do I care too much about email style?

A reader writes:

I’m a freelance copyeditor for a firm, and emails are the only interaction I have with their communications team. I find myself appreciating the everyday fillers like “good morning” or “I hope you’re well” or “have a great weekend.” I know these are totally generic, yet it helps the interactions feel a little more warm.

Each person sends me about a couple emails a week requesting copyediting. I got an email today from someone who is usually terse, but today’s was unusually: just an email subject line with the document’s topic, the attached document, and nothing written in the body of the email. I found this off-putting, but then I started wondering — am I letting my preferences for a certain email writing style unduly affect my feelings? The document he sent happened to be on the topic of neurodiversity, so it just had me thinking about how my preferences are culturally mediated and how some people might prefer emails with the fewest words possible as the most direct and concise approach.

Should I make more of an effort to be less judgmental just because someone sent me an email without any fluff? Similarly, this person hardly ever says thanks or replies when I send him something, but arguably it’s just my job that I get paid for and I don’t need people to say thanks every time.

Yep, I would try to adjust the way you view terse or concise emails!

The “fluff” like “good morning” and “have a great weekend” does matter. It builds relationships and makes you come across as warmer and more approachable. If your coworker were the one writing to me, I’d tell him to consider spending five seconds adding that stuff.

But there’s a difference between “it’s useful to do this in your own emails” and “you should find it off-putting when other people don’t.” Of course, your feelings are your feelings and if you find it off-putting, then so be it. But because you’re questioning your responses and sound willing to broaden the way you’re looking at it, I do think it’s worth allowing for the reality that people are just different in this regard. Not everyone needs or appreciates the “fluff” and so they don’t include it in their own emails — but it doesn’t mean that they’re actually chilly or rude. It can just be their writing style. People are different.

You might find it useful to read on the topic of task-oriented people vs. relationship-oriented people. Neither one is “right” (although it’s very easy to feel like your own type is the obviously right one) and having an understanding of where the opposite type is coming from can help reframe things in your mind and make it easier to work across the task/relationship divide.

{ 413 comments… read them below }

  1. Clandestine Timoraetta*

    I personally hate the fluff – I get a million emails a day and I know why people are emailing me. It just irritates me, lol. However, I don’t think it’s wrong so I would never mention it to anyone. I actually prefer fluff that is more casual. So, hi! v, hope you are doing well. The second is fluff but it sounds formal and rehearsed. I just want people to be real.

    1. Antilles*

      Between OP’s post and your comment, I think this kind of highlights why it’s good practice to include at least a tiny bit of the “fluff” in your emails:
      -People who dislike the fluff generally “don’t think it’s wrong”, just a bit irritating at most. So there’s no real downside to including the fluff even if someone’s more task-oriented.
      -But on the flip side, some of the people who *do* care about the fluff will really notice if it’s missing (a’la OP) and possibly even judge you as cold or impersonal. So there IS a potential downside for skipping the fluff.

      And just speaking from my anecdotal experience, this does seem to track. I’ve never had someone call me out for including these very minor fluff comments, but I’ve had people notice when I don’t. I don’t think it needs to be much, but it’s worth the 10 seconds it takes to lead off with “Good morning” and close with “Thanks” or “Have a good weekend” or whatever.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I’m ND and one thing the pandemic made me aware of was the cumulative toll of going against my grain so much. I often use the analogy of when there is some sort of persistent noise that you can ignore but then when it stops, you’re like, oh, thank god even though you hadn’t consciously registered it for hours. I get that NT people believe that it is no added work to include niceties (and I do include niceties in most of my emails), but it’s not true. It’s super subtle and no one instance is difficult but cumulatively, it’s an extra step for every single email and it sort of reinforces my sense of people not thinking I’m ok the way I am. I would actually advocate that any time anyone starts a thought with the idea that “it’s no big deal…” they think about whether that’s really true for everyone. It’s a good inclusion exercise.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          For me, finishing with “Take care and best wishes” indicates to me that I’ve finished what I need to say. It’s my code ensuring that the letter is ready to go – just as rattling the door knob only my way out tells me that I did lock it.
          It’s not about “everyone should do this”, it’s “I do this as part of my communication style”.

        2. Calliope*

          There’s a reverse of that too, which is “it’s no big deal to not get pleasantries in an email” and then over time people start to feel like someone is treating them like they don’t matter because every interaction is purely task-focused and contains no acknowledgment of them as an individual. Doesn’t dictate any particular way of doing something but it does go both ways and people should be aware of that.

          1. wordswords*

            Yeah. It’s absolutely true that there’s a cumulative toll of going against your own grain! And it’s also absolutely true that society at large is set up with assumptions and expectations that require some people (like many ND people) to go against their own grain a lot more regularly than others, and that’s a level of baseline exhaustion that needs to be recognized.

            But it’s also true that on this particular subject, either way, someone is going to be going against their grain, whether it’s by taking an extra step for every email you send that feels like a subtle indication that your way of being is wrong, or by taking an extra moment for every email you receive to remind/persuade yourself that you’re not being snubbed or dismissed. There’s not an easy right answer that will fix the issue, even though having people be more aware of the multiple valid stances here is a useful step.

            1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              This is true, but the burden should be equitable. Currently, society and its expectations is pretty much built to NT standards.

              1. Calliope*

                Yeah but in this case we’re talking about what individuals should do in individual interactions. I totally agree nobody should be penalized by their boss for this. But if you’re giving work to a freelancer (someone who probably depends on you for a portion of their livelihood and who has zero power over you), taking some extra consideration with them is probably a good thing. They may or may not be NT but they likely have more at stake in the interaction than you. It’s probably less necessary with your regular coworkers who you have ongoing relationships with besides emails with no fluff.

              2. HelloHello*

                I’d argue against the idea that ND = no niceties and NT = niceties. My autism and anxiety can absolutely lead to me spiraling over whether someone’s mad at me based on their email, and a nicety helps assuage that worry to some extent. I understand fully it is on me to manage my own emotional reaction to emails, but for me (and I suspect other people) the niceties are helpful *because* of my neurodiversity.

                1. Tau*

                  +1, also autistic. Especially the “Hello/Hi/Dear X”/”All the best/Best wishes/Kind Regards” stuff is fairly rote stuff I internalised and which would stress me a lot more to leave off at this point.

                  This isn’t the first time I’ve seen “but really we should be doing X to make the world easier for ND people” when X is something that would make my life definitively harder on this site. This is me reminding everyone that ND people are very diverse and it’s important not to generalize too far off a small sample size!

                2. starfox*

                  Yes… I’m not autistic but I have ADHD and anxiety. My first impulse is to be quick and to the point, but then my anxiety kicks in and I’m like… hmm does that sound rude? Should I put in a smiley face? How can I soften this??

                  Also I wonder how gendered this is? I don’t know your gender but I’ve found that most emails I get from men are pretty terse, and e-mails I get from women tend to add in the “fluff.” I’m sure it has something to do with how women are so easily perceived as “rude” and “bossy” if we don’t take steps to soften everything.

                3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  starfox I was just about to say the same!
                  I actually have niceties built into my email signature, which goes:
                  Dear (space for recipient’s name),
                  I hope you are well,
                  Please find attached (space for file name).
                  Wishing you an excellent (space to fill in “evening” “day” “weekend” “holiday” as appropriate)
                  Best regards
                  (contact details)
                  That way I’m sure to include them, unless I specifically want to come across as terse (aka pissed off) in which case it all gets deleted.

              3. HelloHello*

                I’m not NT and extremely terse emails can send my anxiety spiraling about whether the person is mad at me/I did something wrong/I mishandled the interaction/etc. I know very well it’s my responsibility to manage those emotions for myself, but i don’t think it’s true or helpful to assume neurodiverse = doesn’t want pleasantries in emails. Because of my neurodivergence it causes me stress to receive single word answers at work, which I can manage but does require emotional energy from me the same way someone who hates pleasantries has to spend emotional energy adding pleasantries.

                1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  I agree with you. I’m ND and I include the niceties because I like to receive them; terse emails make me wonder what’s going wrong.

            2. Lego Leia*

              I find my emails tend to be task oriented, and somewhat terse, so now my email signature contains a generic greeting as well as a generic sign off, and I just fill in the middle. Think starting all new emails with “Hi, Hope you are well” and ending all with “Regards, Leia”.

              Yes, I need to delete or edit occassionally, but the niceties are there, and I don’t really have to do much thinking about ut.

        3. umami*

          One way you could include it without it being added work would be to program the nicety as part of your signature so it populates automatically.

          1. Sloanicoa*

            Yeah, as someone mentions below I have “thanks” in my email signature. There is virtually no communication I have that “thanks” isn’t appropriate (if I did encounter this situation I’d just manually delete it). In this case, the colleague is asking OP to copyedit a document so an automatic thanks isn’t really over the top surely.

            1. Aggresuko*

              Yeah, “thank you” (I’m no longer allowed to say thanks, that’s apparently not fluffy or formal enough) is the only signoff I can stand to do, whether or not anyone actually needs a thank you. It’s tolerable.

              Also, usually people use signoffs they’d never say in real life, and that’s just weird. Would you ever wave to someone IRL and say, “Best!” No, you wouldn’t.

              1. Loulou*

                Why is that weird? Written and spoken communication are different. I’d never greet someone with “Dear” or say “LOL” when I’m speaking to them aloud, but those things have a place in writing.

                1. JM60*

                  On the other hand, this is also why we wouldn’t need these odd email-specific niceties (if we all agreed to stop using them). I suspect that the absence of these niceties wouldn’t come across as rude or chilly to those like the OP if they weren’t conventional to begin with.

                2. Annie Moose*

                  @JM60: well… yes, of course, if conventions of politeness weren’t considered conventions of politeness, it wouldn’t come across as chilly to exclude them. That’s how basically all etiquette works; very few aspects of “politeness” are objective truths that are inherent to all cultures and situations. All of communication, language itself, is just a convention that cultures agree on.

                  So going “well, if all of the conventions were different, the conventions would be different!” isn’t exactly that helpful. Whether or not you think these should be conventional niceties, they currently are conventional niceties.

                3. JM60*

                  @Annie Moose

                  Many things that are considered rude have reasons why they’re rude beyond “Society has always considered it rude”. There are also quite a lot things that are considered rude simply because it was considered rude in the past (perhaps originally due to some other reason that is no longer relevant), but:

                  A) A person doing something that’s considered rude merely because society has traditionally deemed it to be rude should be judged differently from someone who does something that’s rude for reasons beyond that.

                  B) If something is currently considered rude rude merely because society has traditionally deemed it to be rude, then it would probably be best if society stopped considering it rude. For instance, there use to be reasons why wearing hats inside was considered rude. This was having to do with wearing one being an indicator that you wanted to leave, because there was a time and place where hats were mostly worn to protect from the elements. Since wearing hats for reasons other than protection later became more common, the “it’s rude to wear hats inside” became an arbitrary convention that society was better without.

                  In this case, I’d recommend that employees stick to some minimal email niceties (e.g., “Dear so-and-so”, “Best regards”, etc.) for the sake of staying in the good graces of those who are judgmental about conventions. But I also think people like the OP should give people the benefit of the doubt when people are merely not sticking to a convention.

                4. Allonge*

                  I am not sure I get your point: social niceties like saying hello and thank you have just about the most important function in etiquette: acknowledging each other as humans. I really don’t think that the format changing from letters delivered by carrier pigeons or whatever to email changed this.

                5. JM60*


                  My point is that niceties that are niceties solely because society deems not doing it as rude should be judged differently than niceties. If you want to argue that a particular greeting at a start of a message or particular sign off at the end serves an important function other than doing something because society says you should, then those particular niceties don’t apply to my point (to the degree that you’re correct).

                  That being said, if something can be automated (such as signing off an email with “Best regards”), then I doubt that it actually “acknowledg[es] each other as humans”.

                  I really don’t think that the format changing from letters delivered by carrier pigeons or whatever to email changed this.

                  I’m guessing that some of it actually is a holdover from snail mail. If you’re sending a letter to someone before airplanes existed, there’s probably a greater need to include an explicit acknowledgment of their humanity than now, when we can see each other much more frequently (in person and/or virtually).

                6. Allonge*

                  “if something can be automated (such as signing off an email with “Best regards”), then I doubt that it actually “acknowledg[es] each other as humans”.”

                  I don’t agree. Signing my name by hand on a handwritten letter is no different than signing by a default signature, except the latter is more convenient.

                  Same with ‘best regards’ – it’s indeed a shortened version of something that must have been ‘I wish to convey my best regards to you and your family’ or similar. The fact that the it became shorter and now can be automatically added does not, for me, make it any less (or more) meaningful. I am sure people thought typewriters made some horrible difference in personalisation of messages too.

                  But it’s interesting to see that it’s not so for others for sure!

                7. JM*


                  For the specific example of “Best regards”, I too agree that it didn’t suddenly become meaningless the moment it became automated by machines. However, I think it already was mostly meaningless for a while. The fact that it’s a task that could be done “on autopilot”, which easily lent itself to automation (whether or not the technology exists to automated it for us), is a sign that it’s not very meaningful.

                  Perhaps this is because I’m a bit neuroatypical, but when I see “Best regards” at the end of a message, I don’t think, “How kind of them to acknowledge that I’m a person!” Instead, I think, “They do this for every message, so this is just an X in the checkbox of ‘society expects you to do this simply because society has long considered it rude to not do it.'” I similarly don’t think they’re disregarding my humanity if they leave off that fluff! On the other hand, if I got a letter from a family member hundreds of years ago that was signed off by, “I wish the best for you during this hardship”, that’s more meaningful and less likely something they did simply due to convention alone. I could see how such customized, meaningful closings may have eventually transitioned to, “Include this language in every closing because that’s what we’ve always done”, and to, “Not automatically including this fluff at the end of every letter is rude.”

                8. starfox*

                  I always say “best” or “all the best,” but I’ve seen several things online that says this is super passive aggressive, for some reason? But I don’t care, it’s how I sign my emails. I don’t like using “thanks” unless I’m actually thanking someone.

            2. Ellie*

              ‘Thanks’ has become part of my default signature – its the way I sign off 99% of the time. The other 1% is for the rare times that ‘Cheers’ is more appropriate due to the warm but casual nature of the relationship.

              I like a little bit of fluff, it takes the sting out of asking someone to do something for you, but to me, it takes words to be rude, and an email with just a document attached is a perfectly normal and efficient way of sending something through. I’ve received some horribly rude emails in my time, but brevity is fine and normal.

        4. OP LW*

          Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s something I hadn’t thought much about before, so it’s helpful to realize that these types of email niceties can be draining for some people. I think I could be better about assuming best intentions for written communication in general since tone can be hard to convey with just words.

          1. Teapot Wrangler*

            I wouldn’t exactly call it draining for me but I do definitely need to think about it. My default is
            Hi Name,

            but I have to remember at the end of the email to go back and put in the fluff – “Hope you’re well” or “Hope the weather was good on your holiday” so if I’m trying to be quick or I’m not thinking then that stuff doesn’t go in.

