Your sanity, and mine, depend on it.

About the author

Kristabella, who also answers to “Hey! Drunk Girl!”, is a reformed band geek with an amazing ability to drink most people under the table. You can read her inane ramblings here, where she talks about her exciting life as a spinster with two cats and a fascination for Bacon.


46 Responses to “E-Mail Etiquette”

  1. Oh my god, this is a MAJOR problem for me. Particularly at work, particularly if the email is from someone more senior than me. I DON’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP. I’m so glad there’s an ecard for someone like me! Maybe I’ll send it to you and you can send it to me and I can send it back to you and we can just keep doing that forever and ever and ever because neither us will ever know how to just say “thanks, I got it, you can stop now.”

    Nothing But Bonfiress last blog post..It Is Time To Tidy Up Your Life

  2. slynnro says:

    This used to be a big problem with me for everyone I email with, but now it is mostly with blog readers who send me a nice complimentary email. I’m afraid they are going to think I’m an arrogant jackass if I don’t keep responding.

    slynnros last blog post..Better Than the Snuggie Ads

  3. jodifur says:

    I clearly have the same problem which is why our emails go on for days.

    jodifurs last blog post..Shoe Friday #13

  4. Mahnee says:

    You got that right!

  5. jcristg says:

    I have to make a conscious effort to not continue the emails. You are not alone!

    jcristgs last blog post..8.365

  6. I have the same problem! And because I hate the phone, I do it there too. I think it’s a nervous thing.

    Marmite Breaths last blog post..Fame is Not Just a Song by David Bowie (The Real David Bowie, Not the Flight of the Conchords Bowie, although that one was better than the original)

  7. I sometimes do the same thing too. At least we’re all in this together.

    Jen on the Edges last blog post..“Appealing daintiness is assured…”

  8. Alex says:

    You mean I’m not the only one with this problem? Yea! My coworkers use IM and I hate it because I never know when I can just end the conversation especailly when not work related. It’s like I have to add one more LOL! Or TGIF or something to keep responding.

  9. TUWABVB says:

    It’s like you’re writing about me. I have two problems when it comes to emails – not shutting up and not responding at all. I have to be one extreme or other other, but nothing in between. I always feel like a bitch when I file an email without responding. Even worse, I usuall bcc myself as well so that I can file my response (a work habit that’s morphed into daily life). I suck!

    TUWABVBs last blog post..I can’t take a well-tanned person seriously.*

  10. Jenn says:

    This is too funny! But true. Maybe it is a personality thing – like a control thing? Not like a “control freak” thing, but a control thing like you want to make sure the conversation is concluded before you move on to the next thing? You are a thorough person and maybe that transfers over to your emailing habits 🙂 It has never bothered me!

  11. Rhi says:


    I have this exact, exact same problem.

    Rhis last blog post..An Affair to Remember?

  12. ali says:

    here’s a tip: if there’s nothing in your email response other than “THANKS”…don’t send it. i HATE when i get emails from coworkers who send me a thanks email. pain in the ass, i say!

    alis last blog post..my ali-never-gets-hit-on reputation remains and a contest

  13. Ree says:

    Yea, it’s not like they see you wave and walk away, right??? 😉

    I have the same problem. We need a code.

    Like, “The End” – snort.

    Rees last blog post..Haiku Friday – A Walk on 1/4/09

  14. Ha! I’m cracking up at this, because yes, we have exchanged a couple e-mail threads…except I’m always like, “when do I stop saying stuff?? Why would she want to read another e-mail from me??” So, in the interest of not want ing to bother people…I just stop.

    Kitchen Vixens last blog post..Looking Forward

  15. Lori says:

    no worries, here. i don’t mind long email strings. i probably should stop sending the extra “thanks” ones at work though. i’m sure i’m just contributing to email overload and if it annoys me, it probably annoys them.

  16. Love this post – I am SO that person too. If I don’t respond to something you or anyone else has sent me, it’s because I am quite literally sitting on my hands, chanting to myself, “They really don’t want to hear anything else. Stop stop stop.”

