Gmail promotes bad etiquette

I must protest! Gmail’s latest tip reveals what I consider one of emails greatest, and most often abused etiquette faux pas (not to be confused with fopas or fopaws) – The Empty Email Body. While this may seem perfect for Halloween, I assure you, this is far more scary.

I often send messages where the subject is the entire message (e.g. “Want to grab lunch at 12:30?”), and Gmail would always prompt me to add in body text.

Now, however, you can add “EOM” or “(EOM)” at the end of the subject line (short for End Of Message), and Gmail will silently send the message without the unnecessary prompt. – Official Gmail Blog: Sending empty messages

The problem is, I and trillions of people like me, don’t read the subject line of every email – especially at work. We can easily preview the message and read the content. Even Gmail shows the first few words of every message. Besides, I know the subject of most emails simply by who it came from. For me, it’s more of a key word function than part of the message. In fact, I should be able to read the message body and guess the subject line. And note that this is called a subject line and not “title”. You’re not writing a book.

So the proper form of the example email would be subject: “Lunch today?” Message Body: “Want to grab lunch at 12:30?” [END]

If this is too much trouble, try picking up the phone you lazy bar-turd.

49 thoughts on “Gmail promotes bad etiquette

  1. You must have too much free time on your hands. There are a million other more important things to whine about. Pick something else. You don’t have to use the EOM feature but for those who wish to, it’s there.

  2. i cant believe people are freaking out on the poster simply because they wrote a blog post about a pet peeve. the whole “you have too much time argument” doesnt work either, because if you think somebody has too much time on their hands for making a blog post about something that bothers them (which is one of the key functions of blogging), then people taking time to respond to say that the poster has too much time on their hands must also have too much time on their hands. i, in fact, and trying to “kill” 15 minutes right now. very fancy.

    that said, i would rather have “no subject” and one line of text, but that’s just me. whatevs.


  4. I generally have too much to say to actually fit in just the subject line.

    For the lunch example, I’d ask where they wanted lunch, who’s buying, what I might have… and so on.

    The only person I send emails with no ‘body’ to is myself, basically as just a quick reminder to do/find something when I get back from lunch – and usually the act of writing the email is enough to keep it in memory anyway.

    As far as subjects of email go, I get a little annoyed at that as well. Sometimes my friend and I will email back and forth, change subjects a few times and he’s still replying as just a Re: so I end up changing it as it no longer includes the original information…

    And I also get annoyed when I email someone something reasonably important, they don’t reply, and I have to ask them in person if they got any email, they say no, and I describe the email, then they remember. Then they complain I don’t send them enough email. :S

    I don’t like ALL CAPS. Shouting or not it’s not quite as smooth to read. If there isn’t proper punctuation, all caps kills any clues as to where one thought begins and another ends.

    Who has time to type 3 keys ?! I’m about 40WPM so that’s… uh 1/10 of a second here.

  5. I find this feature quite useful. I send files to myself all the time. I don’t have any reason to type anything outisde of the subject line and dislike the constant reminder that my message body is empty.

  6. “It’s just email…”

    Right. If it stopped there. You let one thing slide though and it all goes downhill.

    First it is just a friendly email with no body, followed by an inter-office email with some dates like Friday October 15/2008, then a office memo that looks like it’s formatted by a blind monkey. A newspaper for 18,000 people that has the date of “Julxy 12” on the top of every page. A company wide internal document that doubles up movie descriptions and has titles like “That 70’s Shoe” DVD. By that time releasing a flyer to several *million* people with the second most expensive item (Rebel XSi – $850CN) with the wrong description (a $70 point and shoot stats and name) is “no big deal”. ALL REAL EXAMPLES

    It’s the kind of thing I lose sleep over, but hey, why worry?

  7. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, foreign and domestic, the subject line of an email is being debated this much? Nice. I’m kind of nervous about the future.

  8. I think that while it may be bad email etiquette, I don’t care, and most importantly is that the people who use it don’t care either. I see no reason to put a subject on a simple one line email, and I also would not want to bother the person by making them open the email to read just one line. I always read the subject. Half the time that is how i decide whether i want to open the email right now or not. I also think that you are using poor email etiquette by not reading the subject before you open the message.

  9. You don’t have to post this comment on your site, but this post is lame. Oh! I hate when people send emails with no body text, just a subject line! Oh, what is society coming to! Nooooooooooooooo! Lame. Just a lame excuse for a blog post.

  10. Slippery slope. Different professions have their own ‘standards’. If the email was in communication of two people that were frequent as in one example, the messages would be shortened. If one computer programmer was sending a lunch request to another, would they make sure their messages were painfully followed ‘by the book’? I would hunch ‘no’. Not because im a computer programmer, but as an IT professional.

    It would be great if everyone followed procedures down to a perfect dotting i’s and crossing ‘t’ s. As other posts have shown, communications are degrading. Not because of the refusal of doing everything formally, but time-pressed, and deadline imposing projects usually means there’s less time for ‘proper communication’.