            I don’t especially mind the fluff (although I have found it difficult when phrased as a question during bad times – How are things with you? When the answer was “Not good, family member on death’s door” but I feel fairly obligated to give some kind of reply that was less a) personal and b) depressing. So I generally just express as hopes / wishes not queries.

            The fluffy communication thing that does really annoy me is people emailing to say thank you but nothing else. I’m wasting my time to switch tasks to look at a pointless email. I don’t mind if it is a follow up or if there’s been issues so someone is confirming receipt for a particular reason but generally it really irritates me. I know this isn’t a hill to die on so I try to damp it down but I wish people would just email when there is a reason to do so!

        5. Critical Rolls*

          I think some of this is how we define “fluff” and “niceties” and how much is enough. Is it burdensome to write an email in the form of greeting-message-signoff? I would consider that kind of the lower threshold for people I don’t have an established relationship with, but it feels less like added material and more like “this is the form of a standard email.”

        6. a tester, not a developer*

          I apologize in advance if you’re not wanting solutions, but I’ve found it helpful to set my signature line to include a neutral pleasantry. That way it’s an automatic part of my email and I only need to do more fluff if I have the mental bandwidth.

        7. Balloon Frenzy*

          I’m ND myself, but it’s rude to send someone an email without even a greeting or anything written in the body. I understand it might be harder for us ND people but I’d recommend having your email program auto-generate a greeting or something. There’s no excuse for being ~that~ rude like in the letter.

      2. nonprofitpro*

        I’m very external focused nonprofit worker and need to be “warm” with folks and so generally include “fluff. ” And to aid that I have “Thanks!” written into my signature. When I’m writing an email it saves a moment in typing and just hitting reply with out typing anything allows for a very quick acknoweldgement of the message which for me I find people want. Occassionally I have to delete it but that’s pretty rare.

      3. Cabin Fever*

        “…and possibly even judge you as cold or impersonal.”

        Is it judgy if it’s, y’know…absolutely accurate?

        1. Nina*

          Whoa. No. ND person here, I’m warm and friendly enough to maintain relationships in person or when we’re chit-chatting, but it’s a real effort for me to put in the little ‘fluff’ things on emails. I do it because it makes my NT colleagues’ day better, which makes them more likely to do what I need done, but it doesn’t come naturally. That doesn’t make me cold and impersonal, it just means I don’t place a huge amount of value on asking how your weekend was and remembering your cat’s name if all the job needs is for me to tell you what data I want and you to find it for me. So yeah, if I’m in a hurry or otherwise under time pressure I will absolutely forget the niceties because they are a lot of work for me.

          1. BoksBooks*

            Yes, but not all terse and rude emails come from someone who is ND. Sometimes, it is actually a terse and rude email. So we can’t assume, and that’s why social niceties are in place to begin with. I am also ND, and really rely on niceties, so not everyone who is ND will be the same as you.

          2. Teapot Wrangler*

            Speaking as someone who is NT, I don’t know that this is ND v NT – I think lots of ND people need fluff and lots don’t, ditto NT. Personally, I think my time being wasted with too much fluff is rude so much more than greeting, ending and one sentence of fluff bugs me but I’d also find a completely blank email v. rude. Unless you’re on a call to someone and sending it as speaking or very close, I think not putting a “Please find attached” or “As discussed” is rude but I don’t need screed about your weekend or (as one of my colleagues tends to send) a three paragraph discussion of their thought process when they could just ask a one sentence question…

        2. Loulou*

          I don’t think it’s accurate to say that people who don’t include niceties in their email ARE cold and impersonal, which is different than saying they run the risk of coming off that way.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is why relationship-oriented people drive task-oriented people batty – the judgment that someone who does not value the same things that you do or don’t behave the way you expect is [insert negative personal attributes here]. Same with extroverts judging introverts, though I’d imagine there’s a lot of overlap in those populations.

          I get an email with all sorts of unnecessary fluff, and I can think to myself, “Well, I’m sure Bob is just trying to be nice.”, even though I’d much rather just get the info I need. If I send Bob and email asking for the widget report without the extraneous bits, then I’m a cold and unfeeling person – not my email is rushed or terse but that I, the person, am cold – because I didn’t ask about how his sick dog is doing or blow sunshine at him before asking for the work-related thing I need.

          1. Middle Aged Lady*

            To the relationship oriented people, the polite business language helps them build the relationship which gets the task done.

            So, savvy relations oriented people learn who their task oriented colleagues are, and adjust—to build the relationship and get the task done. They tailor their communications accordingly.

            Savvy ‘taskers’ learn a little fluff goes a long way with some colleagues, and adjust accordingly, because building the relationship will get the task done. A mix of the two types, who understand and respect each other, is my ideal workplace. There must be an evolutionary reason we fall into these types, and diversity is our strength.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this!

              But like most things in life, task vs. relationship oriented is a spectrum, and most people probably fall somewhere between the two extremes.

              I’m a fairly relationship oriented person in a very task oriented culture. I don’t need a lot of fluff in written communications, but some acknowledgment of me as a person is nice. I only work with internal clients, but my org is large and nationwide with 20+ regional offices, and I’ve never met the vast majority of people who send me work. I’m not saying that people need to “suck up” to me to get their requests done, but if I get two requests where one’s just the name of the file I need to work on and a deadline, and the other starts with Hi! and ends with a salutation like Cheers, Thanks, or Regards, you bet that I’ll be assigning the second a higher priority in my queue. A little fluff goes a long way, and luckily most of my coworkers agree.

              But I pretty much only get request in writing, or at least the final confirmation of a request is always in writing, which eliminates most of the fluff I find annoying; listening to someone ramble on about non-work things before they get to the point. I like to build relationships on my coffee and lunch breaks, but please don’t come to my desk to talk when I’m busy.

      4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Before noon, I start my emails with “morning!” but the afternoon is fraught, because “afternoon!” doesn’t flow quite as well and “good afternoon” feels stilted and overly formal. Most of the time I can get away with “Hey there,” but not all the time. As a result, my sent-mail volume goes waaaaaaay down after about 11:45am :P

      5. So sleepy*

        I commented below but I do think there can be a downside to too much fluff. I had a colleague that I honestly couldn’t stand because the first 3 sentences of every email was like we were old buddies (we weren’t) and as if he cared about my life (maybe he did, but I barely knew him), and were just a lot of reading to lead in to “I have a really dumb request that I need you to fulfil today even though it really shouldn’t be your problem” (which he would not word that way, just make it seem like a Ned Flanders-enthusiasm about something ridiculous.

        I honestly hated getting his emails so much that I would just forward them to someone else for action with moût even acknowledging them, and I disliked him for years. All he had to do was say “I’m so sorry, I know this is a big ask but do you happen to have that article / puff piece you wrote two years ago that our boss made you write like it was an emergency and then never published?” Instead it was like “how have you been?! So great to catch up, I’ve been meaning to reach out, blah blah”.

        A few years later, we actually ended up working closely together and I really liked him and would do anything for him now (except that ridiculous puff piece… it was so out of date that the entire article was no longer accurate anyway!). But had he not had this insincerity about him in all his messages, it would have happened much sooner. The funny thing is, he is a super caring person, but you just can’t convey that in an email where you’re asking for something and otherwise don’t have a relationship with the recipient.

        1. BoksBooks*

          This is interesting it brings to mind a colleague whose emails I have to leave unanswered until I can work up to even remotely matching their level of fluff. They’re really good at it too and so my return fluff doesn’t feel as natural. But, it seems important to them, so I try.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          This is very funny, you say he is a super caring person but that his emails are insincere? I kind of think it’s one or the other. It sounds like you just had trouble believing his sincerity at first.
          So if he’d been able to read your mind and cut out most of the fluff when he first knew you, he’d have been able to forge a pleasant relationship with you straight off. You didn’t ever ask him to please get to the point, how could he know? And why couldn’t you just take him at his word? Believe him until he proves you wrong?

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I theorize that for every person like OP wishing for a few fluffy niceties to smooth things out, there’s someone wishing all their emails could get to the point with the smallest number of words, and silently blessing anyone who hits this mark in a single short sentence.

      On top of “people are different” I’ll add “office cultures can be different” and “as the amount of your day spent responding to email increases, your preference for very quick to the point communication probably also increases.”

      1. It's a me*

        You nailed all of my thoughts to this letter! I do appreciate relationships, but I get and write a lot of emails and loathe the fake-feeling niceties.

        Luckily my work culture skews casual but I would lose my mind if I had to fake care “How are you?” when I had a simple request!

      2. Kay*

        So much this! When I read this letter the first thing that came to mind was the incredible relief I felt when I finally had the conversation where I asked a coworker if it would be alright if I just sent them the routine documents they needed from me without comment – and they said YES!! (it is very routine, very often, and the documents all have a naming convention that identifies exactly what they are when you see the file name-no extra words necessary!)

        I get fluff but don’t want to agonize over whether someone is going to take umbrage at my lack of response and reciprocity to hope you enjoyed your weekend, take care, etc., nor do I want to take the extra time necessary to do this when I’m staring down an inbox hovering upwards of triple digit levels of unread emails.

        1. BoksBooks*

          Yes that can be so relieving – the “hi Bartleby I’m going to start forwarding these to you without comment unless it’s necessary” can be a true respite. But I can only do that when I’ve checked with the other person. Otherwise it’s, “hi Bartelby, please see attached docs, thanks! BoksBooks”

      3. middlemgmt*

        Agree. I tend to include small niceties in my emails based on who i’m emailing and what i need (because my goal is to get their help, so i cater to their preference). but i general, if the task or request is straightforward, i want as few words as possible when people email me because i get a few hundred emails a day. one person on my team has a habit of couching her sentences in so much self deprecation and explanation and hesitance, that i honestly can’t figure out what she wants half the time. things that could be one sentence, she’ll write 2 paragraphs. i don’t have time to parse through the extraneous language. and honestly, it’s a waste of her time to spend that much time on writing an email. it’s not just 10 seconds worth. but i’m sure she learned it from her last position in another department, so i try to coach her and ask her to sum it up when it’s too over the top for us.

    3. Sloanicoa*

      I usually agree with Alison and I hope I’m not obsessed with fluff, but an email to a freelance colleague with no subject line at all, just an attachment that OP is presumably supposed to copyedit, is really curt. It’s the equivalent of snapping your fingers at wait staff.

      1. Koalafied*

        The only time I do that is when I’ve just recently indicated on a call or a different email thread that I’ll be sending over X document, so actually sending it is an action item that doesn’t require additional conversation.

        To me it’s kind of like saying to someone you pass in the hall, “There’s a birthday card going around for Natasha, I’ll bring it by your desk after lunch,” and then just dropping it in the person’s inbox later instead of making sure to catch them and hand it to them personally. They already understand why they’re getting the card in their inbox, so there’s no need to repeat information you just gave them a short while ago.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Right. But I’m assuming OP would have mentioned if there had been prior conversation about the incoming file.

        2. Middle Aged Lady*

          I can’t help but put something! Even if it’s’here is the document we discussed.’ I love your analogy to the bday card.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s why I said that if the coworker wrote to me, I’d tell them to include more. But for the OP, who’s on the receiving end, it’s much better to let it roll off you and not read anything into it.

    4. John Smith*

      I’ll never forget an email I received which started “I hope you are well and have had a good weekend. This email is inform you that you are being investigated for [insert ridiculously trumped up charge – later disproved – here]”.

      Fluff should be very brief to indicate you are being brief and polite but want to get on with what you want to say. There is a time and place for it.

      1. racebannon*

        (Alias) John Smith I appreciate your example of exactly where no fluff should be added.
        Good to read you were cleared.

    5. ApollosTorso*

      Either way doesn’t personally bother me, since I’ve learned to reframe as Alison said, people are different. And often they’re in or from a different office culture – rushed or task focused, or who knows.

      That said, to reflect on your last sentence I do think fluffy people are just as real as nonfluffy people. They/we have a genuine desire to acknowledge relationships and people.

      I don’t think either type is more honest or real. When someone asks me how I’m doing or if I’m well, I usually give an honest answer.

      I think some people who don’t participate in the extra niceties don’t notice that people really are asking how they’re doing and enjoy some surface level of caring.

    6. June*

      It’s work. Niceties are fine but not required. It’s folly to get upset over this. Read the mail, move on.

    7. SofiaDeo*

      But saying “hope you are doing well” is how some people speak. I don’t say “hi” often, it’s just how I speak. I enjoy using words and being polysyllabic. So this goes both ways. I think less of people I don’t know very well acting like we are all buddy-buddy. But I try to assume the person saying whatever, is not trying to be rude/irritating.

    8. Medusa*

      For emails, I don’t care either way — include it, don’t include it, whatever. I know you, I know our relationship, it doesn’t affect the way I view you if you don’t open with a greeting or whatever. I personally include minimal fluff because it’s just, like, standard business behaviour. I use greetings and sign offs unless it’s the 5th email we’ve exchanged on the subject within the course of the morning.

      For chat messages (on Teams or previously Skype for Business), it drives me insane. I don’t need six back and forth messages before we get to the work part of out our work, just tell me what you need. I tolerate it, obviously, but I’d much prefer a “Hey Medusa, could you edit the llama reports?” over a conversation where I tell you that I’m fine and you tell me that’s great and then you tell me that you’re fine and I tell you that’s great.

    9. Bunny*

      TIL my to the point emails can be considered rude. I am on the spectrum, diagnosed as an adult, well into middle age.

      I feel sometimes like I’m studying a civilization I’ve teleported into. Thanks to all of you.

      I’ll figure this out by the time I’m retired and go to live in my mermaid themed retirement condo.

    10. Allegra*

      I’m not sure if I’m misreading the conversation, but are folks considering including a minimal salutation and sign off “fluff”? “Hi, I need the attached release on new teapot designs by COB tomorrow. Thanks, Ed” doesn’t seem like it has any fluff to me.

      I agree that the “hope your weekend was great” etc. before getting to the subject is fluff, and can be draining to come up with–I don’t like coming up with it myself for the zillion emails I send per day, though I’ll do it for coworkers or clients who seem to prefer it so I match what they’re putting out. But I don’t consider a greeting and a closing word (that you could have in your email signature, even) fluff and I’m surprised if that’s what people are meaning. I’m an old millennial and was taught that as basic email etiquette…?

      1. BoksBooks*

        I agree with you, I can’t believe that Hi Bob, here are the reports, thanks, BoksBooks” is so terribly taxing, it is standard communication. Or even, “here you go.” Hi and Thanks are not fluff. Even with the weekend asks, we can ignore those with a simple, “Hi Bob, hope you also had a good weekend, here are the docs, thanks.”
        We have to do “chores” for our jobs and this is just one of them.

  2. DogTrainer*

    I am that terse person. If I dig into myself, part of the reason I don’t include this “fluff” is because I don’t actually want someone to ask me about myself or my time outside of work (e.g., how was your weekend or how are you doing) under any circumstances, and therefore I avoid building those kinds of relationships via use of these phrases. I realize that maybe isn’t logical.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Oh no! You need to bring your whole self to work!
      (sarcastic callback to yesterday’s letter that still has me so freaking annoyed.)

