Software optimize

What does your e-mail say about you?

Author Paul Glen discusses how little mistakes in your e-mail messages can give the impression you're lazy, incompetent, inattentive, mistrustful, or unprofessional.

By Paul Glen

Every day, we send email to our colleagues and clients, but do you ever take a moment to think about what your messages really say about you?  I'm not talking about the message that you’re trying to send to someone else, but what the form and format of your emails communicate unintentionally.  Too often, little details left out or inadvertently included can suggest that you’re lazy, incompetent, inattentive, mistrustful, or unprofessional.

Here’s my list of things to look out for in your email messages:

1. Spelling.  Is everything spelled correctly?  This should be a no-brainer with spell checkers, but read what you’ve written.  Remember that spell checkers don’t know when you’ve used a correctly spelled but incorrect word.

2. Grammar. Is the text grammatically correct?  Grammar is not just for picky English teachers.  If your writing is grammatically incorrect, it has a much higher probability of being misinterpreted by the recipient.  Often, miscommunicating is worse than not communicating at all.

3. Signature Block. Do all of your emails contain a short, professional signature block with your contact information?  Don’t make people look in their contact manager if they want to call you.  Just have your information inserted in every message.  At the same time, you don’t need to include an entire life history including your place of birth, favorite color and emergency contact list either.

4. Subject Line.  Use the subject line to communicate useful information.  Let the recipient know what you want them to know so that they decide what to do with it.  Useless subjects or misleading ones can be really annoying.

5. Format.  Have you written large impenetrable blocks of text in one long stream of consciousness paragraph?  Break up your ideas so that they’re easier to follow.  It doesn’t take much time.  Just hit the return key whenever you are changing thoughts.  But don’t go too far in the other direction, leaving islands of text in fields of spaces.  In short, make the format support the message.

6. Length.  Emails should generally be short.  Have you noticed that e-books have been a complete flop.  In part, it’s because people don’t want to read long things on screens.  (Of course there’s an exception for email newsletters. ; - )

7. Urgent Indicator.  This is one of my personal pet peeves.  I hate it when people use the urgent indicator for clearly unimportant email.  It gives the appearance that you have no regard for the time and attention of the reader or that you suffer from a personality disorder that leaves you with delusions of self-importance.  Either way, it’s not a good impression to give.

8. Bandwidth Usage.  If you are sending a short one sentence email, don’t send it with a huge graphic signature block.  It just looks wasteful, and for those people who still get email over the phone line, it wastes lots of their valuable time.  If there’s no need for sending big files, don’t.

9. Delivery Receipt.  This one is another of my personal pet peeves.  Unless someone is sending me a very important contract or time sensitive document, I want to read my email in private.  When I see the little pop up box that says someone wants a return receipt for non-urgent email, I get the feeling that they don’t really trust me to read their mail.

Every once in a while, before sending an email to someone else, I’ll send it to myself just to see what it looks like in my Outlook In Box.  It can be surprising, since I’ll notice all sorts of things that I hadn’t intended to communicate, just by reviewing it in advance.  I encourage you to try it.  You may be surprised to see how your emails reflect on you.

Paul Glen is the author of the award-winning book "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey Bass Pfeiffer, 2003) and Principal of C2 Consulting. C2 Consulting helps IT management solve people problems. Paul Glen regularly speaks for corporations and national associations across North America. For more information go to www.c2-consulting.com. He can be reached at info@c2-consulting.com.

92 comments
wiggledbits
wiggledbits

Ha! Yes, do make sure the corrected word has been changed to the word that is appropriate. I did a quick spell check and send on a somewhat important email and spell checker changed my misspelling of inconvenience to incontinent. Of course from the context of the email it was easy to figure out it was a mistake but it took a few days to hear the end of it.

cutebutpsycho24
cutebutpsycho24

I agree that e-mails to colleagues and clients communicate things about you unintentionally, especially clients. I think that little details left out can suggest that you?re lazy, incompetent, inattentive, mistrustful, or unprofessional. Someone who doesn't double check their spelling and grammar or writes a professional looking e-mail is probably just lazy but also some people don't have time to, sometime a brief to the point not spell checked or anything is all that is needed to get the point across. It may not look good but when people have little time at work to e-mail other colleagues they can be done poorly and not mean they're lazy. Although when e-mailing a client you should always keep in professional and if not I believe that means you're lazy, incompetent, inattentive, mistrustful, or unprofessional.

