Yesterday in a writing seminar I asked the group of 10 participants how many of them liked philosophical sayings or quotations at the end of an email. Here is the result:
- Percentage who like sayings and quotations in email: 0%
It was a friendly group at a progressive company, and I could tell they were not completely comfortable admitting they didn’t like such quotations and sayings. But one person was able to explain her view in words something like these:
I don’t like them because I get caught up in reading them. I read the quotation, think about the person and why they included that quote, and compare it to what I know about them. All this is going on when I’m trying to get my job done. I would prefer that people leave them off.
The rest of the group agreed, and so do I. I have been distracted plenty of times by quotations at the end of email. Here are a few that have appeared in email I have received:
Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence.
Patrick Lencioni, from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.
George Baker (1877-1965)
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Only passions, great passions, can elevate a soul to great things.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Ursula K. LeGuin
We may prop quotations on our desk or bulletin board for inspiration throughout the day. And we may use quotations in a presentation or article to crystallize our message for the audience.
But what is the purpose of pasting a quotation in at the end of an email, particularly when that quotation has no connection with the message? Sure, the words may inspire the reader, but is the reader actually looking for inspiration at the end of the dozens or hundreds of messages that flood the inbox each day?
Percentage of people who are likely to answer the previous question yes: <5%
I generally agree with the quotations I listed above, but I don’t need them at the end of an email.
What is your view of philosophical or religious quotations beneath the sender’s signature? Do you find them inspiring or distracting? A gemlike gift or a theft of your time? If you include them, why?
Please share your opinion.
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