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December 26, 2011


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This sort of thing happens quite often at work, and it's not because we aren't formatting the email carefully. It's usually because there is a long thread of multiple replies and multiple recipients, and the reader just skimmed instead of scrolling down. e.g., "Which page of the website were you on when you saw this error?" That person could have scrolled down to find it himself, but he's decided "he doesn't have time for such nonsense." I and my coworkers usually respond with the answer he's looking for, plus "as shown in the email thread below," hoping that will remind everyone that they aren't the only busy bee that doesn't have time to scroll, but to please, next time, scroll. I'm guilty of rushing also, and am likewise reminded.

Business Writing Blog

Hi, Karla. Thanks for your excellent example. Reading it, I wonder whether there is a way to be sure the important information in a thread remains prominent. Maybe it would help to edit the threads so scrolling takes less time.

If you happen to read this comment, please share your thoughts.


Tola Amusan

I have had same experiences at work and on social network. My responses are not usually the same in both occasions. If it is work related, and it involves a superior, I simply respond back with the requested information. However, if it is with a colleague, I usually make reference to the part of the document where in the information is already provided and the same approach applies with my social network. Often times, when people omit important information, we need to recognize that we are not the only one they are probably are doing this to and one way to be of help, as friends and colleagues, is to bring this to their attention. Hopefully, they find this helpful when dealing with others as well.


Business Writing Blog

Tola, thank you for sharing your experience. I like the idea that you are bringing the information to the attention of your colleagues and social network friends, although I have not taken that approach myself. I am wondering whether your approach has helped people change their behavior.

Again, thanks for commenting.



I have definitely encountered this issue in both my professional and personal life, and I also struggle with exactly how to deal with it.

When this occurs in a work-related situation, I do have a hard time just giving the information again and not saying anything to inform the person that they missed the fact that I already provided it.

Here's my concern: let's say a supervisor consistently misses information provided by an employee, and is always asking for it again. Eventually, wouldn't this supervisor begin to believe that this employee is careless and unable to follow directions?? Should the employee really let the supervisor continue with this incorrect mindset- most likely barring themselves from ever receiving a promotion? This seems terribly unfair to me.

Business Writing Blog

Hi, LisaMarie. I believe the situation you describe would be best handled by an in-person discussion between the supervisor and the employee. The employee could share the concern that the supervisor's questions are making the employee less efficient, since he or she must write the answer more than once.

Thanks for mentioning this helpful scenario.


Susan Hattem Weeks

I simply answer the question. I usually know what they mean, or that they have skimmed through my message and missed it. It's not a big deal to let them save face.

It would be nice if others would do the same in turn. I find others not so kind. It serves no purpose to point out a mistake...I believe in praising people to success.

I would love to forward this to some!



Thanks for your response. A face-to-face conversation would be a great way to deal with that sort of situation- and pointing out that the employee is unable to be efficient places the focus on the good of the business rather than on the supervisor's mistakes.


Forgive me for playing devil's advocate here, but I wonder how you would respond to an issue like the one I describe in my comment above. Do you believe that there are times when pointing out a mistake can serve a purpose?
I do agree that people are often unkind in these sorts of situations, though- that is never necessary.

Business Writing Blog

Hi, Susan. I see that you and I agree.

I have not been in a situation where people have been unkind to me about my overlooking things. But when I reread a thread and realize I asked an unnecessary question, I do kick myself.

I have found that sometimes what I missed is in the person's subject line rather than in the body of the email. This has taught me to be sure in my own messages that I repeat anything important that appears in my subject.

Thanks for being part of the discussion.


Business Writing Blog

Hi, LisaMarie. Thanks for following up.

I think "consistently" is an important part of the situation you described. If someone overlooks information once or twice, the person may be having a bad day. But if it happens repeatedly, it becomes a time waster for everyone involved. Such a situation would merit a discussion.


Warda Zaman

Hi, Lynn. I had a question on whether a signature block is recommended every time we reply to an e-mail (formal or informal). I have seen people write their first name and then give the signature block. Is that acceptable or should the signature block be excluded from a reply? Thanks, Warda

Business Writing Blog

Hi, Warda. The signature block should be part of the first message to the other person, whether the writer initiates the exchange or is replying.

So if I write to you, my message will include my signature block.

If you write to me, my reply will include my signature block. Without it, you may not have my full name, title, phone number, and other details you need.

In an ongoing exchange, we can both delete the signature block because of the space it takes.

Thanks for asking.


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