customsunlimited
customsunlimited

It is very interesting to see all of the replies to this thread. It is also very informative to see if any of us listen to the advise given. Take the replies posted, and cut/paste them into a Word document to see what I mean. The basic grammer and spell checker will have you busy for quite a while! I am a Safety Engineer and a "sometimes" technical writer. I have found that writing my thoughts and replies in Word first, then copy/pasting them into an e-mail works best. I also have the option of sending my replies as an attachment. This also works well as I am not a good typist, I use Dragon Speak or IBM Voice to do most of my typing. Secondly, I also ASSUME that degreed or certified technicians, have had some required educational courses in basic or technical writing skill development. I know I did in technical college (1986) and twice in the Universitys I attended (1991 & 2006). Even in high school (1966-69) our English classes were rigorous, and I am from Central Lower Alabama! Can the Redneck remarks - a Redneck is a Scottish or Scottish-Irish immigrant dateing to the mass immigration of Scottish Lowland and Ulster Presbyterians to America during the 1700?s. Lazy English is not a part of any region of America. It is an epidemic created by illiteracy and social stupidity within the larger cities and blamed on Southern folk. We Southerners refer to it as Gutter English. There are no excuses for poor English skills. It is either lazy minds, or lazy school teachers. Guess which one gets my vote.

kencope
kencope

...in addition to errors pointed out previously, "advise" should be "advice" in the second sentence.

obesiblogger
obesiblogger

My point exactly! And there were more errors in the next message! It hardly matters how diligently one tries to clean up a message - a few typos always seem to sneak through. As for publications or manuals, we all know that serious works are never edited in isolation. Even then, an error or two always seem to slip through. It can be maddening when that happens. We, as readers, should try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and not rush to judgement.

obesiblogger
obesiblogger

"First remove the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the sliver out of the eye of your brother."

obesiblogger
obesiblogger

"Universitys" "dateing" "Can the Redneck remarks - a Redneck is a Scottish or Scottish-Irish immigrant dateing to the mass immigration of Scottish Lowland and Ulster Presbyterians to America during the 1700?s." "There are no excuses for poor English skills. It is either lazy minds, or lazy school teachers." Mistakes made in e-mail messages are not indicative of a lazy mind or lazy school teachers - it just happens, as you can see...

customsunlimited
customsunlimited

Yes, I also am not perfect, nor is my typing program. The main thing is, we can all do better. If we, as professionals, allow bad grammar to overtake the English language, then we are no better than those so-called journalist that utterly disregard any proper English. I can deal with some misspelled words. I can deal with minor improper word usage. I do not deal with near wholesale massacre on proper English usage. E-mail is not text messaging. All the replies to this thread have shown a concern for the direction that our language usage has taken. I am 55 years old, and I am thankful for that concern being shown by the younger generation. My oldest child is 35, my youngest is 7 (same age as my grand-daughter). I am constantly correcting my children at home to use proper English skills and logical thinking. It is reassureing, that they also correct their mother(an Asian) about her English. To the point, proper English is essential. Now that Big Brother, and businesses can keep and read e-mails, it is essential that the proper English is used, least someone misunderstand your thoughts and you find yourself in deep trouble with your employer or the Feds. What you write, is a reflection of your innermost thoughts. One day, some of you will be writing a letter, SOP, manual or a publication, that will become important to you, your organization or your field. It is better to learn and keep good language skills now, than to fail in that future endevor because you could not get it into words properly and/or present a good logical arguement. Good philosophy and good language skills go hand-in-hand.

AzWiz
AzWiz

Being a 58 year old retired "boomer", I grew up with correct english and grammar pounded into me over my loud protests. Like typing, both have served me as well as my core of science courses. As I read a newspaper, or listen to a newscaster, I can still hear my mother inside my head correcting them. I truly believe that our language will continue to disintigrate if what we read, see and hear get progressively further from proper english.

