Friday, March 16, 2012


Some people tend to send epic emails (I am guilty of this), and some people send characteristic emails that might as well be text messages, even if they type the message using a full-sized keyboard. At the moment, I am most entertained by the terse text-emails.

I have seen some of these emails recently, both from people who only send this type of email. These messages read almost like a strange form of poetry, although they don't seem to follow any obvious rules about number of lines or syllables.

I can't include the exact emails of course, but I can create my own versions that try to capture their essence. I hope that some readers will consider this a creative writing challenge and provide their own versions of terse academic-emails one might receive from colleagues (or students!).

I call this first email-poem: "I want to send you random out-of-context information about myself"

Check out this link.
It mentions me.
This topic is important.

And this one, which is a bit longer, is entitled: "I want you do something for me (guess what it is)"

We need to write another proposal.
It should be mostly [method].
We need to do this soon.
Someone else will do it if we don't.
We are the best ones to do it.
This is urgent.
The program director hates me.

Isn't that beautiful, in a way?


GMP said...

Ahahahahaa! I am definitely a terse-emailian.

Group mtg on Wed.
P will present.
From everyone else
I want a brief update.


I'm out of town next week.
If you need to meet
let me know ASAP.


FYI (paper of interest attached).

Anonymous said...

This is my favourite haiku (and its real):

X sent you a draft of our paper today.
Probably, you have some question.
Please ask me your question if you have.

Anonymous said...

I need an A in your class.
I worked really hard.

Anonymous said...

I saw your conference talk.
What did you mean?

Anonymous said...

I try really, really hard to avoid this (even when typing an email on my phone), but I HAVE noticed a growing trend towards sending emails where ALL of the relevant info is in the subject line, and the body of the email contains zero text.

The most common form is:

SUBJECT: Read this paper; please comment

with an attached PDF, sent to a grad student in my lab.

Anonymous said...

I get these emails, but for mine there is no repetition.

225 Notes are coming along nicely.
Draft format -- too terse.
Good luck!

Azulao said...

Too long
Didn't read

Anonymous said...

I had a postdoc adviser who was the master of the email poem. His emails were so quickly written that he would often misspell his own name, e.g.:

please send me the abstract of your conference paper asap

[name changed, of course]

I have also been meaning to start compiling office haikus like this one:

Please don't make coffee
while microwave is in use.
Circuit overloads.

Think there's a market for an anthology?

Anonymous said...

You missed the meeting.
We gave you the worst job.

Angel Simba said...

I love the idea of compiling an anthology!

Anonymous said...

My advisor used to send emails so short that he'd sign his name with a single letter "s". Sometimes there was a typo and he signed "a" instead.

Anonymous said...

Let's meet.
Monday at 3?
My office.

Anonymous said...

Here's the latest draft. Send comments soon or else.

jb said...

I'm here. Where are you?

This from a student who has to do a make-up exam.

Anonymous said...

I can do both the epic long emails (a consequence of being a touch typist) and incredibly short emails. I frequently just sign my name with my first initial. Of course I usually do this if there is some context - maybe we'd been talking about a paper and a student wanted me to send the paper so there's an email with the title 'paper' and an attachment. Or an email to our regular lunch group with the subject "Burrito?" and no text. I wouldn't necessarily defend my long tome emails (unless I am purposefully documenting something in writing for future reference) but I love short, efficient emails. Of course they have to be long enough to convey the required information and the reader has to understand them. But life would be much better with more short, efficient emails.