      1. Calliope*

        I mean there’s a lot of daylight between pressured to bring your “whole self” to work and actively avoiding any situation where you’d have to say “oh my weekend was fine, yours?”

        1. Nina*

          Yeah, the nature of my job and my life right now is such that my weekends are invariably ‘meh’ to ‘awful’, work is an escape, and I really don’t want you to ask because I don’t like lying to people, so if you don’t ask we’ll both be much happier.

          1. tessa*

            And anyone is to know this how?

            Good grief, people. Is it really the end of the world that people are just trying to be polite?

            1. UKDancer*

              I also find “sunny” or “bit damp for this time of year” or a similar weather related comment works very well. I’m British and we talk about weather a lot especially as a diversionary tactic.

              1. Teapot Wrangler*

                At least the sun is shining / the rain has stopped / it is meant to be warmer soon is my standard I don’t want to answer with a real answer! Maybe our national obsession is actually useful! :)

            1. Sue Wilson*

              I know what you’re saying and why you’re saying it and I think it’s important to clarify, but I will mention that Nina’s comment didn’t necessarily say she didn’t understand that. Sometimes even knowing someone is saying something for the spirit of the thing doesn’t help your brain not ruin your mood if you don’t answer by the letter.

            2. Seconds*

              Yes, it’s acknowledging humanity. And I generally like it, even with cashiers and such, because I really do enjoy finding out a bit about how others are experiencing the world. But there was a day when someone asked me that question, and things were going so poorly for me that I tried to say “fine” and instead burst into tears. Long, loud ones. In quite a public setting. That made me wish that our standard greeting was something more like, It’s so good to see you today! Or, I wish you a good morning! Maybe I’ll switch to something like that.

          2. Nodramalama*

            But its just a pleasantry? It’s like finishing a customer service interaction with ‘have a good day!’ nobody is expecting you to turn around and say ‘ACTUALLY my day is terrible’.

    2. Loulou*

      I don’t think ending an email with “have a good weekend” will lead to someone following up and asking how your weekend was, though — it really is just filler that doesn’t require a response.

    3. Despachito*

      I find the “how are you” and “how was your weekend” phrases awkward as well, because the person asking is rarely REALLY interested in more than “fine, thanks”. It is a sort of a fallacy because you are seemingly asked a question but it is not a real question and you are not supposed to answer it as if it was, and I find this irritating.

      I am in the same situation as the OP, permanent WFH and I do not even know what my coworkers for several years look like. I am not too invested in niceties but my situation is so impersonal that if there was no fluff at all, I would feel like a robot among robots. I prefer phrases like “have a nice day” to questions though because it feels more genuine. I know the person on the other side of the line is not interested about my weekend at all, as I am not interested in hers/his, but I can still wish them a nice day and be genuine about it.

      1. Calliope*

        I don’t think people don’t care to be honest. I think it’s true that it’s not usually an invitation to launch into a huge diatribe but if you say “oh, it’s sucked, our basement flooded” or “omg, my toddler woke me up at 5am each day,” people genuinely will be sympathetic and that’s part of what forms relationships over time. If what went wrong is more personal and harder to share, that is awkward and I think we’ve all been there. But gradually increasing the personal-ness of what we share is generally how we form relationships with coworkers. Just with most coworkers it won’t progress all the way to truly intimate friends (though it might) but that doesn’t mean they aren’t genuinely sad that your dog died. Or that your mother is sick. Or a million other things.

        1. My heart is a fish*

          Right, yeah. Brushing it off as ‘people don’t actually care’ is missing the value of those interactions.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I liked the way Alison explains it, “I acknowledge you, fellow human.”
          It has taken a lot of pressure off of me as I walk down the hall and some says, “Hi, how are you?” “Fine, you.” and we keep walking. I think of those as oh, had a nice day at work, talked to some people, ate X for lunch.

        3. Green Post-Its*

          Thank you. There seem to be a lot of people here who believe that writing/saying ‘Good morning, how are you?’ is tedious at best and an act of agression at worst.

          I appreciate that these things can wear thin if you get dozens of emails a day, but it only takes 0.1 seconds to skim past it.

        4. Despachito*

          I see what you mean.

          I was not clear enough – I meant, to me it sounds lame if it comes from COMPLETE strangers, such as cashiers – I hear that they do this in the U.S. and I cannot really imagine they care for a weekend of a person they see for the first time in their lives.

          For Jane from the Accounting, it is a bit different. I think that she cares along the lines of “I acknowledge you, fellow human, and I don’t mind knowing a bit more of your non-work self”, and in such a case, I’d keep it light short – like one or two sentences. Like: “I went to the Teremin concert on Sunday, and it was amazing” sort of thing. Or, as you say “oh it sucked, our basement flooded”, but nothing too tragic/disgusting/loaded.

      2. ceiswyn*

        But the question is an opening to have a conversation if you want to.

        You can leave it as ‘fine’ if you’re busy, or don’t know the person, or want to keep things at a very light acquaintance level, and there it’s just an acknowledgement on both your parts that you see one another as people but that’s as far as the intimacy goes. But over time, as you interact, you can choose to use it to open a light conversation, or a heavier one, or to seek more friendship. That’s how I now know the names of several of my usual baristas and how one of them had their apartment flooded over the winter, and why another was off work for a couple of weeks. That’s how someone I used to just see at gym classes became someone I share my mental health issues with.

        ‘Have a nice day’ doesn’t have the same utility. It just closes the interaction all on its own.

      3. Anonanon*

        I think these kinds of phrases can be mitigated by using “I hope you had a nice weekend. ” etc. That leaves the recipient totally free to answer or not, and I think it still observes the social niceties that outright asking “how was your weekend?” would do.

    4. Sloanicoa*

      Okay, but there wasn’t even a “hi (OP) I’m hoping you can get this back to me by 5 today” or ANYTHING in this email. Just an attachment she’s presumably supposed to revise. That’s not “I don’t really want to hear about your weekend” levels of task orientation. That’s “I don’t recognize your humanity, copyeditor” IMO.

      1. allathian*

        Exactly. For me, Hi and possibly Cheers/Thanks are perfect. I don’t need more than that from people I don’t know personally, although with some of our clients it’s slightly more personal than that. But our requests come through a ticketing system, meaning that they’re read by at least my coworker and my manager, so anything more personal is best left to talking in person or possibly on the phone/Teams call (my org doesn’t record voice calls by default).

      2. middlemgmt*

        yes, to you, in YOUR opinion, which is the point. for me, that would be an ideal interaction, efficient and successful. i’d get the document, i’d revise it, i’d send it back. done. i would not infer anything about how they see my “humanity” unless they were actively rude to me or if the lack of context was impeding my ability to do the task.

    5. Ally McBeal*

      I’m right there with you – I don’t mind sharing about my personal life but I don’t want anyone to ASK.

      1. BoksBooks*

        My standard MYOB reply to the “how was your weekend” bit is “well it’s hard to have a bad one”, subject change. I also hate being asked about my personal life by colleagues so I decided on two subjects I would share about (cats and baking) and literally sat down and wrote out rote answers that I just repeated with a smile for years. No one seemed to notice.

        It’s also helpful to just redirect by not answering them and asking your own fluff question in return. No one really seems to notice that either unless they’re a bore.

        I realize you may not be looking for advice but for anyone reading this who struggles with the nosy coworkers, I wish I’d started doing this 20 years ago.

        1. Bobby*

          That’s not a bad response. I personally prefer to tell a little vague lie (e.g., “fine”), then change the subject and move on.

    6. Trawna*

      “Hi, Jane. Doc attached for your review, please. Need it by 4pm – please confirm. Thanks so much”

      Please copy & paste this and edit as necessary. It in no way invites over familiarity. It is merely business-like.

    7. Yellow*

      I’m sorry things are so difficult for you now. While most people are just using polite niceties, others really do care. And would stop and listen if you said – pretty horrid at the moment.

      There’s a multi-year mental health campaign where I live to normalise saying that things aren’t going great. And sure, maybe unloading as you’re about to try close a major business deal is the wrong time. But that doesn’t mean you can never be honest.

      For those who have family and friends they can unload to, it can be annoying to be asked by people you don’t want to talk about problems to. But others don’t have those relationships. Or don’t feel
      they can use them. And so it’s important that we keep asking, because we can’t know when someone will want us to and need us to.

      1. JM*

        While you don’t always know if someone wants to discuss their struggles with you, but isn’t because they feel they can’t, you also don’t always know if someone doesn’t want to be asked either.

  3. Important Moi*

    I am empathetic to your emails preferences. I have them too. In my experience, it has led to very good working relationships. Like Alison said, don’t hold it against the people who don’t use your preferred style.

  4. Eman*

    I really value the “niceness” of saying hi or hello at the start of an email, but this response will help me ignore it better when people don’t make that little extra effort. I suppose it is indeed slightly more efficient

    1. RB Purchase*

      Same here! I am really grateful to Alison’s response here. I try to lead by example with the people who report to me to include the pleasantries because at the end of the day, we’re humans emailing other humans. But I also have tried to make a more focused effort into not automatically assuming someone’s an a**hole if they don’t say their Pleases and Thank Yous.

      1. BoksBooks*

        I agree with this in part but Ps and Qs are a part of the manners of the social system. It is indeed rude not to include them.

    2. starfox*

      Yeah, I think this example is exceptionally rude. You should at least have a greeting and a “thank you” when you’re asking someone to do something for you!

  5. Aggretsuko*

    I really hate “I hope that you are doing well,” because what if I’m NOT? I just ignore those.

    I will do more “fluff” once I’ve gotten to know a person, but I don’t cold email someone with fluff, either.

    1. ecnaseener*

      The “what if I’m not” comment is interesting to me, it reminds me of how I appreciated the unusually-genuine well-wishes people were sending in the early pandemic days. Lots of “I hope this finds you well and feeling healthy” and “Stay safe” etc. No one was doing well, but it was kinda nice that we all wanted each other to be okay. Silly, but sweet.

      At any rate, I think I prefer statements like “I hope you’re well” rather than questions like “how are you” since there’s no need to respond to a statement (whether or not you are in fact doing well)

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I’m ND and task-oriented and often write an email, and then add the niceties, but I found that I added “I hope you’re well” once the pandemic started because …I hoped they were well! I guess “well” was no longer the default assumption.

      2. Cheese Mom*

        I feel the same way! I like “I hope you’re well.” I do hope they’re well! That is me “being real.”

        1. Presea*

          Same! My flavor of neurodivergency makes me feel much warmth about my fellow humans and very, very polite. I’ve had to put a lot of work into toning down /to/ “I hope you’re well” from the sort of over-precise over-considerate overly-long diatribes I would come up with during my middle/high school years. That being said, I completely understand that someone who doesn’t know this about me might see it as insincere or brown-nosing or trying too hard.

        2. Aggresuko*

          Yeah, but what if you’re NOT well? What do you say?

          I wasn’t sick, but I wasn’t “well” either.

          1. Loulou*

            You don’t say anything! “Hope you’re well” does not require a response any more than “have a nice weekend” or any other pleasantry. It’s just a warm way to open or close an email.

          2. newer balance*

            You just hold an appreciation for the fact that the person put into the universe the hope that you might be? Or would be at some time in the future? It’s not a question or a command, just literally a hope that you are well! You don’t have to write it but I really can’t understand why that would be affronting

          3. Double A*

            They actually aren’t asking you anything. They’re making a statement about their wishes for you. In terms of response, you have a few options in the realm of politeness.

            “I’m hanging in there!”
            “It’s actually been a tough week/month but I appreciate the thought and hope you’re well as well.”
            “Thank you!” (acknowledging their general well wishes)
            “I’m hoping to be well soon!”
            Or simply not responding to that particular comment because it doesn’t require a response.

          4. londonedit*

            Yeah, you don’t need to say anything in response! My job is all about relationship building, and I need close and collaborative working relationships with my authors and with other internal teams that I work with because we’re often all up against it in terms of deadlines and we need to be willing and able to do favours for each other every now and then. It’s much easier to ask someone for a favour if you have a good, friendly, collaborative working relationship with them. So I do pepper my emails with ‘Hope you’re well’, ‘Hope you enjoyed the long weekend’, ‘Hope the weather improves for the weekend’, etc etc. It’s nice if someone responds in kind, but it’s fine if they don’t. I’m not literally asking them whether they enjoyed their weekend or not, I’m just expressing a hope that things are generally OK with them. And if someone does respond in kind, it also doesn’t need to include any detail! ‘All well here thanks, hope you had a lovely weekend’ or ‘Glad it’s Friday! Hope your day’s off to a good start’ or ‘Thanks for the spreadsheet; hope you’re well too’ are all totally fine. When someone includes pleasantries like ‘Hope you’re well’ or ‘Hope you had a good weekend’ they’re not actually asking for details.

          5. allathian*

            Feel free to ignore the comment. I prefer “I hope you’re well” to “How are you?” because the first doesn’t require an answer, but if you ignore “How are you?” some extremely relationship oriented people will see you as standoffish. Even if the standard expected response is “Fine, how are you?” regardless of how you’re actually feeling.

            In my teens and early twenties I used to think that Americans were really superficial with all the insincere greetings and phrases, because I was very literal-minded when I was younger. It took living in the relationship oriented cultures in France and Spain for me to realize that these kinds of phrases are just a useful social lubricant.

            I was also raised by parents who valued honesty, and I probably matured socially later than most NT people, so I learned the value of white lies in social circumstances very late. I was probably in my 30s before I became truly comfortable with the idea that you aren’t expected to tell the whole truth when people ask you how you are.

            1. pancakes*

              The idea that people who use phrases like these weren’t raised to value honesty is overly strained. Using commonplace socially polite phrases isn’t a tell for that.

              1. pancakes*

                To be clear I don’t think it’s your intention to link the two, but you seem to be saying that being raised to value honesty delayed learning the lesson that white lies have social value. I don’t think there is a causal relationship there. I think being overly literal often seems to delay that lesson.

        3. RB Purchase*

          Yes!! Although in part it’s because someone who’s “well” may or may not be more likely to give me what I am hoping to get out of the email exchange.

      3. Just Another Cog*

        I liked this, too. It was almost as if people were feeling “in this together” during the initial stages of the covid pandemic.

        I also think that fluff helps to convey friendliness since it’s really hard to judge a person’s demeanor towards you via email. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that just because they come across as curt, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are annoyed with me.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Mine always start with “Dear” and end with “Take care and best wishes”, unless it’s a chain of responses in quick succession. I don’t consider it fluff – it’s just my choice of expression, regardless of written medium.