Paymeister
Paymeister

Of course mistakes "just happen", since we're usually rushed and busy trying to solve the big problem. However, leaving them there when I have the opportunity to correct them communicates to the recipient that I don't care, am uneducated, or am stupid. I have enough of a problem with my CONTENT saying that! As much as possible, I would prefer that my delivery not reinforce their concerns. So do what you can, folks, to bring your email messages into conformity with your true thoughtfulness, genuine concern, extensive education, high intelligence, and scintillating wit. May they accurately portray who you are! This may be overstated a bit, but I do have a lot of respect for you all, and hope you get the honor you deserve from your email recipients. [Support for this argument for Christians and those who respect cultures which have a significant Christian history (flames not necessary ? if you aren?t in one of those groups, this isn?t for you): the Westminster Confession, accepted by lots of church folk since the 1600s, draws from the Ninth Commandment the admonition towards ?love and care of our own good name? (Question 144), and warn us against ?practicing, or not avoiding ourselves? such things as procure an ill name.? (Question 145).]

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Ranges from brilliant to downright excrable. Probably pretty much the same as everyone else.

alan.james
alan.james

Your take on this whole email subject succinctly explains the passion, and the breadth of concern, expressed by any group as large as this over something each of us deals with individually on a daily basis. It used to be that America was the "melting pot" of the world - email has thrown everyone into that pot. My own observation about email usage and privacy: Do not email anything you wouldn't want referenced in the future, to be visible to your boss, to be read by the person you're "dissing", so forth and so on. There is NOTHING private about email, and if you harbor illusions about the privacy of your thoughts, concerns, communications - then do not use email to express the same.

branimir
branimir

You are absolutely right. Several time happened I sow my e-mail, or part of e-mail, my thoughts, forwarded to others without my intention, desire and permission. Also happened that I forwarded someone?s e-mail too. There is no privacy with e-mails, who forgot it, can blame only himself.

gary.atamian
gary.atamian

I used to work for a company where a VP used to send out these god-awful emails with 3rd-grade spelling in it (apologies to all you 3rd graders). I was embarrassed for the guy and literally would walk into his office and bust on him about them (being the Senior UNIX Admin had its perks). Jeez, at least run it past your secretary!

obesiblogger
obesiblogger

Sorry, but I have to say that some of the most hardworking and intelligent people I know send e-mails with typos (grammar/spelling). E-mail is still considered an informal method of communication regardless of the actual content or who is receiving the message. That said, it seems to me that social status and/or social context play a very large role in how e-mails are sent, read, and interpreted by others. I personally focus on the content of the message since there are so many other more important problems in this world to focus on. Typos in e-mails are the least of our worries. In fact, I would much rather receive a single e-mail with a few typos from someone who has something important to say than receive a ton of e-mails that are "perfect" but meaningless. We all know someone who clutters our accounts daily with perfection, don't we? I recommend we all lighten up a bit and focus exclusively on the messages we receive rather than "judge" the messenger(s) as being lazy, dull, incompetent, ignorant, unacculturated, or any other labels we use. If you are a CEO and you are receiving an e-mail from an intern, then maybe you can judge a little. If you are an IT geek receiving an e-mail from the CEO or from any user for that matter, should you really be judging competence? I don't think so. And yes, I do agree - a flawless e-mail IS easier on the eyes...that's obvious - think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt! That's my humble 2 cents... and sorry for any typos!

darinhamer
darinhamer

Interpreted: Can't figure out what you're saying. My point here is that, while you make a great point, some grammar and spelling mistakes actually make it difficult to interpret the meaning of the message. I worked with a developer who couldn't construct a decent English sentence if her life depended on it. I don't know how she coded anything. Maybe she could only speak Cobol. I don't mean her messages were ambiguous. They flat didn't make sense. There were some English words involved, but they somehow didn't fit together with each other or with the included (or excluded) punctuation. And she was born and bred right here in the middle of the U.S. So there must be some acceptable medium somewhere along the continuum between perfection and illiteracy. I think we all know it when we see it.

obesiblogger
obesiblogger

I agree with you on your point. It seems that some of the posters on this thread are a little more picky than what you have described. Clarity does count!

btljooz
btljooz

My pet peeve about e-mail is the ignorant/lazy [b]LACK[/b] of consideration of those who insist upon [i]"Forwarding"[/i] e-mails [u]LOADED[/u] with endless lists of OTHER People's names and e-mail addresses showing. This is a [b][u]TOTAL[/u][/b] and complete lack of respect for people's privacy! These are the same ones who include MY info right along with everyone else's!!! Who says I want all kinds of people that I don't even know to have my e-mail address on their computers for spy-ware to pick up and start spamming me to death? So, PLEASE, delete all this stuff before Forwarding it and [b][u]USE[/u][/b] the BCC ([b]BLIND[/b] Carbon Copy) function [i]unless[/i] it is absolutely [u]necessary[/u] to send all recipients of your composition information belonging to others?

