The Problem With Telling Women to Email Like Men

Excerpt from this article:

You’ve probably heard by now that you’re doing email wrong. You’re too friendly in your emails. You should write more confidently. You need to be more professional. Women, so the stereotype goes, email differently to men. We’re more personable and less persuasive. We apologize more, qualifying statements with “I think” and “I feel,” and use so-called “permission words” like “just.” And then there are the exclamation points. Several studies have found that, on average, women use more exclamation points in their digital communications than men, making the humble exclamation point somewhat emblematic of gendered differences in email styles. I can’t remember the last time I sent an email without one.

This, we are told, is bad. It makes us look soft, or amateurish. It stops people taking us seriously. One common piece of advice I’ve received: stop emailing “like a woman.” Cut the friendly tone, banish the exclamation points, and don’t you dare think about slipping in an emoji. Email like a man.

The problem with this, however, is the same as with any other kind of Lean In model of feminism. It places the onus to change on the individual, when the problem is societal. It asks those who are already disadvantaged by social structures—in this case, male-dominated corporate culture—to put in extra work only to further uphold those very same structures.


13 Reasons We Type in Lowercase

Excerpt from this article:

Reading them does make you feel closer to her, in a way: It sounds as if she’s speaking quietly, or sending you a handwritten note.

Sometimes I tweet in lowercase in an attempt to sound funny. A friend of mine emails exclusively in lowercase, and getting them feels like hearing her actual voice. A woman I know recently apologized to me for sending an email all in lowercase, which was touching and seemed unnecessary, but since we didn’t know each other well, it also felt like a complicated compliment (that she’d have been comfortable enough to email me in lowercase in the first place, but uncomfortable enough about it to think it was worthy of an apology).

Is it cool to type in lowercase? Is it lame? Does it all depend? While typing in lowercase seems simple — it’s casual, it’s easy — it signals an array of sophisticated/nuanced approaches. You can wear lowercase like a costume. It can be evil, it can be gentle. It can be light, it can be dark. And so, here’s a sort-of-comprehensive list of all the reasons we type in lowercase, specifically in email and DMs.

No, You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.

Excerpt from this article:

When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious — organized, dependable, and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)

I’m not saying you have to answer every email. Your brain is not just sitting there waiting to be picked. If senders aren’t considerate enough to do their homework and ask a question you’re qualified to answer, you don’t owe them anything back.

Oh God, It’s Raining Newsletters

Excerpt from this article:

Newsletters and newsletter startups these days are like mushrooms in an open field after a good spring rain. I don’t know a single writer who isn’t newslettering or newsletter-curious, and for many, the newsletter is where they’re doing their finest public work.

But, why?! Why all this newslettering?

Aside from the sense of ownership and distance from social media, let me explain why I’m so attracted to them:

In parallel with my walking, these past six years I’ve written another newsletter called The Roden Explorers Club. And of all of my publishing online — either through this site or publications, on social networks, in blips or blops or bloops or 10,000 word digressions on the sublimity of Japanese pizza — almost nothing has surpassed the intimacy and joy and depth of conversation I’ve found from publishing Roden.

This intimacy — both from my side and that of the recipients — seems to engender a kind of vulnerability that I haven’t found elsewhere online. But the intimacy is not surprising: the conversation is one-to-one even though the distribution is one-to-many.

Don’t Reply to Your Emails

An overflowing mailbox

Excerpt from this article:

Some people still delude themselves into thinking they can manage their email. They adopt strange rituals: emailing first thing in the morning, never emailing in the morning, reading email but not responding to it, organizing everything into folders, emailing exclusively like a boss. Software fixes such as Gmail smart replies have made responding to email easier, but often a response just elicits more email.

“Part of the reason why we get so many emails is that we’ve all been told this story about how we need to respond quickly to be productive and meet expectations,” said John Zeratsky, an author and designer who worked in the tech industry for 15 years. “But if you respond quickly, you have a reputation for being responsive, people send you more messages, and it kind of feeds on itself.” Zeratsky said that he, too, once subscribed to the idea of Inbox Zero, before he realized it was burning him out.

There’s Only One Good Way to Email Your Boss

Excerpt from this article:

My boss gets 500 emails a day. I try not to email her but sometimes I have to, and the one way to get her to reply quickly is simple: I start every email to her with a question. And then if needed, I explain the context to my question in one or two more sentences in the fewest possible words.

Starting with a question is important because if your boss scrolls through emails on her phone, like most of us do, her screen allows her to see only the first few words of an email before she chooses to reply, delete, or ignore it. Words like “Do you think…” or “Could we…” or “Will you confirm…” are quick shorthand phrases that tell her THIS IS AN EASY EMAIL. All she has to do is reply yes or no. And she’ll email you back faster.

Another great touch you can add while emailing your boss, co-workers, and especially people who don’t work at your company is changing every “can” and “will” to “could you please” and “would you.” At first you will worry you sound ridiculously formal: “Could you please tell me if…?” and “Would you consider…?” But then people will start being SO NICE TO YOU and MOVE MOUNTAINS to help you only because you SOUND like a very nice refined person with poise — even if you’re falling apart at your desk, even if they’ve never met you.


Avoiding Miscommunication in a Digital World

Excerpt from this article (good podcast episode too):

The issue though really is you have to understand the basic problem. Any kind of form of writing, unless you’re Shakespeare, involves basically less emotional information getting through than a face-to-face conversation. And so you might feel safer in that situation. You might feel like you can control it better.

But what happens when we get face-to-face is that willy-nilly, we exchange a huge amount of information about intent. And that’s what humans really care about. We care about what’s the other person intending toward me? Is that person friend or foe? Is that person going to have me for dinner or am I safe with that person? Is this person more powerful than me or less powerful? So those are the kinds of questions that we’re asking.

When we don’t get that information – and here’s the important point – we tend to make it up. The brain hates to be deprived of information like that because its survival depends on it, and it’s always predicting a few seconds ahead: is there danger here? Is there danger here?

And so what the brain does is when it’s deprived of those channels of information, the brain makes up information. And here’s the kicker: it makes up negative information because that’s more likely to keep you alive if you assume the worst. And so that’s why so much of written communication gets misunderstood, and typically misunderstood not on the positive side, but on the negative side. People usually are offended or their feelings are hurt. You rarely get people calling up and saying, “Boy, I misinterpreted your email. I thought it was wonderful!”