        2. Merci Dee*

          My employer is a local plant of an international auto manufacturer that has several plants across the US, including one in California and one in Florida. I communicate with a couple of employees from each of those locations once or twice a month, so my ears always perk up when I hear of something in the news that happened near those locations. The biggest events are usually wildfires every year in the general area of our California office and hurricanes around our Florida office. Every time I hear about something that’s come close to those areas, I always mention it in the emails that I send to those employees. “Hey, heard there’s a wildfire/hurricane in your area. Hope you guys at the plant are okay, and that your family is safe. We’re thinking about you all over here!” Everyone has really appreciated the fact that others have expressed concern for them during difficult times, and luckily no one has yet been negatively impacted by any of the events. Sometimes that little human connection really does make a difference.

        1. RB*

          Agreed, I am so over the “stay safe” in everything from radio interviews to email signoffs.

        2. Yellow*

          Well I’m used to this one being used where safe = alive & uninjured. In situations where people are being killed and injured. So if someone responded that they didn’t want to I’d be either confused or worried they were suicidal.

    2. Lord Bravery*

      They’re hoping you’re well, though, not assuming it. If you’re not well, you still get the minuscule well-wishes.

    3. Defining gravity*

      I legit think that you should consider seeing someone because that type of cynicism and “I walk these endless streets” attitude is not healthy.

  6. Aggretsuko*

    I have definitely gotten yelled at/written up/penalized for not having enough fluff in emails. Sigh.

    1. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      Me too!! I sent an email to a couple of coworkers who proceeded to complain to my skip level manager about me being ‘unprofessional’. What was missing? All the fluff. I said Hi XXX and YYY, here’s the issues, here’s the solution. Thanks, Persephone. And I got called in for that!!!

      1. RT*

        That would have me looking for a new job, no lie. There is nothing wrong with an email like that. If they are bringing you in for stuff like that, I bet they are micromanaging you in a bunch of other ways.

      2. miss chevious*

        Your comment made me laugh because I intentionally ADDED “hi” and “thanks” to my emails to soften them up! That IS THE FLUFF (to me). :)

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I hurt someone’s feeling last week by identifying an issue and providing the page citation to the admin manual to fix it. I thought I was being helpful because I knew they were busy and did the homework myself, I just didn’t have server access to fix it. Apparently, I should have waited the three hours it would have taken them to muddle through it themselves.

      4. allathian*

        I’m so sorry, and I think that’s plenty of fluff! I’m a fairly relations oriented person in a very task oriented culture, and you’re just describing my typical email/ticket exchanges.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      I think that the expectation of fluff comes from above rather than from below. In other words. Supervisors expect them from their reports and not the other way around. People without power add fluff to emails while those with power aren’t expected to use their precious time to do the same. Perhaps fluff of some kind is expected of equals.

      I’m reminded of the humorous example of email exchange between professor and student:


      Dear Dr. Smith,

      I hope you are doing well. As per our conversation on Friday, please see the attached document.

      I hope you’re having a good weekend and I will see you on Monday.


      And then in reply:


      sent from iPhone

      1. After 33 years ...*

        As a senior professor, I’m the exact opposite to this example. All my e-mails to students start with “Dear” and end with “Take care and best wishes”, just as those to the university president would …

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Often from the professors who spent 20 minutes of the first class going over email etiquette.

      3. Velawciraptor*

        I’ve actually experienced it from below. People who report to me, or who report to people who report to me, have previously complained about me being terse, cold, mad, and a number of other adjectives when I leave out the fluff and just focus on the point.

        And for those of you who guessed the complainers were men and that I’m a woman, you win a cookie!

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          In that case, it might be perceptions of who is above and who is below. How dare a woman not have fluff in an email to a man?!?! /s

          I’m a professor myself and how much fluff I include to students generally depends on the time I have at hand to respond to an email. Emails to the whole class get all the fluff. If it’s an email that requires engagement and response, I include a little bit of fluff (Dear X, hope you are well, etc.). If it’s like the above, where a student isn’t asking for anything in return, but it would be good for me to acknowledge that I received what they’re sending, I do a very terse, “Thank you for sending this.” My signature auto-generates at the end of each email.

        2. Arrghhhhh*

          I had this happen at one job. Was told I was not approachable enough in email????? Finally just added “Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.” to my auto signature and would delete if it didn’t make sense for a particular email.

      4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        To be fair, the student has 5 professors and the professor has dozens/hundred of students.

  7. the realreal*

    Another reason not to think badly of the lack of fluff: it extraordinarily hurts women and POC if you think fluff=good email. Ever see an email from a woman with a bunch of sentences ending in explanation points? A lot of us have zero desire to add the explanation points, and simply want to convey the information. But if I add this stupid AF explanation point, I won’t be judged as harsh or a B****. If a male colleague sent the message without the fluff he’d be viewed a direct communicator. This is often enforced in feedback from managers, and it’s infuriating. Let it go.

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      But if we do add the exclamation points, we risk getting judged as frivolous. It’s a trap, is what it is.

    2. Ripley*

      I have had to train myself to not use too many exclamation points and also to not apologize too often. It’s hard work to re-wire my brain.

      I still like a little fluff, though. It reminds me that we’re all humans.

      1. Just Another Cog*

        I hate hate hate a ton of exclamation points!!!!! Used to get urgent requests from a sister company that had like ten of them after every sentence that was describing what was needed. I think it made me actually go slower in delivery of the items from irritation.

        1. MarsJenkar*

          Ten? Oh dear, that’s really bad, as according to Terry Pratchett, a mere five in a row is a sure sign of someone who’s completely lost it. Ten… *shudders*

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Every woman I know literally counts the exclamation points in an email and edits to come off “warm but not crazy” it adds up to so much extra labor.

        1. Calliope*

          Hah I do not. Wonder if that’s been hurting me. I do try to get the right balance but I wing it.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Don’t let me change that! Save your sanity!

            (See that was a crazy ratio but we were going for frantic)

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I don’t count, but I do make sure I don’t put them on two sentences in a row. :P

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Same, I don’t count but sometimes I look at what I wrote big-picture really quick and am like “jeez, I’ve got an exclamation after three sentences in a row let me fix that real quick.” Though that comes up for me more frequently in casual commenting online like here or reddit rather than in work emails, but it’s the same general idea–I’m trying at first to make sure the tone comes across as friendly but then I have to check and make sure I didn’t swing too far…

          2. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

            I limit myself to one ! per email if I really feel like including them. Unless it’s a very informal email about unusually good news or something not really work related.

        3. Le Sigh*

          I work in nonprofits! You cannot escape the exclamation marks! I never used exclamation marks much before working in nonprofits but I’m pretty sure you’re legally required to use at least two per email if you work at a nonprofit!

          I also do a control + f for “please.” I default to using please a lot, but I don’t need six pleases in a short email, esp. if I’m running something. 1-2 tops is usually enough to sound polite but not like a I’m a pushover either.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            It’s sooooo true the number is way too high in nonprofits. Not only the pleases, but the sorries. I would never use sorry in an email unless it was to a client/donor.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Also since we’re on the topic of punctuation, I once read a tweet that called ellipses “drama dots” and that’s what I call them now.

        4. Jellyfish*

          Ohh, I thought I was the only one who did that! Not sure if this knowledge makes me feel better or worse…

        5. Jaydee*

          My coworker and I joke about this. “Oh, just add a couple exclamation points so they know you’re not trying to be mean.” or “Send it without any exclamation points and let them sweat a little.”

          At least we’re self aware.

        6. Trillian*

          Heh, I’m almost ready to try writing a macro, fluffit.exe, with 4 settings, from minimal fluff to mega fluffy. And a second macro, antifluff.exe, to get rid of all the socially programmed sweetness and exclamation marks.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yep, I got a comment in a review once about my email communications so I started adding exclamation points and even the occasional little :) face and it seems to have appeased whoever was unhappy with my communications before…

    4. Nina*

      I wish there was a punctuation called an explanation point, conveying ‘this is not a question, I do not require your input on it, I am explaining this to you because I am the SME’.

    5. starfox*

      Yes I said this above! I’ve noticed that, as a whole, emails and messages from men are a lot more terse and to-the-point, whereas women (myself included) feel the need to soften everything so we’re not perceived as b!tchy or bossy or whatever.

  8. ecnaseener*

    Oh, I love a chance to talk task-focused/relationship-focused! I’m a “native” task-focused person who’s put a lot of effort into cultivating warmth – it doesn’t come naturally.

    I will say I think it’s genuinely rude to just send the attachment with no body at all like he did, if that was the initial contact for the project. (It’s different if you’d talked earlier and he’d told you he was sending it.) Even though it’s your job, you still deserve a “hello fellow human, I am making a request of you now” acknowledgment of some kind.

    1. DC Kat*

      Yeah, I gotta say, I’m also a pretty task-oriented person, but to me, neurodiversity doesn’t excuse one from the most basic please/thank you niceties. Even if this was sent as a follow-up to a discussion, a simple “[Sarah], here’s the doc as discussed. Thanks, [Steve]” — or even just “Thanks, [Steve]” — is elemental in acknowledging that it’s a fellow human who is performing a task for you, not a work vending machine.

      1. Tau*

        Reading this discussion, I find it interesting that people are putting the “Hello/Dear X”/”Thanks/Best wishes” stuff into the same “fluff” category as asking about your weekend or starting with “I hope this finds you well”. I’m from Germany, which tends to be much more distant with strangers and where the latter would often be really out of place in an e-mail to someone you don’t know. (Which is possibly also why I’m less bothered by it – doesn’t come up as much.) But leaving off the salutation or the closing line? Absolutely not. That would be rude to the Nth degree. To me that part is just… the standard etiquette of formal written conversation.

    2. Marmalade*

      100% agree. I would be annoyed by a blank email with just an attachment (unless we were on the phone or sitting next to each other). I’m sure that explanation isn’t actually needed but saying thank you or here you go (with or without that pesky exclamation point!) shouldn’t be unreasonable.

      1. Trillian*

        I would consider an empty email with just an attachment suspect, and probably check if the sender had been hacked or spoofed.

    3. Leonineleopard*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily rude to send an email with an attachment and no body text, but in my context it would definitely be counterproductive, as I wouldn’t have any guidance on what to do with the attachment or know what it was for, and it would risk getting overlooked entirely.

      That is my task-oriented self talking though!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is my issue with the attachment-only email. I only do this when I’m in a meeting and someone wants to look at something together but can’t locate it (and we’re not on video to screenshare).

        I had a former direct report who would just forward me things with no indication of what I needed to do or what they thought was important. Drove me nuts – they got feedback on that almost immediately. Just tell me if it’s an FYI or if you are good except for Y need/question or what. If my C-level boss can do it, so can you.

      1. Trawna*

        Exactly. I’m very task-oriented, but why would I be rude to my hard-working colleagues? Just why?

    4. Generic Name*

      I agree. I am very much task oriented, and especially with other task oriented coworkers I’m close to, our emails to each other are very terse and down to business. But if it’s a coworker I don’t know very well, or a client, or someone much higher in the chain of command, I’ll add in the extra fluff. I’ll literally write my email, go back and write a nice “I hope your week is going well” or whatever in the beginning and/or a warm closing before I hit “send”. Yes, it does take a bit more time, but I think it’s worth it to have positive relationship with those I work with.

  9. River Otter*

    “ Of course, your feelings are your feelings and if you find it off-putting, then so be it.”

    Let me push back on this. Our feelings are informed by our underlying beliefs, in this case, there is an underlying belief that fluff makes messages warmer and builds relationships. That is neither a good belief nor a bad belief, but it is very much a belief, not a universal truth. Many people do not find that the fluff makes the messages warmer and do not build relationships based on fluffy messages.

    OP is doing the right thing by questioning her response. Part of questioning her response should be identifying what beliefs are underlying that response and identifying when she holds a belief versus a universal truth.

    All of us should interrogate our responses and what beliefs are driving us before we say “my feelings are just my feelings.”

    1. Gerry Keay*

      It’s a helpful and effective communication strategy to affirm someone’s feelings before telling them they need to recalibrate their response. “It’s okay to feel however you want, but it’s not always okay to act on it” often goes better than “You need to interrogate where your feelings are coming from because they’re causing you to act poorly.” The former is likely to be received as compassionate advice, where the latter can send someone on a shame spiral that doesn’t lead to change.

    2. Yellow*

      My expectation (but I’m too lazy to start reading research) is that the fluff DOES build relationships. I would be very surprised to discover that this belief is unsupported by evidence.

      Addressing people by their name. Saying hi. Using Please and thank you. Closings communication with a positive statement (cheers, have a good day etc). Taking interest in other people by remembering eg that they were showing their prize hermit at the agricultural show last week. These have been strongly used and taught as sales tactics for a long time. While it could be that this is a belief that doesn’t stand up to interrogation, it’s not one I’ll abandon without evidence showing you don’t build relationships with these things.

    3. münchner kindl*

      “Our feelings are informed by our underlying beliefs, in this case, there is an underlying belief that fluff makes messages warmer and builds relationships. That is neither a good belief nor a bad belief, but it is very much a belief, not a universal truth.”

      Very good point. To people from non-US cultures, the fluff comes across not as warmth, but as manipulation or lying – I know that everybody is simply lying when pretending to care about my life, so it feels the opposite of warmth.

      In my culture, being professional means being polite, not pretending warmth. We don’t pretend we’re all friends, because friends are what we have in our free time, not at work.

      1. biobotb*

        I think it depends on the non-US culture. Some expect even more “fluff” than average in the US, some expect less. I do think that it’s common for someone interacting with a person with a higher-fluff style to feel like the higher-fluff style is fake, while someone interacting with a person with a lower-fluff style will often feel dismissed and dehumanized.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        I’d like to gently suggest you reassess the idea that “everybody is simply lying when pretending to care about my life” – at least when it comes to interactions with US-based colleagues or service representatives.

        People always talk about an insincere type of “niceness/politeness”, especially in the Midwest and Southern US, but I rarely find that to be the truth. A “hope you’re doing well” or even a “how was your weekend?” are stated or asked because that person does care about you as a person. Just like, as a baseline. No, I’m not emotionally invested in your divorce and won’t be able to help if your pet is gravely ill, but I do… care? As a fellow human? If you’re having a super shitty day then I will be sympathetic to that. If you just got some amazing news and are on Cloud Nine then I would find joy in that alongside you.

        It’s not lying and it’s not pretending. It’s not DEEP, it’s a surface level of care but it’s not insincere and it’s for sure not devious or calculating. I know in other cultures it’s not the done thing to actually express that baseline level of “I care about my fellow humans and hope they are well” because interactions tend to be reserved for the more meaningful and deep relationships, but making that baseline explicit is not insincere.

  10. Antilla the Hon*

    I am definitely more task-oriented, however I make a point of softening my emails by including more relational type things (like “hope you had a good weekend” or “have a great evening”). The relational stuff does not come naturally to me so I really have to to be intentional with it. One employer I worked for required us to always include a salutation in our emails. I try to do this, however it becomes a little asinine when you’re bouncing back-and-forth in a thread. (I took this instruction with a grain of salt because that place was a total cult!)

    1. Lord Bravery*

      I don’t even think that’s necessarily a task vs. relationship issue, it’s how you view email in general. The “have a great evening/weekend” thing seems more appropriate to an IM platform with coworkers you already know socially. It would be a bit off for someone you’ve only ever collaborated with via email, unless it’s wishing them a happy impending-holiday or something. Or just something breezy like “Happy Friday”.

