I get a lot of email. I receive press releases in various fields (subjects I often write about professionally), news digests and lists from various sources, Facebook notifications, messages from friends and family, professional email from colleagues and clients, political tripe, and my least favorite – mass email spams from people who think I really want to know what they think, despite their broken English and lack of punctuation.
For the most part, I don’t mind the hate mail (often it’s quite funny), the occasional spam that slips through a filter, or the thinly-veiled sales messages disguised as “news” or “alerts.” I can deal with those. Just laugh at the idiot sending it, add them to the Spam list, black list the sender, or whatever seems appropriate and it’s no more. Honestly, these make up the least number of emails I receive in my inbox, by volume.
No, it’s the insistent mass-CC and BCC lists I can’t stand. Where the sender, whomever it may be, sends out their diatribes to huge lists of people who probably don’t really care. The most insidious of these are the BCC lists, since you can only reply to the sender, thus giving him/her complete control over dissent. Which is usually the point, since these emails (and their senders) rarely have anything of merit to say anyway and are the 21st century equivalent of the Xerox-copied screed sheets that we would often find mysteriously handed around at meetings or posted to those “community bulletin board” tackboards in public areas.
These horrible wastes of virtual ink have some things in common. I implore you, if you are prone to sending out mass emails to people, check the following list and if your emails match any of these criteria, DO NOT SEND. You’re making an ass out of yourself if you do.
Horrible English – While the sender may not realize how badly-written the email is, the reader is immediately made aware, upon being assaulted by the lack of punctuation and grammar – nevermind the blatant misspellings and over-use of “!!!” and “***” in the text. Quite often, to my amusement, these screeds will be about how immigrants should “learn English.”
Long, Unbroken Paragraphs – Like it or not, the days of very long, near-full-page paragraphs have been gone for centuries. No one is interested in 30-line paragraphs anymore, not even academics. The rule of thumb for professional writers is to limit paragraphs to 3-5 sentences (not run-ons; actual, grammatically-correct sentences). Here’s a quick tip: if you need to use a finger to keep track of where you are in your paragraph as you read, it’s too damn long.
Longer Than 1,000 Words – The average longevity of the Internet is about 300 words. In other words, if the reader is presented with more than 300 words, he or she is not likely to finish reading whatever is presented. Of course, you can assume (probably wrongly) that your readership is more intelligent than the average and push that. Realistically, however, if you can’t get your idea across in 1,000 words or less (preferably less than 500), then you probably need to re-think sending it. A good writer can explain particle physics in 1,000 words or less if required. Sit down and hone your diatribe down to a presentable size. Please!
Reality vs. Religion – Here’s something to think about: if your entire point boils down to proofs or logic based on beliefs or undocumented “truths”, then your point is invalid. If emotional appeal and calls to mysterious forces are the only way you can prove your point, then your point is probably hogwash. Sorry to break this to you, but just because it sounds vaguely “Constitutional” or “libertarian” doesn’t mean it is actually in the Constitution or a part of libertarian thought.
Relevancy – Continuing with that point, relevance is also very important. For example, I don’t want to hear your emotional, attack dog spew about how so-and-so running for dog catcher is “pro abortion.” The dog catcher’s views on abortion don’t mean anything, so why is this important to you? And why are you sending me, who lives in Wyoming, b.s. about a guy running for office in Indiana?
Contradictory Statements – This one always makes me laugh and usually will generate a response that can be translated as “You’re a dumbass.” If you say one thing or draw one conclusion based on evidence that clearly says the contrary.. you’re an idiot. I recently fielded an email that espoused that Obama was a Muslim and used his attendance at a Christian church as proof, since the preacher at that church was of African origin. I mean, even Michele Bachman or Pamela Geller wouldn’t try that kind of idiot logic. Well, not on national television anyway.
Now, for my most important point:
Just Because You Wrote It Doesn’t Make It Publishable – I get a lot of emails via this website asking me to publish something the person has written. I don’t mind this at all – I get a lot of great material this way. I also get a lot of garbage. Seriously. If your work has any of the above included as anything but a joke, I probably won’t even respond to you, let alone publish your screed. If I do, it will be under “Laughter’s Medicine” with a note to “Check out this dumbkompf!” Hint: have a friend read your stuff and tell you if they think it is magazine-ready. If they’re a good friend, they’ll save you the embarrassment and tell you it isn’t.