Early in a career in writing, you learn that short communications are the most powerful. You’re overdrawn. You have cancer. You won the lottery.
Did you just realize that the relationship with the wonderful person you’ve been seeing for several months now should become exclusive and you can’t stand the thought of life without this person…or, did you fall in love?
There are exceptions to the rule, particularly when you’re trying to be clever or creative, but brevity is the soul of wit.
I have several writing contracts, and luckily when I e-mail one of my employers and they’re not in the office, every one of them has a succinct and direct message, like “I’m away from the office until X. If you need immediate action call my associate X at X.” None of the people I work for give long, rambling messages about why they’re away, where they’re going, or anything else that really doesn’t matter.
People who ramble on phone messages are liable to ramble on their out-of-office e-mail response, and I’ve had some dandies. The other day a friend sent me an e-mail with some of the “best” automatic replies. Here are a few:
“Sorry to have missed your e-mail, but I’m at the doctor’s having my brain removed so I can be promoted to our management team”.
“E-mails will be deleted in the order in which they were received”.
“Thank you for your e-mail. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for the first 10 words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message”.
“Your e-mail message has been added to my inbox queuing system. You are currently number 654 and can expect a reply in approximately 19 weeks”.
And, one which is sort of a test to see how many barely computer literate people you know: “The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again”. You’ll know how computer-illiterate they are by the number of times they re-send the message.
The one that I consider a classic is “I’ve run away to join a different circus”.
Experts say dealing with our e-mail load is a contributor to the general “technology stress” that many of us feel. So, feel free to “borrow” any of the ones here for your out-of-office message. A smile is a good way to help beat stress.