      I think that’s because in an IM / teams / etc conversation, the implied fiction is that you’re in the same place together – as though you were in the same office, so it would be odd not to greet and goodbye people. But email has different norms, and a lot of the fluff that people are finding divisive is either because it’s treating emails too much like IMs, or treating emails too much like handwritten letters.

      For me at least, it’s not about thinking of these as relational phrases. It’s more about applying relational phrases where they don’t 100% fit.

      1. Loulou*

        I don’t think “have a nice weekend” is off if you don’t know someone personally. It’s a pretty standard sign-off.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I think it’s standard. Also I do generally hope people have good weekends as a rule even if I don’t know them well.

        2. Que será sarah*

          “Have a nice weekend” does double duty as a sign-off for me. For one, I think it sounds friendly and approachable, and for two, it’s my unofficial notice to the other party that I’m ready to put this issue to bed until Monday.

      2. Calliope*

        Maybe it’s locational. In the US people say that to randos they’ve never met before all the time and it is not personal.

        1. Jora Malli*

          “Have a nice (whatever part of the day or week is about to happen)!” is a pretty standard way to end an interaction with people like grocery store cashiers or doctor’s office staff or whoever you’re doing business with at the moment. “Here are those items you purchased, have a nice afternoon!” is something I’ve heard so many times it wouldn’t even occur to me to think of it as personal. Seeing it at the end of a work email doesn’t feel any different to me.

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, definitely very standard here in Europe as well. “Schönen Tag/Abend/Bonne journée/soirée/have a nice day” – all very normal and just polite. But then Swiss people tend to be flowery and polite in general. (At least I don’t think it’s gendered here… just generally expected of people.)

      3. Mockingjay*

        “it’s how you view email in general.”

        This, exactly. I view email as a delivery mechanism. It’s the electronic version of the old correspondence envelope we used to route around the office. You wrote the recipient’s name and their office number on the outside, and stuffed the document inside. Email: here’s the doc or info you requested. Done.

        Other people see email as a letter or note. I’ve had to add bits of fluff because some coworkers value warm language as an indication of team comradery. I can live with that. But…

        I’ve also had to add fluff because I’m one of two women on a large project team of cis white males and they won’t respond otherwise, even though they bluster about wanting concise info: “BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front.” I’ll get crickets unless I put a smiley emoji or an exclamation point.

      4. sb51*

        +1 I like fluff/relationship-building but I don’t want it in my email! I want the emails to be a quick reference that gets down to what is needed. (Or if someone wants to email on something entirely relationship-building, that’s fine too, but send it as a SEPARATE EMAIL that isn’t half work-tasks half-personal.)

  11. Frank Bookman*

    I would suggest the book Digital Body Language by Erica Dhawan! It definitely influenced how I interpret emails and other digital communications.

    1. Antilla the Hon*

      This sounds like a great book. I’m going to add it to my Goodreads list! This stuff really does not come naturally to my “non-neurotypical” self. I am eager for human connection. I live in an isolated small rural town and work remotely. I feel like I’m either in the “adult time out chair” or solitary confinement. Email and Teams chats seem to be my only connection to the outside world. It definitely brightens my day when I get a more conversational email from someone.

    2. OP LW*

      Ooh, thanks, I love books about language, so I’ve already put it on hold at my library. Whenever someone offers me a book rec, it’s hard to resist giving one of my own, ha. Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch is a fun one for thinking about modern language usage in the internet age. For example, she mentions how people use an emoji to signal the end of a texting conversation–she’s totally right, but I hadn’t realized that consciously before!

  12. Appreciate politeness*

    I volunteer at a church providing free bookkeeping services. I find it off-putting when a fellow volunteer asks me to do things in a terse manner without any “fluff”, it feels like a command. We are all volunteering so why not be extra polite and kind?

    1. Joanna*

      I use what I would consider light fluff because I’m often asking for the email recipient to do something for me and adding a “Good Morning” tends to get me better responses.

      1. Joanna*

        To clarify, I would never ask how someone is doing or how their weekend was. What if they actually answered? That’s nightmare stuff right there.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Ha! I usually can muster a “fine thanks!” but always forget I’m supposed to ask in return. Probably because I don’t want to know. But then I remember later and I’m like crap was that rude.

    2. Nesprin*

      I come at this from the opposite point of view I am highly task oriented neurodivergent person and more than a little oversubscribed

      I’m probably reading your email in between meetings, and need the ask to be spelled out as quickly and obviously as possible. If you start with “how are you?” I occasionally miss “I need you to do thing X”.

      Courtesy considers the recipient- sometimes directness is appreciated.

  13. Melanie Cavill*

    I tend to think of it this way: fluff can often become e-mail spam very easily, which I find quite rude. Ruder, in fact, than not saying ‘thank you’ every time. I’m busy. I don’t want to read the same hundred ‘thank yous’ or ‘good mornings’ from the same people every week, especially if I don’t know if it’s an important e-mail or not and need to stop what I’m doing to check. So while I understand that warm, affable e-mails can be important and useful for building good working relationships, I try to keep it to a minimum so as to not inundate the people I work with / my professional contacts with pointless inbox spam. And I appreciate it when others grant me the same courtesy!

    That said, I hope you can find a happy medium, LW! But definitely don’t interpret anyone’s lack of e-mail fluff as a reflection on you or their feelings toward you. Some people may just consider concise, to-the-point correspondence to the politest way to respect a co-worker’s time.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      It sounds more like the “fluff” the OP is referring to is e-mails that have an actual business task-related purpose, but which are made to sound a bit friendlier through the use of greetings and warm sign-offs–not necessarily e-mails whose sole purpose is to say hello or thank you. It’s the difference between: “Can you please send me the most recent TPS file?” and “Hi Wakeen, can you please send me the most recent TPS file? Thanks so much!”

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        True! Re-reading the letter, your point is a salient one. Personally, I don’t see a difference worth remarking on between the examples given; both make a request in a reasonably polite manner. And my thoughts on the matter still stands.

        There’s also the fact that some women may be deliberately pushing back against the expectation that they communicate in a fluffy manner in the office. I’m certainly guilty of this.

      2. OP LW*

        Yes, you’re right about what I was saying. It feels warmer to me when someone starts with “Good morning” before requesting that I look at a document.

        1. Melanie Cavill*

          In the long run, how warm or cool someone is in an e-mail isn’t going to have any affect on your life. I don’t think it’s worth paying all that much attention to.

  14. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    This is one of those letters that took a turn for me, like “AITA for not giving my sister $10” and you go in thinking, “oh, she lives with you rent free. I get it.”
    So, reading:
    “I’m a freelance copyeditor for a firm, and emails are the only interaction I have…”
    me: dude, you have to let things go, even my coworker who continues to email me “you must of missed the part…”
    omg, kmn. but I let it go.
    But as the new quote should be: naught so unpredictable as AAM letters. I would honestly be thinking the message was sent too early, or accidentally from a draft folder.
    I think these people could at least put END in the subject line, so I know there is no message.
    Or have a signature block that includes, “please let me know if you have any questions or issues with the attachment.”
    just SOMETHING.

    1. Sylvia*

      Good point. It would probably be okay if you work/exchange emails with only a handful of people, but if you’re emailing someone who deals with over 50 people sending emails for several different projects, they’ll probably have no idea what you’re talking about and think that the message is incomplete or sent to them by mistake.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Yes, like that bit from the Office where Kevin omits every third word and it just makes things worse.
        (This is why I can’t watch that show. How is this entertaining? Stresses me out of my mind. I live it!)

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, totally. I actually always include a quick blurb so the person knows what I’m sending, when I need it back, etc. Makes finding it or contextualizing it later much easier.

    3. münchner kindl*

      “Our feelings are informed by our underlying beliefs, in this case, there is an underlying belief that fluff makes messages warmer and builds relationships. That is neither a good belief nor a bad belief, but it is very much a belief, not a universal truth.”

      Or, since there’s an attachment, it’s sent from Word/ Adobe via the share function, where you type in the email-adress of receipent, but don’t always get shown the email body, so you can’t add in text? Varies by program (program version), but not all offer the same possibilities as full Email-Program.

  15. You're welcome...*

    I’m a translator so I get similar kinds of requests, and IMO there’s fluff and then there’s like… writing something in the body of the email. A simple “Could you edit this for X date” is not fluff, it’s just acknowledging that you are asking a human being to do a task for you.

    1. Elder Millennial*

      I was thinking exactly the same thing! Writing at least a sentence in the body makes sure that you are both at the same page as to what needs to happen to the document and when and also acknowledges there is communication happening between people.

      1. Candle Knight*

        Totally agree with this! I think that the whole task-oriented vs. relationship thing also needs to have some give toward the relationship side: it’s reasonable to expect people to send you more than just “do this” and an attachment, in my opinion. Being task-oriented isn’t an excuse to not think at all about communication, and not all communication is fluff.

        1. Leonineleopard*

          Right – I feel like if one wanted to map this type of non-email onto the task/relationship binary, it would fall under failing at both approaches! How is the recipient going to know what the sender wants if there is literally zero text in the email?

    2. tennisfan*

      Right. There’s a spectrum between the example the OP gave and “fluff”. I’m fine with getting terse, to-the-point emails. But just an attachment with nothing else would annoy me, outside of certain circumstances.

    3. Eleanor Rigby*

      The copywriters at my organization have a standard email template that they request everyone use for this reason. It gives them the information they need and cuts down on fluff because there are clear expectations about what to put in the body of the email for standard, recurring tasks.

    4. wordswords*

      Yeah, 100% agreed! I don’t need or want a ton of fluff, but I would like a message to be, you know, a message. Absolutely nothing in the body of the email reads to me as the equivalent of silently dropping a folder onto my desk and walking away. Fine if you contacted me by other means to be like “hey, I’m gonna drop X by your desk later”! But without that, it’s not just that it feels rude to me, it also feels like there’s that extra layer of dumping something on me, expecting me to do it for you, and expecting me to do all the work of reading your mind about when you need it.

      In this case, it sounds like there’s sort of a gray area in that this is an ongoing work relationship where there’s the context of “this person always drops their requests on my desk like this” as a framework. To be clear, I do think the OP is reasonable for finding it jarring and off-putting. But I also think it’s probably a smart and useful move to do as much as they can to mentally reframe it as part of an overarching “person will send me requests to edit within standard timeframe, without any repeating/rephrasing of the request, unless they have specific info like a different deadline” relationship, both for their own comfort levels (trying to talk yourself out of feeling slapped in the face repeatedly is no fun! at all!) and because it’s a useful skill for working with people with different communication styles. Especially when, for whatever reason (including but not limited to neurodiversity) they don’t seem inclined or likely to meet you halfway and you don’t have the authority or relationship to ask that they do so.

    5. TimeForANap*

      Exactly! Also of there’s just the subject amd am attachment without anything in the body of the email I will likely assume ots some sort of malicious email and delete.

    6. münchner kindl*

      I sometimes get Emails from busy people where the whole content is in the Re: line, because that’s enough, and makes it easier for sorting, especially when people are mailing from a mobile phone or similar.

    7. münchner kindl*

      I sometimes get emails from busy people, likely using their mobile phone instead of full computer, where all that’s relevant is in the Re: line, text body is empty. I get what’s important about the message, and I assume it helps the sender sort their emails better.

  16. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If I’m really busy, the fluff mostly goes out the window. And if I’ve already cued up the email because of a previous conversation, there’s probably no reason to have fluff at all.

    The analog corollary – I have a phone call with somebody, and tell them I’m sending a big document overnight. Therefore I feel no need to put a cover letter in the FedEx package.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, if I’m in a hurry, sometimes I don’t bother with the niceties. It’s not personal, I’m just rushing to send an email out for whatever reason.

  17. TJ*

    I’m a terse email writer and when using IM. I’m usually busy and just prefer to get to the point.

    I’m also not a fan of sending an email back that just says thank you. I will over IM but an email just saying thanks is unnecessary to me unless I in someone has gone above and beyond.

    I’m aware some colleagues might be judging me but I’m at a position in my career where it isn’t a big deal.

    1. Despachito*

      For me, the “thank you” e-mail is usually not just to say “thank you”, it means, and often spells, as “I have received your document and thank you for that” – it is at the same time an acknowledgement of receipt, and without it, we can easily miss a deadline (I think that I have sent the document but it fell into spam on the other side, or perhaps I have not pushed the “send” button. So I basically could not do without it.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Agreed. I find that if I don’t respond to something, my team generally doesn’t consider the loop closed and I get follow-ups confirming I have what I need. The thanks email takes care of that.

    2. Nodramalama*

      To me it’s not about judging. It’s acknowledging receipt of the email. Sometimes I’ve forgotten to acknowledge something and I’ll get an IM Two hours later checking if I received it

      1. biobotb*

        Yeah, I think it’s better to send a “thanks” email than leave the recipient wondering if you got it and whether/when they should be following up. Let them know they can cross this off their to-do list!

  18. AnonymousReader*

    I do the “fluff” when I initiate an email with externals. With internal or people I know well, I don’t do fluff and get straight to the point. Why waste their time? It sounds like the terse emailer has emailed OP before, and probably feels OP knows the drill and doesn’t need more than the necessary info. Terse emailer could also be very busy, I know that during my high volume times, it slips my mind to include fluff because I’m so focused on getting that email off my plate so I can focus on my other work. My best advice to OP would be to not take it personally. And I’ll let you in a little secret, most of my fluff (and most other’s) comes from mental templates of non-offensive, work-appropriate scripts.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I agree it may not be there it could just be a familiarity thing where someone feels comfortable enough to sense you something short. They trust you, they know you.

      1. OP LW*

        Yes, absolutely. I’ve only sent emails without any text in the body to my spouse and close friends.

  19. Cheese Mom*

    I don’t think you’re out of line for being bothered by someone sending an empty email with just an attachment. It’s not the level of rude that calls for a response, but I would find that to be the level of rude to think “Yikes, that’s impolite” and then continue with my day.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Is this not context-specific for you? E.g., if the person sending the email was doing the LW a favor (LW was looking for an article on neurodiversity and mentioned it to the emailer who said she had one and sent it over as soon as the meeting/phone call was over without comment). Or if LW emailed the other person saying, I can’t locate the article you sent me before, and the other person replied with the article attachment? I’ve also sometimes put the message in the subject (that article we were discussing) especially if I’m busy.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      right – it doesn’t need to be “fluffy” but even just a – ‘here’s the document we were just chatting about’ or, ‘thanks for taking care of this today!’ just acknowledges that you’re a person and not a drone!

      1. Despachito*


        For me, it is typically:

        Dear Wakeen,

        I have received your document, thank you!

        Have a nice day!


        I wonder if someone would qualify this as “fluff”, for me these are the bare necessities of an e-mail. And I expect roughly the same from Wakeen. Besides the technical part (I confirm that I have indeed received the document) I read it exactly as you said “I acknowledge you are a person and not a bot or drone”

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Right? There’s fluff and there was this email. Unless I read the OP wrong this seems like the equivalent of walking up to someone’s office/desk dropping a document on their desk and walking away without saying a word. That would be considered rude as I would consider this email.