JG
JG

Our Business support people send out email reminders to a large distribution list when timesheets haven't been done. Unfortunately they don't use BCC and many recipients don't know the difference between Reply & Reply to All. In this instance BCC is a necessity.

kencope
kencope

I see two distinctly different situations that need to be considered separately: 1. All recipients already know each other and each other's email addresses. This is true for most business situations. In this case, it is rude to use BCC. It's like talking behind someone's back. Rare instances may occur when it is needed to document a problem to a supervisor, but it should normally be avoided. 2. The recipients do NOT already know each other. If you use CC to forward a joke to everyone in your address book, you have not only just revealed all your contacts' addresses to each other, but also to anyone that any of them might choose to forward your message to. PLEASE use BCC.

darinhamer
darinhamer

Nice distinction. 1. In an office setting Bcc can be considered as being backstabbing both by the recipient (usually a manager) and by the subject, if they ever find out. You have to develop a real sense of when it is appropriate to use Bcc. Also, we don't use Outlook/Exchange in our office, but on our system, if you Bcc someone, they do not get replies from any of the other recipients. 2. Perhaps I am naive, but it seems to me that people are making a little too much out of having their e-mail address get out. I just don't see spammers sitting around gleaning e-mail addresses from forwarded jokes when they can get masses of them much more easily (sign up here for a free X-box). I have phony e-mail addresses I use to sign up for things and a personal e-mail address. My personal e-mail address has been included on many forwarded e-mails, but I don't ever get spam at that address. But my phony addresses that I use to register for certain things get hundreds of emails a week. Still, I can see the advantage and will start employing this courtesy. But I'm not going to rail on people who don't do that.

gary.atamian
gary.atamian

I forward a lot of jokes (but only the ones I consider funny) and I *always* BCC everyone. I also delete all the previous email addies and all that >> crap, too.

axg
axg

I consider it VERY impolite and unprofessional to not let a recipient of a business communication know who else I have sent the message to. The may be the rare exception where BCC is needed, but these cases should be very carefully considered. The original sender should be copied if you forward the email to someone else, so they are kept informed of who is getting involved in the issue. I also CC anyone whose name I mention in the email so I am upfront with all comments. Regards, Annette

PoconoChuck
PoconoChuck

I agree BCC's should not be the norm, but the phrase 'rare exception, should be carefully considered' surprises me. On many occasions have I used a BCC to adequately document the lack of professionalism of another. Sure, in the end I could have prepared a time-line for management showing the trouble I was having with someone, but once the issue is identified, BCC makes it easier to document.

gfhavewala
gfhavewala

Always make it a point to write a brief 'title' in the "Subject" field. NEVER leave it blank. It is most annoying to receive an email with a blank Subject. "Subject" can also be useful for sorting and searching.

mshiver
mshiver

Another email habit that irks me is when someone replies to an email that I sent and the sender doesn't change the subject line and the email is about something totaly different than the orginal email. I think I am getting an email responding to my alert about a virus and they want me to reset their password.

ProblemSolverSolutionSeeker
ProblemSolverSolutionSeeker

Have you ever sent an email with just a subject line, for say, a short announcement. It is really odd to see some people react to this. I had one manager expressly forbid me from doing this! Of course, there is always the stream of consciousness containing the proverbial RE:original title.

kencope
kencope

At my company it has become the convention to end the subject line with "eom" (end of message) if the body contains no text. For example: 10:00 AM meeting canceled until further notice. eom" It saves the irritation of opening a blank email. I don't know if anybody else uses the "eom" system, but it works great for us.

