Answering emails? Watch out!

Sep 03, 2018, 08:45 IST | Shunashir Sen

Use the automated reply options that have exclamation marks in the upgraded Gmail interface with discretion

Answering emails? Watch out!

Hey there! Now that we've got your attention, dear reader, let us justify the exclamation mark we just used. We're sorry if it made you spill your coffee, but we did want you to sit up. You see, we weren't calling out softly to you over there. Instead, we wanted to convey, "Drop everything else you are doing and focus on what we're trying to tell you."

And what we are trying to say is that exclamation marks are best used as judiciously as possible. They aren't meant to be thrown around like hats at graduation ceremonies in colleges. But let's first explain why we are bringing this subject up. The problem is, Gmail recently threw a curve ball at its loyal fan base by changing its interface without notice. So now, messages come with the option of automated responses, many of them with attendant exclamation marks such as in the case of "I think it's perfect!" or "Got it, thanks!"

Here's the thing, though. Was it really that perfect for you to emphasise it with an exclamation mark, whatever the thing was? And are you so thankful about the message you received that you'll now start jumping with joy? Not necessarily, you must admit. So why give a person the wrong impression just because it's easier to click the mouse button than to use the keyboard and type an entire sentence out?

More importantly, however, exclamation marks send out such a powerful message that you might inadvertently overstep boundaries in a professional scenario if you use one without discretion. Or, at the very least, you might appear immature. Life coach Farzana Suri feels, "You should be guarded about not being overtly expressive in emails you are sending to a person you're not chummy with, because it comes across as childish otherwise. You generally put an exclamation mark to convey either shock or surprise. So, unless it's really great news or you know the receiver well, the use of an exclamation mark in an official email is inadvisable."

Those are wise words of advice to leave you with at a time when changing communication patterns are throwing conventional rule books out of the window (Suri tells us how she was left scratching her head when someone sent her a message saying "f2t", till she realised that it meant, "Free to talk"). So do please take a moment to consider how appropriate an automated response with an exclamation mark is before pressing the "send" button the next time such an email arrives in your inbox.

For, even as the old order gives way to the new, some things will remain sacrosanct, and if that's a view you agree with, that's awesome!

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