      Terse would be a sentence that said “Please edit this doc by 6/10”

      Fluffy would be “Hi OP, hope things are good in your world. Can you please edit this document? I need it back by 6/10 if that’s possible. Thanks so much for taking this on. Let me know if you have any questions or if that timeline doesn’t work for you.”

  20. Justin*

    I truly hate fluff and as a neurodivergent person it’s actually a challenge to remember it.

    The compromise I’ve made with myself is to start with a “hi (name)” and end with a “thanks” if making a request or something. Otherwise I’m sure I come off a bit brusque but I’ve made a point of being upfront about this in my new job and it is going much better than at my much worse job where they cared about this a ton despite the work being objectively less important.

    For the OP I’d say try to find a medium, from the side of the observer, where certain aspects might indeed be rude and others you just ignore.

  21. TypityTypeType*

    I much prefer to receive acknowledgements — just “OK” or “got it” is fine — whenever I send work I’ve done or work I’m requesting for a pretty simple reason: it cuts way back on “I didn’t see that” and “I never got that” conversations. I acknowledge work people send me for the same reason.

    I don’t care either way about e-mail small talk, but I do prefer not to send something that matters off into an echoing void.

    1. Grey Panther*

      +1 to TypityTypeType. I don’t consider “Thanks, got it” or maybe “Thanks, I’m on it” to be fluff. Both are cordial and collaborative, and I appreciate knowing that my communication has been received.
      There’s a vast spectrum between these kinds of quick acknowledgments on one hand, and a five-paragraph response on the new trick that canine Fluffy Foo-Foo just learned on the other.
      As one who spends 95% of their time working at home, basically alone, I appreciate the occasional quick, friendly response from another human.

  22. Healthcare Manager*

    Also worthwhile OP paying attention to gender as well. As a female I learnt really early on that I had to include a decent amount of fluff otherwise I would come across as rude. I wasn’t rude, I was concise. My male colleagues didn’t get this same feedback.

      1. SJ (they/them)*

        @Oakwood what Healthcare Manager describes is a very well-documented phenomenon

      2. anonarama*

        I think you’d be surprised. I’ve had male colleagues complain to management that my emails aren’t nice enough. I’m naturally pretty terse and can get locked into a really avoidant cycle with email response, so err on the side of just send a reply vs. soften my language so people think I’m nice. Thankfully my boss at the time thought the complaint was hilarious and gave my colleague a small lecture on gendered expectations.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is something I’ve specifically seen female workers be coached on and not male workers. Like in a disciplinary manner.

        1. Aggresuko*

          Seconded. I don’t think my old guy boss ever got critiqued for writing terse emails, which occasionally were so terse even I felt a little offended, and I knew the guy and knew he didn’t mean it “like that.”

      4. Gerry Keay*

        The implication of this comment is that it’s only women who are causing problems for other women, which is like, systemic-level victim blaming and extremely not cool! This is a well researched and documented phenomenon and your “doubt” is borderline insulting.

    1. Tango*

      I got sent on a course about writing emails because I was too terse (read: concise). Everyone else there was sent there because their emails were too long. They (and the teacher) were very confused about why I was there.

      I don’t mind the ‘hope you are well’ etc fluff, but I really mind the questions eg ‘how was your weekend’ from people I don’t know well as I feel obligated to waste my time coming up with an appropriate answer which I know they don’t care about as they were only being polite!

  23. Res Admin*

    I am typically polite, reasonably friendly (more so to people I know well)… you know, “Hi X!…Thanks!” at a minimum and more if I know the person better (we had a baby boom, so right now a lot of “How’s Baby doing?”).

    One of the rare times that I was super busy and someone sent an urgent question, I just responded with the answer to the question. I got a scathing reply back about how rude I was and I should have asked about her day, etc, etc, etc. It has been nearly 20 years and this person is still downright nasty to me (even to the point of actually trying to get me in trouble–fortunately for me she was not smart enough to pull it off and ended up in trouble herself).

    Bottomline, at this point, I just roll with what I get as long as people aren’t outright rude (“do you know who my husband is?!” being a classic example–from the same person as above). My boss is super busy, so I get a lot of very short answers. I’m just happy she finds time to respond (usually from her car). It isn’t personal. It rarely is. Is it nice when you can “chat” a bit while doing business? Sure! But I try to be mindful of the fact the we all have things going on and everyone’s personality is different. (Some people like a bullet point email, some prefer paragraphs with in-depth details, etc).

  24. Oakwood*

    “…this person hardly ever says thanks or replies when I send him something”

    I can’t stand it when people reply to an email with nothing more than “thanks”, “I got it” or something similar. I get enough junk in my inbox without having to wade through through thank you notes.

    With the advent of instant messaging apps like Slack it seems even less important to do in an email. In Slack you are having an actual conversation, so the niceties like “thank you”, “please”, and “how’s your day going?” seem appropriate.

    Terse actually seems more appropriate for emails today. It’s an arm’s length, one way message, not a conversation.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Interesting! For me, IMs make more sense to be terse because you’re expected to send one thought at a time, while emails are like letters and feel like they ought to open and close like a letter (or at least a postcard lol)

    2. redflagday701*

      A lot of times “Thanks” is really more a nice way of saying “I have received this.” I like that, personally, at least if it’s important or time-sensitive. It’s rare that a work email gets sent to the recipient’s spam folder, but it’s not uncommon for someone to miss a message because their inbox is very full. Acknowledging receipt of something critical means I don’t have to remember to check back to make sure it’s on the other person’s radar.

      1. Lacey*

        My boss is like this. If he sends me something he needs to know I saw it. So for him, I send a “thanks”

        But for myself, I send emails to these people all day every day. I know they got it. I don’t need a thanks. I certainly don’t need it on every email. That’s a nightmare.

        1. redflagday701*

          Right. It’s not always necessary, and I think Eldritch Office Worker’s point below about matching style is also an important one. There are a lot of people I don’t send “Thanks” to, because our time is more valuable than confirming receipt of whatever it is.

    3. Lord Bravery*

      I agree, this is what I was getting at above. First and last IM of the day, it makes sense to open with “Morning!” and close with “have a good evening!” Because it’s simulating an in-person conversation, so you put more conversational flavor into it.

      Email isn’t a written letter (people always sound old and/or not tech-savvy when they write like it is, kind of like those SNL “The War in Words letters” sketches) but it’s not an IM chat either, it’s kind of its own thing, especially since you can have separate email chains on different subjects that are kind of their own conversation.

  25. WFH with Cat*

    I think there’s a pretty important difference between not adding “fluff” (social niceties) and not actually providing any direction about an attached document to a freelance copyeditor.

    OP, in the first instance, yes, people will have opinions and it’s probably best to let things ride rather than directing someone to write emails in your preferred style … but for the second instance, I’d turn that one around pretty quickly to ask for needed info. (“Did you mean to send this to me? The email was blank so I was not sure. If you need the X doc to be edited, please provide [necessary project info] and a timeframe for getting it back to you … ” Or whatever is most appropriate with your client.)

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      What if she already knew the context of the email with the article attached?

      1. redflagday701*

        Yep — a lot of times when you’re copyediting, the deadline is just “as soon as you finish whatever docs are ahead of it,” unless something is specifically marked urgent.

    2. Purple Cat*

      It’s funny how we all fill in the blanks based on our own experiences. I totally assumed (and there’s nothing in the letter to support or refute this) that the attachment HAD all of the necessary details. Like a formal work request file. So then it’s redundant to include in the body of the email everything that is already included in the attachment.

      I think the bigger issue is that OP wants her social interaction to come from emails, and that feels like a stretch.

      1. OP LW*

        Yes, there’s a standard expected turnaround so I didn’t need to clarify anything. But it did feel abrupt to me to not get a hello or any explanation.

        “I think the bigger issue is that OP wants her social interaction to come from emails, and that feels like a stretch.”

        I wasn’t sure what you meant there. Do you mean that because I’m not seeing these people at all that I may read more into emails and appreciate more warmth there than I might care about if I were also seeing these people in person? That’s probably true. But in general I prefer social interaction to be in person. :)

      2. Wow*

        “I think the bigger issue is that OP wants her social interaction to come from emails, and that feels like a stretch.”
        this is an incredible leap from ‘it is nice when an email starts with hello’! I would even say that this is a stretch, at best, and at worst very rude!

      3. Nodramalama*

        I think thats a stretch. To me this is more like when you end a phone call, you say goodbye or have a good day, you don’t just hang up abruptly

  26. Phony Genius*

    If I’m asking for somebody to do something with a document, like copy editing, I am at least putting the request in the body of the e-mail, with the deadline when I need it back. I don’t consider that to be “fluff.”

  27. Heffalump*

    A few years ago I contacted customer service at a company whose product I was using. The return email had “Warm regards” as a complimentary close. I assume that their email system was programmed t0 add this, and I certainly didn’t hold it against the customer service rep, but I thought it was inappropriate. I was like, “Please, we hardly know each other.”

    1. ThatGirl*

      I mean, you’re entitled to whatever snarky thoughts you like, but yes, I’m sure it was a standardized friendly sign-off, definitely not personal.

      1. nona*

        Sincerely yours, Sincerely, Warm Regards, Kind Regards, Best, Regards, – those are all pretty standard closers to a business letter, in descending order of formality. Definitely not personal.

        1. Aggresuko*

          They kind of bug me because nobody would say them IRL ever to a human’s face. But obviously I am not the person who gets to determine if that stuff is okay or not.

          1. 1.0*

            I mean, it’s a totally different medium than human speech. I wouldn’t start a conversation by looking someone in the eye and saying, “dear [name],” or lead by stating anybody’s physical address, but it’s the standard format for writing a letter.

          2. itsame*

            I don’t think there is a standard greeting that’s going to sound normal/conversational because it’s an entirely different medium from normal speech. Most of the conventions around letter writing/email/IM are built to compensate for the difference between speaking via writing and speaking in person. It would be absurd if I reacted to someone I was talking to in person by holding up a picture of an emoji, but it’s extremely normal to send one via IM. Expecting letter/email sign offs to sound like natural speech feels just as odd to me. It’s a way of indicating the message is over, since you lack the options you’d use to wrap up an in person conversation.

          3. biobotb*

            Why would you expect email to exactly mimic a face-to-face conversation? (Also, how could it ever do that? There’s no tone of voice, facial expressions or body language involved.)

    2. ecnaseener*

      I have a coworker who uses this on all her emails :/ I’m with you, it feels a little *too* warm for my tastes. But it’s her style – she’s very relationship-oriented, I have no doubt that she usually means it.

      1. Flash Packet*

        I had a co-worker who signed every email, “All my best!”

        “Dear Flash,

        Here’s the copy of the XYZ report you requested.

        All my best!

        It was… quirky.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s a lot to say that it seems inappropriate, though. It’s very common phrasing, and to take it as an expression of intimacy is almost always going to be simply incorrect.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    I hope you take Alison’s advice to heart. I’ve had people treat me with active hostility at work because I broke some unspoken rules that I had never heard of before and do not make sense to me. I would hope that you could try to see your coworker objectively and, unless he is saying mean things or be actively rude, chalk it up to him not understanding or not sharing your social norm expectations.

    To be clear, I do not have an autism or other neurodivergent diagnosis. I do find unnecessary “pleasantries” to be overly draining and just want to get on with my work. I also find the constant replies that say “Thanks!” to be superfluous and annoying because it’s just another email I have to mark read to get rid of that pesky envelope over my Outlook icon. I generally expect that if I did something you needed, you’re grateful, whether you send me an email or not.

    1. OP LW*

      Thanks, Michelle. Yes, it has been helpful to read other perspectives and realize that these interactions can be draining for some people. But I don’t think I’ve ever been actively hostile to anyone at work, let alone for anything as petty as email style. What you’re describing from your colleagues just sounds like they were being mean and petty and not just a problem of different styles.

  29. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I tend to match style. If someone is fairly fluffy I’ll be fluffy back. If someone (like my boss) is a one word email with an attachment person, I won’t send a thanks and I’ll keep emails shorter. I’ve found thank you emails REALLY grate on terse email writers because it’s unnecessary inbox clutter.

    As a copyeditor you probably have strong professional views on the use of language and how it conveys tone/meaning/warmth and frankly you’re probably correct from an empirical point of view. But some people just have different priorities or preferences and that’s okay too.

    You can be annoyed! But try not to let it get under your skin or derail you too much. Just consider it one of those quirks of working with other people.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      ^me, I am the *concise* email writer that LOATHES the 15-30 “thanks!” emails I get easily any given day. Often the “thanks” emails is from the recipient of some info so ok, it’s an acknowledgement they got it, I don’t get so bothered by that. But then there is the original sender’s “you’re welcome!” and sometimes the recipient replying AGAIN with something like “have a great day!” and FFS Y’ALL this is NOT AN IM CHAT. sigh.

      Siiiiiiigh. Team Concise all day every day over here (and I am very warm generally especially in person and absolutely send thoughtful “thank you” emails when there is Serious Thanks to be given, including cc’ing their manager when appropriate because I’m a big fan of letting higher-ups know I think someone is great. But Fluff makes me want to throw paper clips at my monitor sometimes!)

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Matching style is ABSOLUTELY smart. Bullet points and action items for folks who need them, explanatory paragraphs for those who need them, “have a great weekend” sign-offs for the chattier types, “here’s the file you requested” for the less-chatty types.

  30. A lawyer*

    A partner at my firm perpetually sounds pissed off in her emails because there is no fluff. People will sometimes text me on the side (I’m in the office next to her) to ask if she’s upset. 99% of the time the answer is no. She’s funny and friendly in person and on the phone but she just writes her emails in a way that comes off as annoyed. I have learned to accept it, in particular because if she really is annoyed at me she will just straight up say it so no need to read between the lines in an email.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Ohhhhhhhhh, we have one of those. And it’s riddled with typos to boot.

      In person, everything is sweet as pie. Thing is, she oversees a lot of projects and she’s left a lot of newbies with “What did I do???” moments.

    2. Corporate Lawyer*

      This was me until I trained myself to add some fluff. Like the partner at your firm, I’m very warm, friendly, and talkative in person/on the phone. But I just have a tendency to be really task-oriented in email, and it took me a while to learn that my emails were coming off as impersonal at best or pissed off/rude at worst.

    3. Eyes Kiwami*

      I worked with one of those people and it irreparably damaged her reputation with her team, to the point where she struggled to accomplish her goals and get work done. Tone in communication, even online, is important!

      1. pancakes*

        Oof, yes, and sometimes it doesn’t take much to soften the tone. Even just a Hi now and then from someone who otherwise sounds frosty can help.

  31. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I had a coworker, now retired, who always took the time to thank you for information provided or task completed; but would put no fluff in her requests. Seeing OP’s letter reminded me that there was no fluff in outgoing but sometimes fluff was returned. (Does that make sense? LOL) I found her lack of fluff just part of who she was overall and rolled with it.