ppecelunas
ppecelunas

To use the subject line only as a message is fine as long as the sender is not trying to write a novel in the subject line. The subject line should be a brief, attention-grabbing summary of the e-mail body. However, if you want just to relay a short message, let's say a contact name and phone number, than that's fine, but don't try to give details to a meeting in just the subject line. Within Outlook, you can not always view the complete subject line in the Inbox, you have to open the e-mail anyway, so that defeats the purpose. Just my humble 2 cents.

branimir
branimir

I absolutely disagree with 9! I trust my recipient, but I don't trust mailman (mail carrier).

billfranke
billfranke

Agreed. I often have email delivery failures, and that's bad for my editing business, especially when my clients complain that they haven't received files that I know -- and can prove -- I sent. It's also bad the other way around. They complain that they haven't heard from me, but I never received their email. I don't send frivolous emails and I don't like receiving them. That's why I always ask for a return receipt.

Jimmy B
Jimmy B

You don't have to include a read receipt if you don't "trust your mailman". Just tag the e-mail with a delivery receipt. There are times when I do not trust the e-mail servers as well, but that doesn't mean I have to bother my recipient with a read receipt.

branimir
branimir

If you don?t want to be bothered with a delivery receipt it will be good to set your e-mail reader to answer automatically on delivery receipt demand when you first time open e-mail to read.

branimir
branimir

I was talking about a read receipt. It will be good if you can set automatic confirmation on the first read.

Jimmy B
Jimmy B

Are you talking about a delivery receipt or a read receipt, because I've never been asked for a delivery receipt when reading my e-mail. The mail server is the one that is responsible for ensuring the delivery of mail to the individual box, so once it is processed at the server the delivery receipt should be sent, even without the individual user reading the e-mail.

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

I find it highly annoying to have to click a button to send (or not send) proof I read the email. It's like being pressured to read it and respond. Because if you don't, then the person will know you read it and wonder why no response. I like to read the email *when I have the time* (which is not often I have a lot of time to read an email, but mainly just skim over it to see if it needs immediate attention or can wait until I'm not tied up in everything else). I don't send those annoying return requests either. I figure if they answer me, fine. If not, then I'll just find my answer elsewhere. If it's important, I'll *call them voice* if I need to, rather than email. Then I can get an answer right away. I don't even think there should be any such thing as a "return receipt" for email. If it's that important, call on the phone. If there's no phone # then you shouldn't be doing business with someone you can't talk directly to. Just my 2 cents.

sooze98148
sooze98148

I have a co-worker who requests a read receipt for all email she sends, including emails to the entire company (over 200 people). If she sends an email to everyone, I send a read receipt. If she sends only to me, I don't send a read receipt. Maybe I'm passive-aggressive.

Inkling
Inkling

"I don't even think there should be any such thing as a "return receipt" for email. If it's that important, call on the phone. If there's no phone # then you shouldn't be doing business with someone you can't talk directly to." Talk about unrealistic. If you can't be bothered with an extra click, then the next time it pops up choose the option to not be asked again.

rob.jones
rob.jones

"I don't even think there should be any such thing as a "return receipt" for email. If it's that important, call on the phone. If there's no phone # then you shouldn't be doing business with someone you can't talk directly to." A Return or Read receipt used correctly is important if you use Email as backup for important verbal instructions. I have on many occasions been saved by using the read receipt when collogues deny that they received verbal instructions, and claiming to not having received conformation Emails. Used correctly, a read receipt is a powerful tool.

allen.greene
allen.greene

Sorry, but I work in an area where resources are scheduled for a specific time and place. The common excuse is, "Oh, I didn't read that e-mail in time." A receipt provides a counter, "Oh, yes, you did." The writer's assertion that he just deletes an e-mail that requires a receipt doesn't always work, because our e-mail system treats a deleted e-mail as read.

nowikn
nowikn

The recipient's email admin blocks replies outside of their network . . .

