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Becoming more thoughtful

Last week, over on the link blog, I pointed to a kottke.org blog post that in turn pointed to a New York Times article about email sign-offs. For some reason, that article has been bumping around in my brain since then, because it relates to a topic that has been much on my mind for the past year or two, which has something to do with thoughtfulness.

My first reaction upon reading the article was to think about possible alternative default sign-offs for my email messages that may work better than what I use now. (Usually just my name.) I thought of “Best” or “Regards” or any number of other alternatives, but that’s missing the point. The point of the article, and maybe the point of life, in some ways, is to be more thoughtful. Or at least to be thoughtful about a wider variety of things.

When I’m programming, I put a lot of thought into what I should name things, how my code should be organized, and plenty of other seemingly small details. I can spend days thinking about the right way to design a database or making sure my code is properly idiomatic.

Before reading the article, I thought about how to sign off on email messages for maybe a tenth of a percent of the email messages I send. I’m going to try to raise that percentage significantly, and see how it works out.

4 Comments

  1. Interesting. I generally don’t think too much about email signoffs, basically using my full name for more formal messages and “-dave” for more casual ones. Most things like “Best”, “Cheers”, “Sincerely”, etc just feel awkward and out of step with most email messages.

    But I do worry a lot about communicating well in business/formal email. Nothing peeves me more than getting a message with poorly worded requests, incomplete information, or questions left unanswered. I try to be as specific as possible and include all the information possible, along with any necessary caveats if I’m unsure of what I’m presenting or asking.

  2. Same thought as Dave. I frequently re-read my work emails before sending, and often edit to make them more considerate.

  3. It’s been 2.5 months since you posted this … what sorts of complimentary closings have you been using since then?

  4. I mostly just use “Thanks” a bit more when appropriate. I have thought more about the closing for each email, though.

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