    However…it’s one thing if there’s no fluff with “Can you order me a keyboard” and a snapshot of an error message with the subject “error” and nothing else – no context, what you were doing when the error message happened, etc. This same person would do exactly that and it wasn’t helpful at all and slowed down fixing her errors.

    I can handle terse and to the point emails. Overly effusive fluff can drive me up the wall. I once got a thank you email, annoying enough on their own, with “You have filled my boss with great joy!” (This is the best way I can translate what was said in French). Too much!

    1. allathian*

      Selecting the appropriate closing salutation in French business letters is an artform in and of itself.

  32. Alex*

    Lol–I’m that terse member of your communications team! I mean, not literally (probably) but I deal with freelance copyeditors and frequently send them emails that have just the absolute basics: Hello Copyeditor, here are some files. The due date is X. Thanks, Alex.

    In all honesty, I write tons of these kinds emails a day and just don’t have the bandwidth to say hi, how are you? hope you’re well! Great weather we’re having! to every single one. Although I do know that some of my more outgoing colleagues do say stuff like that.

    1. Wow*

      This is interesting bc it sounds like that is the kind of fluff that comments here are saying is unnecessarily. Saying ‘hello’ and ‘Thanks’. The email this post was written about contained neither of those!

  33. Indie*

    I am not ND but it takes a conscious effort on my part to remember to add the fluff. When I speak, I don’t have any problem saying please, thank you, that was very helpful etc. But when it comes to email, I tend to be much more “straight to business”, mainly because I have so many other things to handle, but also because I _prefer_ straight to business emails too. Tell me what you need and I will get it done. But don’t make me read fluff, it just wastes time for both of us.

  34. Elsa*

    As someone who is neurodivergent, every email has the potential for distraction. I appreciate when people don’t send me the thanks or got it emails. I have told my team that I trust them to do the things I delegate and to not respond with “Will do!” Etc every time I ask them to something. If you need a response- request one.

  35. Spencer Hastings*

    Personally, I usually start with “Hi X” (adjusting it depending on formality) and end with “Thanks” or similar — at least when starting a new email and not responding to an ongoing conversation — but I don’t usually add more “fluff” beyond that, unless I know the person well.

    Recently I’ve been working with a certain client, and basically every email he sends me begins “Hi Spencer, I hope you are well.” Almost never any deviation from that. And that’s what I find a little weird.

    This post contrasts “phatic” speech (saying something for the sake of saying something, for social grooming sorts of reasons) with “anti-inductive” speech (trying to be original):

    It’s like this person is trying to do the anti-inductive thing, but missing the point by saying the same thing every time. I figure, why not just cut it out of the email and stick with plain “Hi Spencer”?

    Outside of the work world, I also remember someone from a forum I used to frequent. At some point, someone pointed out “oh, by the way, X is offensive language” or something like that, and she responded with a fairly wordy but reflective apology. At that point, I thought “huh, cool, someone pointed it out and she apologized, and that was that and nobody got mad.” But later, I noticed that she apologized with exactly the same wording literally every time she apologized for anything on that forum, no matter how serious or unserious. The fact that it was always the same just made it seem less sincere. Apologies are *definitely* anti-inductive.

    1. Yellow*

      Maybe your client does hope you are well even after all this time?

      I don’t know, I thank the supermarket staff every time they serve me because I’m thankful every time. There’s no deeper meaning than that. I’m not going to try find original ways to say thank you when thank you coveys my meaning so clearly.

      Politeness does become a habit, but it doesn’t make it worthless.

  36. redflagday701*

    I used to work (as a freelance copy editor) with a person who *would* send the fluff — but all in the subject line of the email, nothing in the body.

  37. Lord Bravery*

    I would distinguish between emails that include a greeting in general (“Hi X, here’s the Y document…” vs fluff (“Good Afternoon, X, hope you’re well. Here’s the Y document…”)

    The first is appropriate any time you’re beginning a new email thread (and fine but unnecessary for replies, since at that point you’re just adding on to the conversation.) the second is OK if you prefer it that way, but would sound weird to me if it was coming from some who email me on a frequent basis. It’s the type of thing you’d write in a handwritten letter, not an email with someone you’re in regular contact with. Nothing exactly wrong with it, but it’s oddly stuffy and sounds like you’ve never contacted them before, or like you’re sheepish about sending an email.

  38. bunniferous*

    In my field (Real Estate) people like the fluff BUT I have noticed that depending on just how busy the person is, I may, for example, get an attachment with a terse “see attached.” It’s not rude, it’s just getting stuff done when one has a multitude of things to do. I do like to at least throw a “good afternoon” in there but that’s just me, and I don’t feel offended as long as I am getting what I need from the other person.

  39. Lacey*

    Almost all of my work is conducted via email and I keep them quite short.

    I generally only add fluff if I’m about to say something that I think needs a little cushion.
    Like, “Hey, hope you’re doing this well. You’ve done something wrong, that you will think I’m being pedantic about, but is actually quite important. Please change X. Thanks so much, have a great afternoon!”

    But if it’s just delivering a proof or explaining edits – that’s all they’re getting. Not even a greeting.
    Fluff will just obscure the info they really need.

  40. Veryanon*

    I’m task-oriented and have been told that my emails sometimes “read” as cold or terse. Not rude, just brusque. So I’ve made a conscious effort now to start off with something like “I hope you’re doing well” and it seems to help somewhat. As other posters have noted, especially when the pandemic started, I really did hope the recipient was well and safe.

  41. Mike*

    I think fluff is fine when addressing someone you only occasionally work with (one email or less per week). It’s exhausting when it’s a team member or client who you’re emailing several times a day or so.

  42. Nanani*

    Don’t forget there are BIG differences in what is considered a business-appropriate amount of “fluff” across cultures and languages.

    Someone from a tradition of more fluff (Japan, France, etc.,) may naturally include and expect it when writing in English. It’s not always an obvious difference, especially when we’re talking about a sentence or two or fluffy padding total.

    1. My heart is a fish*

      Too true.

      I took a class on business communication in my second language, and the entire thrust of the class was “how to not sound like a brusque Anglophone jerk.” All the students were already fully fluent and the whole thing was just norms and how much “padding” is appropriate.

  43. Calliope*

    The other part of this that I feel like seldom gets mentioned in these conversations is the power dynamics. When you’re assigning work to someone below you in the hierarchy and you don’t ever add any pleasantries or take any effort to get to know them as a human, it definitely can come off like you think they’re just a cog in the machine. If it’s someone at the same level or above you in the hierarchy it may not be great but at least you’re not going to seem like you think you’re ringing a bell for the footman in Downton Abbey. N

    1. After 33 years ...*

      Interesting … As a senior professor, all my e-mails to students start with “Dear” and end with “Take care and best wishes”, just as those to the university president would. It is my style, but everyone gets a response of equal courtesy, regardless of “position”.

  44. irene adler*

    Maybe it’s obvious to others, but a sentence regarding what the sender wants from me is helpful. Cuz I really did the wrong thing once.

    I had a classmate with whom I emailed regularly as we worked together on class projects. Frequently she would send me articles she found interesting – without much written in the body of the email. I knew to read whatever she’d send as she’d always follow up with “what do you think?” and we’d discuss the material.

    So one day she sends this huge Word file. As usual, sans comments. So I proceed to read this thing-because I know she’s going to ask me about it. It’s like 60-70 pages. Turns out, it’s a narrative -basically her autobiography. It is slow going. It goes on and on about all the damage each member of her family did to her throughout the years. Lots of family drama. Thinking I shouldn’t be privy to this stuff.

    I get about a quarter of the way through and cannot go on. I’m wondering why she sent me this thing. It is disturbing at times. What am I going to say when she asks me about this?

    A couple of days pass- no follow up from her. I try to continue reading but it is just so depressing.
    So given the nature of the material, I figure maybe she’s expecting me to start the discussion.

    I reach out via email. Ask if she’s okay and maybe, given the nature of the material, we ought to meet in person to discuss.

    She writes back- all embarrassed. Apparently she did not mean to send this file to me. It is something personal she is working on. Her method is to update the Word file and then email it to herself. Unfortunately my email address got selected when she did this. She then chastised me for reading it. I should have known it wasn’t for me to read. Made me promise to delete the file and email. I did.

    1. Joanna*

      If it makes you feel any better, I would have read the whole thing while chomping down a bowl of popcorn. If she didn’t want you to read it, she should have been a little more careful.

      I did once receive an email from a customer contact that talked about her chemo scheduled. She was mortified when she realized the mistake, but I assured her that I understood what happened and that I would proceed as if I didn’t know. So I’m not a complete jerk, but Someone’s family dirt, yeah, I’m going to read that.

    2. Despachito*

      I hate it when people chastise other people for their own mistakes.

      I mean, mistakes happen, no big deal. I understand she was embarrassed, I understand her wish to delete the file, but it was stupid of her to take it out on you. It was absolutely NOT your fault. A younger, less self-confident me at your place would be completely baffled and mortified (what did I do wrong that she is so cross with me?). I am sorry this happened to you.

      1. pancakes*

        It probably was a big deal to her, considering how personal it was, but the thing to have done would’ve been to politely ask Irene to delete it and otherwise pretend the whole incident had never happened. Chastising a friend for something you can’t be certain they even did is silly. I mean, most people would not be able to resist something juicy, but still.

  45. Candle Knight*

    Perhaps because I am definitively relationship-oriented, but I just don’t see a quick “Hey here’s the copy you needed” in the body of an email as fluff, and I think the email as described in the letter is pretty rude. Particularly as a freelancer, your relationships are as much a part of your work with a company as your actual work. It also seems reasonable to ask task-oriented people to bend a little toward a middle just as much as asking relationship-oriented people to understand that it’s not personal.

    On the other hand, this does sound like a way of using email that’s closer to say, pinging someone on slack. I think if I got one line + a document on slack, that would read differently than an email without a body line.

  46. Cabin Fever*

    I actively despise “fluff” in all forms of communication. Cut to the chase, pls, thx. Completely understand it’s a tool and can even be necessary, but it’s wasted on me.

    1. OP LW*

      So as long as you understood what was expected of you, would you have preferred the completely blank email since that’s the fewest words possible?

  47. Mr. Shark*

    just an email subject line with the document’s topic, the attached document, and nothing written in the body of the email. I found this off-putting,

    I would find this incredibly annoying. Even if it’s a standard communication, the e-mail writer should indicate what it’s for and what your action is. Unless you are just expecting the attached document because they said they’d send it to you.

    But sometimes I’ll get an e-mail from a person with just an attachment, and I have no idea what it’s for, and what I’m supposed to do with it. It’s incredibly irritating.

    You don’t have to write “good morning” “thank you” “please” “I hope you’re well”, but provide basic bones information in the e-mail body.

    Mr. Shark,
    Here is the document that we need X,Y,Z completed.

    e-mail sender

    1. introverted af*

      Yeah this was my thought. That isn’t really an email that is good communication. You don’t have to have a ton of fluff to confirm what you want done here. It’s one thing if you are speaking with someone and say, “Oh, let me send you that doc we need to talk about here” and send it with nothing, but this does not seem to be a normal business expectation to send an email with basically nothing in it. If it’s just an attachment, I would almost want to flag it as spam.

      The email Mr. Shark describes is fluff-free, but gets the point across.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Context matters here. I have received emails like that…while on the phone with the sender talking about the topic the doc refers to and she says “I’m sending you the spreadsheet”. I’ve also sent things like that immediately after one meeting where I said, I can send X document to you, in the two minutes before I go to the next meeting. In that situation, expecting me to have to put something on my to-do list and circle back to it later instead of right now when I’m thinking of it, just to add a nonsubstantive note, seems like the ruder behavior.

  48. Danish*

    As someone socialized female I’ve been trying to train myself OUT of fluff, actually. I’ll still start and end my emails with polite acknowledgment, but I noticed recently I was doing a lot of hedging around my requests to soften them, so I’ve been practicing just writing out what I need from the person with no extra clarifiers and let me tell you it is HARD. Sitting there thinking “okay, you can do it, just type ‘please change x to y” and my fingers go “I really think it would be best if we change to y, instead of x, because blah blah BLAH blah”.

    Anyway, I have warned some of my normal contacts that if I seem extra terse lately its because I’m actively trying to be more professional and business-forward in communication and its still taking some calibration.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Have you had any reaction from other contacts? I’ve been trying to do less explaining but so far all it’s done is stress me out b/c I have to think all the things and then delete them. People already think I’m “mean” because I do not have the ability to finesse other peoples’ feelings about things, IDK if this will make it worse or not.

  49. DrSalty*

    I email frequently with a lot of external people as a client-based service provider, and personally I find it’s nice when someone takes the time to acknowledge I’m an actual human being on the other end and not just a robot that churns out writing deliverables. It costs nothing to be polite, and adding a “Hi Dr. Salty” to the beginning of your email takes literally 10 seconds.

    1. Despachito*

      This is what I think as well, and for me, it is a big difference.

      Perhaps different people have different definitions of fluff, but for me “Hi Despachito, I am attaching a document, can you please do X to it? Thanks a lot, have a nice day, Wakeen” is not fluff, it is basic courtesy. I do not think it is like Wakeen’s fingers would fall of for writing these few sentences once in two weeks (because this would be my average time to proceed the document), and it will make me feel like a person AND more inclined to help Wakeen on top of the bare minimum I have to do.

      1. DrSalty*

        Yep this is exactly how I feel. I don’t feel like a basic salutation & thank you sign off counts as fluff. I’m not asking for a conversation, just some like standard politeness.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is where I fall. I have clients who send me emails with, “Hi, I hope you had a good weekend! Can I get access to X?” and it’s much nicer than, “I need X.” And I tend to compose my emails with nice salutations because they’re the client.

      Internal emails can be a bit different. “Any updates on X?” is fine for an internal. But I also request things as nicely as I can: “Good morning! Please fulfill a request for Client. Details below. Thanks!” Pretty simple, can go a long way.

      Honestly, sometimes I use exclamation points simply because I’m royally irritated and I cannot risk a client knowing that. So I type as if I’m smiling, even when I want to say, “You are breathtakingly stupid.”

  50. Purple Cat*

    This letter really raises a lot of interesting points about our internal “preferences” that we probably don’t even know we have vs. true “standards” and how much is too much.
    I am definitely in the camp that I don’t like completely blank emails. In this case, I personally would have sent “see attached. Let me know if you have any questions.” But for some things, I expect there to be a summary or key points included in the email. We have one person who sends out a monthly report. That’s it. Literally nothing in the body of the email, no call-outs on what’s important or different in this month’s report. No highlights of performance. Just the report – and this is a director.
    On the flip side I had a person who used to just send out reports, and I coached her on calling out key points…. which ended up as complete sentences as the subject.

    For initial requests, I think Greeting, short body, closing is appropriate. Once you’re going back and forth with multiple replies, please just cut to the chase.