ProblemSolverSolutionSeeker
ProblemSolverSolutionSeeker

I had constantly asked someone to stop using Read Receipt since he was Mr. Politico, and abused his authority. I accidentally discovered that I could read his emails in preview (outlook), cut and paste the information, then delete the emails. He would fly over to my cubicle to find out why I was rejecting his emails. Not sure what message he was getting. Oh, this was quite fun!

iain_lmta
iain_lmta

Obviously an admirable trait which we seem to share!

iain_lmta
iain_lmta

>> He would fly over to my cubicle to find out >> why I was rejecting his emails. Not sure >> what message he was getting. >> Oh, this was quite fun! Well done. I have a boss who asked me how others found out his e-mail address. Duh? Which one of the ICT people had breached company security was his baying call at the moon. We work for a company which has e-mail addresses such as: Robert Richards robrich1@company.com.au Milly Rhodes milrhod1@company.com.au Wanda Kerrish wankerr1@company.com.au Robyn Richley robrich2@company.com.au etc., etc. So, a cat with a basic knowledge of someone's name and its spelling could work it out. One day, in solving a problem for him, I used Windoze file-search and looked for JPGs. Sure enough I found some crude porn pics and left them on a slide slow in his screen-saver. Payback for his inanity!

PoconoChuck
PoconoChuck

==He would fly over to my cubicle to find out why I was rejecting his emails. Not sure what message he was getting.== He was getting a recipt back saying 'message deleted without being read'. That's an old trick; it can be done on Lotus Notes, too, but takes some effort.

Inkling
Inkling

I agree that number 9 is wrong, but for different reasons... I trust approximately 10% of the people I send e-mails to. I have worked in an office setting long enough to know that if it isn't on paper/in an e-mail then it didn't happen. I lost count of the number of times that a situation came down to my word versus someone else's. Havind a read receipt in these situations is a blessing. Most of these came when I was in the Marine Corps and as a lowly enlisted bubba when a high-ranking officer complains, you have to have your bases covered. Sure, there are better ways to communicate to avoid these situations, but they aren't always a viable option.

keithanthony0169
keithanthony0169

I am amazed by the ignorance of people who compromise my safety and privacy and the security running of my machine by broadcasting my email address to all and sundry throughout the world by using the ubiquitous Cc: list instead of the safety and privacy of a Bcc: list. More here http://www.randem.com/bccbox.html I really hate that I suggest the use of the Bcc list to offenders yet they blatantly disregard my request even if I start to send copies of their mail to people on their Cc lists that they have sent to me, remembering of course to copy them in with a copy of the Bcc link above! They are so ignorant that even having demonstrated graphically one of the dangers of a Cc list they maintain it's use! The frightening thing is that they drive their cars in the same manner!

techrepublic
techrepublic

Please get over yourself. A business e-mail address is NOT like a private, unlisted telephone number. As a general rule, business E-mail addresses are not private. Someone, somewhere, who is in possession of your e-mail address will, at some time, very likely send your business e-mail address in the CC field of one of their e-mails. It will most often happen without your knowledge or consent. This is a fact of life. And there is no way you can stop it. But you can stop your whining. Personally, I LOVE to have my business e-mail address sent everywhere possible. The free advertisement has often brought me new business! As far a SPAM is concerned, I have a well-maintained Black List and White List.

iain_lmta
iain_lmta

>> I have a well-maintained Black List and >> White List. Hear, hear! On the one remaining Windoze machine on the home network, I use the brilliant Mail Washer Pro program by Nick Bolton. Well worth the $29.95 (New Zealand dollars) that he charges for Pro version. Five minutes per week (maximum) is all it takes an individual user to update the friends and foes lists. On my Mac Powerbook and eMac, I use a similar program which reviews e-mail prior to the e-mail client receiving it.

darinhamer
darinhamer

Some of the "facts" in the article you linked to are just incorrect. You might want to do a little more homework on this subject. Perhaps it would be better to Bcc everyone, but this can get you into trouble sometimes as well. I just don't see that your privacy and security are put at great risk because of the To or Cc lists. Certainly not in proportion with your rantings here.

gjl229
gjl229

Points: I don't assume that, because you once gave me your personal email address, you are OK with my passing it on (via CC) to my friends, relatives, co-workers, and random sales people I deal with. You may not want their alleged jokes and actual spam. I'm not happy when a vendor I buy from identifies me to his client base via the CC on his "newsletter". I wasn't pleased when all 250 families in our youth choir got my business email address via the CC in the tour update. I didn't appreciate it when a group of my co-workers learned which United Way giving level I chose (via CC on the email inviting us to a recognition event). I don't pass out other's cell numbers, non-pub wireline numbers, email addresses, or other identifying info without permission or a very, very good reason to believe it's appropriate. Sounds like basic manners ? something in ever-shorter supply.