    Legallyblondemels last blog post..The State of the Pretty

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I have an even worse problem stopping an IM conversation, I just have to keep saying “Bye!” “Talk you later” “Good Luck” or god knows what. It seem so rude to just cut someone off randomly and I can never just get out of the damn conversation gracefully.
    I hope this blog post doesn’t generate hundreds of never ending email conversations for you, that would be exhausting. Although please note I do plan on saying “You have that right” back to every email I receive from now on.

    Elizabeths last blog post..The Fire Next Time

  18. Candy says:

    OMG! All this time we’ve been emailing, I thought it was ME! I have the same compulsion, and when I went back to work last year it was a real problem. When I last stopped working in an office, email was not the way people talked to each other (yes it was that long ago). And suddenly I had all these emails coming to me, and I wanted to thank people for sending me things, and then ask them how their days were and some people wouldn’t respond. It took me a while to learn to just let it go. Someone sends you the file you asked for, you don’t need to thank them in yet another email…at least not here.

    But as for you…I don’t know when to stop our email conversations either. Maybe we should put a little check box at the bottom:

    __ Check here to keep emailing

    __ Check here to cut this crap out.

    Candys last blog post..In Which I Swear to You I am not a Germophobe.

  19. CC says:

    Let’s start a new club, Compulsive E-mailers Anonymous. We can compulsively e-mail each other about who wants what position.

    CCs last blog post..King Cake

  20. Melissa says:

    I like email…you can have the last word with me as long as you’d like.

    Don’t feel bad, I do this, too!

    Melissas last blog post..Ironic, No?

  21. December says:

    I used to have this problem.
    I’d get all upset when someone DIDN’t reply to my jabber. OMG why doesn’t she LIKE me?! what did I do? does she not know what IMHO means? maybe I should have written it out…

    Then I realized I should drink more, and worry less. problem solved. I’m only like this with personal e-mails though.
    DonutFactory related issues, I’m brief and concise, I NEVER overuse “!!!”

    Decembers last blog post..Let me tell you what I think.

  22. Noelle says:

    I was picking my teeth while reading this, so obviously, it’s not my place to be annoyed.

    Noelles last blog post..Massive head wound Noelle

  23. V says:

    You are freaking hilarious! I just discovered your blog and love it…

    Vs last blog post..09 Connect the Dots

  24. Issy says:

    Ha! Now next time you email me I will see how long I can string you along with the replies!

  25. LarryLilly says:

    What are your cats take on this?

    And bacon would do what?

    LarryLillys last blog post..Great, now I am being told I am a woman

  26. Zandor says:

    I have this problem with email and texting. I text a lot and I feel like I am being rude if I don’t respond to the text someone sends me even if they are telling me that they have to go somewhere and can’t talk anymore I still feel like I need to say something back. Sometimes I don’t and then I feel bad even though it probably doesn’t matter to them since they couldn’t talk anymore anyways.

    Zandors last blog post..Gross I’m old.

  27. Jerri Ann says:

    I do this too. And, I don’t mind when people finally cut it off because I’m always afraid I’ll offend someone if I don’t reply…..it’s a fine line where written word is so hard to make heads or tails out of

    Jerri Anns last blog post..Easiest Me Me in history

  28. Kristie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever noticed. But I tend to keep e-mails going too and when the other person doesn’t reply I worry that I said something awful and that hate me now.

    Kristies last blog post..Kristie + New Years Resolutions = FAIL

  29. Cyndi says:

    This just came up for me when an old boyfriend sent me a message on Facebook. We exchanged several rounds of messages and I STILL don’t know whether I should have responded to the last one.

  30. Giggle Pixie says:

    I’m so guilty of doing this same thing that I’ve never noticed you doing it!! Usually time is the deciding factor for me ending a thread, though sometimes I’ve even brooded about not sending “something else” back! Oy, we are such a neurotic bunch!

    Giggle Pixies last blog post..Welcome to My Life

  31. Kimberly says:

    This made me giggle because I have thought of this question while going back and forth on email WITH YOU! One time I remember thinking…”She always get the last word”.