    It also reflects on the human race that yes, we’re in fact human. Human beings make mistakes. Sure there are copy editors that will point out faults on public documents, but on personal (and even some work) correspondence, not everyone is going to run it by his or her ‘internal’ proof reader.

    The response of that would be, “just take the time to write a more correct email”. In absolute theory yes; however, email mirrors real life. Meaning, people get cut-off on the highway all the time. People make up white lies, and pads expense accounts and steal office supplies.

    We don’t live in a utopian world. we live in a world where impossible deadlines are placed and hardly no communication between employee and management. The author of this journal entry will object to the style of such emails; yet, from computer specialist to computer specialist that typically work 70-90 hours a week are typically burnt out that if one were to think about lunch, that’s *five* minutes off their insanely short “lunch break” or, the lunch break is a professional at his or her computer eating out of one hand and data processing on the other.

    I’ve been there. Work in the IT field and see for yourself.

  11. people like shortcuts. having the EOM flicked at the end of the subject line is quite useful, it shaves off some precious seconds. what’s not to like about it?

    it’s not bad e-mail etiquette. give it a try. sooner or later you’ll get used to it.

    but then again, if you still don’t like it, the earth will still revolve around the sun and it wouldn’t matter =)

  12. Just be cool, and step away from the SMS enabled phone. It’s hazardous to your heath.

    I do think its rude, poor etiquette and kinda confusing to write ‘EOM’ at the end of your ‘message’… Why should a recipient have to put up with that just so YOU didn’t have to click ‘OK.’

  13. When I see an empty e-mail with a long subject heading as a message, it makes me think that the sender does not understand e-mail.

  14. I would try to understand the use-case for this feature before complaining how silly it is. Consider the following scenario.

    A team of coders are working on a project. For messages to all team members, they use a mailing list e.g. by sending a mail to For a large team, there may be 100 messages a day. Quickly scanning subject lines for relevant info is a useful technique (e.g. “Overslept, coming late today EOM”, “Mysql died, working on it EOM”, etc).

    That said, another way to approach the problem would be to simply introduce a preference checkbox, e.g. “alert me for empty messages”.

  15. For the person that thought this is getting “too much attention”, last I checked there are millions, if not billions, of Internet users and like 20-30 comments here so far? Hardly a disproportionate amount of attention. Besides, the commenting will likely die down after a couple days anyway.

    For all the nay-sayers (i.e. people who say that the poster is being trivial, should take in to account “alternative” practices, etc.), go back and actually read the post. I mean really read it. He’s saying that it’s a faux pas (i.e. a violation of a certain etiquette or social protocol). He’s not saying it’s “wrong” (a violation of ethics or morals) and that people who do this should have to walk the plank or something. It’s like saying “thank you” to a waiter/waitress when they bring you something. Is it “wrong” not to say it? I’d say not. Is it noticeably rude? Maybe, depends on the situation. Would it be more polite to say it? Absolutely.

    I think the issue is that, like in mentioned one comment, the senders of the “subject only” e-mails are being a little “selfish” in that they just want to save themselves some time at the possible expense/irritation of others. Most, if not all, the “reasoning”, I’ve seen here as to why it’s “necessary” (for lack of a better term) to send out subject-only emails has been sketchy at best and sometimes a touch on the defensive side. It takes less than a second to click “ok” to send along an e-mail with no message body. Even for I’m in IT as well and get some of the same heavy workloads (I do the “eat at desk” deal most everyday anyway) and can still manage to send out emails with a message body and subject line.

    Additionally, why wouldn’t you open (or in some cases “preview”) every message you receive? Just because the subject line has a short message doesn’t mean there isn’t something in the message body. To use the running example, the subject might say “Want to go to lunch?” but the body says “If so, you’re paying for both of us, is that ok?”. If you just read the subject line, don’t open the e-mail, and you’re available, you’ll probably send a separate e-mail that says “Sure.” in the subject line and might have quite a surprise in store for you come lunchtime :-).

    Finally, what if for some reason I *want* to be able to have (EOM) at the end of a subject line as a meaningful part of subject line? Is there an escape sequence I can use? Also will GMail proccess “(EOM) ” on every incoming email reguardless of source? If G-Mail only uses this special flag on message creation though their interface (I hope it’s this way), then it’s probably not much of an issue. Otherwise, this could be a potential problem especially if, say, it doesn’t process in the message body because the subject line has “(EOM)” at the end which flags the end of a message.

    As someone else mentioned in another post, I’d favor a preference setting that allowed you to choose not to be alerted when sending an email with an empty body. At least then it really is a “personal preference” and not making available a feature that some will just not use that may or may not cause technical issues. Optionally not displaying certain warnings is simple and shouldn’t raise an issue. Changing the logic to how mails process would be at least a little more complicated and has a greater probability of “breaking” something.

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