    It can kind of stress you out, though. Sometimes (and this is not with you) I just have to say “okay, I’m done. I am going to break this off. We are just being silly now. What am I doing with my life?”

    Kimberlys last blog post..I Know You Wanna See Me Salsa

  32. regan says:

    hahahaahahahaha, I’m dying. Last night, when we were chatting, I was debating if I was going on and on because I missed the obvious end of the conversation and if you were thinking “Holy hell woman, SHUT UP!”

    So, uh, yeah. You’re not the only one.

    regans last blog post..whatever!

  33. -R- says:

    I have the opposite problem. I feel like I always end the e-mail chain too early and people think I’m rude.

    -R-s last blog post..What What!

  34. Darcey says:

    Like so many other things we have in common, there is this.

    And no, I don’t find it annoying.

  35. That is so hilarious and you are so obviously not alone, I walk among you. And – I thought of you at 5:00 am today when I was considering donating my cat to science.

    ballerinatoess last blog post..Grace in Small Things, Part 14

  36. deidre says:

    I have no idea how to end an email thread. it is a sickness. I have no helpful comments at all. Just commiseration.

    deidres last blog post..Super Freak (Out)

  37. Angella says:

    Um. Please see all of the emails we exchange. I think that I MAY sometimes be the last one to send something.

    Is there a therapy group for this?

    Angellas last blog post..On Faith

  38. Alice says:

    ha! i’m the opposite. a) i’m lazy, so i’m bad at responding, and b) i have some leftover “i was unpopular in highschool” deal that only manifests itself in situations like these where i’m all “omg, this person so doesn’t care what i have to say. i’ll just shut up” thing and i assume bloggers are annoyed by my emails. it’s… odd, because normally i think i’m totally past highschool.

    Alices last blog post..friday nuggets

  39. C+C says:

    ME TOO. Which is probabaly why our emails go on for days 😉

  40. This is SO funny. A friend of mine recently admitted to having this problem and, in our next email exchange, I noticed that she totally did it! So I kept writing her back, too, just to see if she would write something back. SHE WOULD NOT STOP. It literally got to the point where we both just kept writing “you too” back and forth. It was hilarious.

    I think it’s like any addiction. You’ve just got to quit cold turkey. Bite your lip and DO NOT LET YOURSELF RESPOND. It will get easier with time. 🙂

    Laurie | Your Ill-fitting Overcoats last blog post..More Than a Paragraph, Part II

  41. After leaving you that holier-than-thou comment, I realized that I actually do this exact same thing on Twitter! If someone responds to one of my tweets, I feel like I HAVE to respond. Even if I’m just saying “Thanks!” or “You got that right!”

    I blame society.

    Laurie | Your Ill-fitting Overcoats last blog post..Never Trust the Internet

  42. Fran says:

    CLEARLY made up! I’m still so busy cracking up at the whole “Fudgepacking” e-mail that I forgot what the topic of the post was.

    Frans last blog post..My 2008 in review

  43. Scarlet says:

    My sister and I send those cards to each other, but with other people’s names. It’s HILARIOUS.

    I’m the same way with ending texts/emails. I’ve gotten better and now will just stop. Sometimes, though, when I’m bored I worry the other person has been trying to stop for awhile and I keep writing back. But on the other side, I never think, “Hmmm, so and so never wrote back.”

    Scarlets last blog post..Come Together

  44. Teri says:

    LOVE those e-cards! No, I don’t think that you’re annoying at all….I rather enjoy your way of communicating.

  45. Ditto the pp. I’m afraid of being rude. I’m also sometimes afraid to ask questions in what could be the last email because OMG-what-if-they-want-this-to-end? Then if they don’t write back I’ve made an ass of myself by trying to extend a conversation that they didn’t want to continue. Or mabye they just forgot. So I’ve taken the sensitivity to a higher level. Complete lunacy.

    Anonymous New Yorks last blog post..I know, er, HOPE you’re out there!!

  46. gorillabuns says:

    I’m guessing I shouldn’t have responded 90 times to our last email thread.:)