  51. OyHiOh*

    just an email subject line with the document’s topic, the attached document, and nothing written in the body of the email. I found this off-putting,

    My boss does this sort of thing sometimes – no context, no indication of what I’m supposed to do with the attached document. Those, I flag in my inbox, and then respond to him with the professional version of “what the heck do you want me to do with this?!?!” I wear multiple hats in our little organization and without context, it’s frequently difficult to know what to do, or which of my hats/programs it falls under.

    1. just a thought*

      I had a project manager that would just send a vague question to the whole team. It was very unclear what answer he was looking for and from whom.

      One senior person would just always email back “Is this for me?” LOL

  52. Nene Poppy*

    Where I work, emails sent with attachments but no text in the body get sent straight to the spam folder or held back by mimecast.

    I treat my personal email the same way… if I receive an email, even from a friend with nothing in the body, I treat it as suspect and most often delete it without opening it.

  53. Spicy Tuna*

    I have found that how people communicate in email doesn’t necessarily translate to how they are as a person. I am also a freelancer, and at one long-term client that I have, the most responsible, valuable resource for me absolutely hates email fluff. She is very terse / concise over email and loathes the “thanks” emails in response when she sends something. I feel rude myself not responding “thanks” when she sends me data, but I know she hates it. In person she is so very pleasant and friendly, so this email tic is just that… a tic.

  54. April*

    I prefer fluff in emails, but I HATE it in phone calls. Just get to the point!! Tell me who you want to talk to!

    This is probably related to being a receptionist—emails are usually specifically for me, but phone calls from outside the building are nearly always for someone else. I don’t need small talk or your life story—just tell me where to direct your call!

    1. NeedRain47*

      When people call and ask “How are you?” before telling you why they’re calling…. dude I won’t know how I am until you tell me what this is about. Who are you and what do you want??

  55. OP LW*

    Thanks for all the different perspectives! I think Alison’s right, and it’s useful to think about it as just a different stylistic choice and also be aware that some people find it draining to deal with the extra social niceties. Just to clarify, I don’t have any problem with people writing, “Hi Copyeditor, Here’s Y. [Auto email signature]” And when I’m busy, I do appreciate short, direct emails.

    I think what felt different about the email I mentioned was the lack of any words in the body of the email. I would like a “hello, fellow human” at least, but maybe that’s just because I have certain expectations of email that I wouldn’t for other channels, like texting. I will try to assume that no coldness or rudeness is meant whenever I receive an email with the fewest words possible.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      One of my friends will often put the whole text of the email in the subject line, but I recognize that she is unique in her thinking. I personally don’t care for it, but I know her.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Written communication is so dicey I find assuming best intentions to be beneficial! I don’t think you’re wrong, for the record. I think it’s just best for your sanity to not overfocus on people who come off as rude. They probably don’t mean it and you probably won’t change their habits. Lose-lose to get your back up over it.

    3. Delphine*

      I don’t think you’re overreacting to the email you mentioned specifically. It’s odd that was skipped over entirely in the letter response. But that’s not polite. It’s not an appropriate way to communicate with colleagues. We owe each other basic respect. I would never walk into a coworker’s office and plop a file of work on their desk and then leave without a word. So why would I do that via email?

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I really don’t see those as the same. I think it’s more like going into a colleague’s office and they’re not there, so I leave a document on their chair without a note if I believed they’d know what it was for.

      2. Despachito*

        I absolutely feel the same. And I do not think OP is overreacting, either. (That it is indeed more beneficial for her own sanity to not take it personally is true too, but I do think it is as rude as you described the plopping of a file on someone’s desk without saying a word)

    4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I think it is a bit rude for your client not to put any message in the body of the email unless you have an arrangement for receiving work that way, without explanation or context. Perhaps if you were just speaking with them about this project on the phone, and they immediately emailed it to you, then that might be okay. But if this email arrived out of the blue without context, yeah… a bit rude.

    5. Allegra*

      I also find no-body-just-attachment emails to be off-putting, especially when someone’s giving you something to do. I’m not asking for a formal letter, even a single brief sentence like your example is fine! But sending a request with just an attachment, especially when it’s assigning you a task, feels disrespectful. To me it’s symptomatic of how internet culture can make us forget there’s a human being on the other end of the computer screen. We don’t need a long exchange of “how are you”s and “my weekend was good,” just say hi and thanks and acknowledge there is a person getting your email and not an automatic copyediting machine.

      1. OP LW*

        Ha, thanks for helping me understand my reaction to the email and acknowledging that I am not an automatic copyediting machine :). I mean, yeah, maybe I’ll get replaced by AI eventually, but until then I do take pride in my own writing style and finding that perfect turn of phrase sometimes.

  56. NeedRain47*

    There are two different things going on here- first of all, a blank email that does not contain relevant information about the attachment is just bad. It’s a lack of successful communication, it’s not about a need for fluff.

    Sayng things like “hello Person, hope you are well”, or “have a nice weekend” those things *are* pure fluff. I understand that they are important to other people, but I’m very much a task oriented person and can’t do fluff “correctly” no matter how hard I try. Also, because I am female, it’s basically a trap, I will never be the right amoutn of assertive/fluffy/whatever.

  57. Whirligig*

    I’m relationship oriented. That said, I dislike the fluff. Always say please and thank you, but my emails are short and to the point.

  58. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I’m old enough to remember being taught in class that all letters (including business letters and emails) were to include a introduction, body, and closing. So at least
    Here is the So and Such Report,
    Thank you,
    My Name.
    I currently process all incoming correspondence (email, fax, scans, and paper) for not 1 but 2 separate teams. I frequently get something that is literally just a email title saying PDF Documents and the person who went it’s company required digital signature. No nothing else. Then I have to play detective looking for info in the PDF to look up in several systems while I try to figure out what its for and which team they are trying to get it to. I know 1 manager spoke to a whole team about the need to include info in emails and it had no affect on the worst offenders. So I amuse myself by replying to them with a whole complete letter and I somehow manage to note label each part like we used to have to do in school .
    Thank you for sending me Random Documents that appear to be for Team Them. I have logged said documents in the system and forwarded them to Team Them Lead for assigning to an agent. (insert work appropriate version of the Southern Bless You that really means something else)
    I’ve Escaped Cubicle Land

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ll do this for the initial email but greetings and salutations feel a little silly and overly formal four messages into a thread. But I was also taught this and I get it.

    2. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

      If it’s emails from internal coworkers, are you able to reply and ask for clarification? “Thank you for the attached document. What project/team does it relate to? “

  59. MrsEngineer*

    I tailor my fluff level to the recipient.
    Writing to a colleague in France? Lots of fluff. Colleague in India? Fluff. Colleague here in Sweden? No fluff, but maybe “Have a nice weekend” if it’s Friday afternoon.

    What drives me batty though is fluff in the Teams chat.
    Just tell me what you want! There is no need for “Hi, good morning” and then nothing until I respond. Next message “How are you?” and then nothing more until I respond.
    Instead they could write something along the lines of “Hi, how are you today? I need to talk to you about issue XYZ, can you get back to me as soon as you can. Thanks.”
    Still fluffy but so much more efficient.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      STRONGLY agree on the Teams thing. Also the international angle is really interesting and makes a ton of sense, thanks for mentioning that!

    2. Nanani*

      Agreed on all counts.

      The recipient and the medium are both important – there is not One True Way for all situations.

    3. allathian*

      Oh yes, I fully agree on the Teams one.

      I trained one coworker to state what they wanted in their first message by always replying to them “Hi, what do you want?” Once they asked if I was angry with them, because I always asked them that, but they got the point when I explained that every Teams message is an interruption, and I’d rather be interrupted only once by them writing what they wanted before I’d replied to their greeting, if they couldn’t actually bring themselves to put the greeting and their request in the same IM.

  60. Mercie*

    As someone who both has intense anxiety around worrying that people are mad at me and a job where a primary duty is emailing doctors, I’ve really had to work on my mindset on getting terse/curt emails. I send my emails with polite ‘fluff,’ and I’ve learned to just read their one-line responses in a pleasant tone of voice in my head/assume polite intentions.

    1. NeedRain47*

      “I’ve learned to just read their one-line responses in a pleasant tone of voice in my head/assume polite intentions.”

      IMO this is key! Especially in a work setting, give people the benefit of the doubt about their tone. When they say “I need the TPS report” they’re almost never intending it in the mean, angry tone people sometimes imagine.

  61. anonymous73*

    As someone who has spent the last many years sending emails requesting information, I have learned that the less wordy and fluffy an email is, the likelier it will be read and I will get what I need. So I find the fluff unnecessary. I don’t need niceties through email. In person, or on a conference call, limited niceties are well…nice. And don’t even get me started on sending “thank you” emails. Sometimes it makes sense to have the person you sent it to acknowledge receipt, but I don’t need a thank you every single time I send an email. Yes it may only take less than 30 seconds to see it, read it and delete it, but if you multiple 30 seconds by a lot, that’s a bunch of my time that’s being wasted.

    If you want to add the fluff, by all means add it. But if you assume someone is rude or hostile if their emails contain no fluff, know that a lot of us who don’t use it assume you’re being fake when you do.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      ” that the less wordy and fluffy an email is, the likelier it will be read”

      I find this as well

    2. judyjudyjudy*

      Maybe we should just let go of assumptions, and be done with it, on both sides.

        1. judyjudyjudy*

          In your last sentence, it sounds a lot like you were saying, “if you dare to judge me, just know I’m judging you back just as hard.” But maybe not. I personally add some fluff to my emails, I hope that doesn’t make me fake in your eyes. Things like “good morning” and “I look forward to hearing from you.”

  62. Delphine*

    A subject line and a document slapped on as an attachment is not an appropriate professional email. It’s beneficial to expand our definition of what is and isn’t polite so that we’re not, for example, reading emails as overly harsh when they don’t include fillers/niceties. However, an email where a person can’t even be bothered to speak to you is a different matter entirely.

    Don’t feel pressured to excuse away the respect you’re owed as a person by imagining these kinds of things as neurodivergent behaviors.

  63. Bunny Girl*

    I have had to work hard to add any fluff to my emails in the past ~3 years or so. I am very much a task oriented person and in person I’m not especially warm or bubbly or whatever. If I was a man you’d probably call me laid back and level headed but since I’m a woman I’m “cold” and “b**chy.” I can’t change my relatively reserved personality because only seven gallons of tequila and four Fall Out Boy CDs will make me bubbly, so I’ve had to start putting a little more of a dash of sparkle in my emails so people don’t think that I hate them.

  64. irene adler*

    I had an on-line course where the prof’s opening (pre-recorded) lecture included a lengthy discussion assuring students that his short-and-directly-to-the-point emails in response to student inquiries were never to be taken as him being angry at the student or not liking the student. It’s just that the volume of emails from the many classes he held prohibited him from spending much time on them. I think he may have been called out on this in the past and this discussion was the remedy he chose.

    Turned out, he was a really good prof! I took just about every class he taught.

  65. RB*

    Around here (PNW) there was a point at which many grocery store cashiers started asking, “got anything fun planned today?” or some version thereof. They must have been instructed to do this in some customer service training. It really grated on me. Usually I would just say yes or no and leave it at that. It was like they had been told to try to start a conversation with the customer and this was they way they had been told to do it. I don’t mind the “find everything ok today?” because that actually relates to why I’m in the store. The other one seems overly personal.

    1. Despachito*

      Poor cashiers. And as a customer, I’d absolutely hate it, because it is obvious that they have been forced to ask this, and they are not only not interested in an answer but it would likely annoy them if I really answered.

      I hate situations when you are asked a thing but aren’t really expected to answer.

  66. Snarkastic*

    I don’t know: He sends a blank email with his request in the header. It’s very to-the-point, but feels oddly rude to me. Like it’s a command from on high. It would bother me, but I’d just roll my eyes and go, “Ugh, that’s Jim for ya.”

  67. Robin Ellacott*

    I find for me it depends on my relationship with the person I am emailing. If I know them well and we get along well too, I don’t tend to include any fluff. One exception is a colleague I really like, but whom I know is sensitive and prone to analyzing people’s treatment of her. But my favourite very busy colleague and my favourite very practical colleague both sometimes get single line mails.

    New contacts, people farther below me in the food chain, or people outside our organization get some polite niceties.

  68. Esmeralda*

    Interesting that so many commenters say “fluff,” when a lot of it is “conventional politeness”.

    If it’s fluff, it’s unnecessary and excessive and we can be annoyed at the sender.

    If it’s conventional politeness, then we have to acknowledge that it’s reasonable.

    And yes, I know the difference between “conventional politeness” and “fluff”:
    Conventional politeness: Dear X (very formal), Hello X, Hi X; Here’s the doc we discussed (or a more formal version if appropriate). Thank you/Thanks for your help!

    Fluff: Hi X, It was great talking with you on the phone today! [gigantic explanation of project we have been working on together for three months]. Here’s the doc we discussed [multiple sentences apologizing for the fact that it’s so draft-y, explaining that it’s a draft, more apologies]. If you could edit it [unnecessary explanation of how to edit and format it, at length, acknowledgement that of course I know how to edit and format, that’s why it’s so great we’re working together, but just don’t forget ABCD XYZ 1234567). Thank you so much [blah blah blah]

    The OP is hoping for conventional politeness. A reasonable expectation, but alas, OP, you will not always get it. So it’s best to feel what you feel, and then let it go.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      OP was asking for more than what is in your conventional politeness example, though, things like “hope you are well” and “have a great weekend.”

      Also, standards are different everywhere. What’s conventional politeness in one area of the country might be time-wasting in another (also the dominant class and race get to decide what qualifies). Where I work, we sometimes use email as a conversational back and forth, more like DMing, which would make “Dear Colleague, I agree with your recommendation, please proceed. Regards, Boss” kind of ridiculous.

  69. Asenath*

    I’m definitely on the non-fluff end of the spectrum, tending to omit greetings and signatures (aside from the required sig file) on routine emails. Over the years, I did start to put a few routine greetings and closures in, to try to be nicer and more approachable to those who like them, but I didn’t get annoyed at receiving fluffy messages. I just put it down to different styles, and they usually didn’t veer excessively from business polite.

  70. Sylvan*

    Yes, OP, you should probably let it go.

    Caring about writing is your job. Noticing things that might seem minor to other people is your job. Of course you’re good at this. However, a lot of people don’t have your skills, and they’re just not going to meet your standards. I think you should let that go.

    Additionally, I think you should consider whether this is a result of only communicating with your coworkers in writing. That might make their writing mistakes feel more important than they are.

  71. Meow*

    I think there’s a difference between a lot of fluff and not even including a greeting. I don’t mind at all if someone doesn’t wish me well or asks me how my weekend was but it does grate me a bit when someone sends an email with what reads like a demand or task without a greeting or a quick thanks at the end. I wouldn’t necessarily hold it against someone unless they were otherwise not warm or friendly in other ways but it is a pet peeve of mine.

  72. I'm Done*

    I’m definitely a very task oriented person and my communications style is straight to the point. That being said, I also think that we owe each other some basic courtesies and acknowledgements as colleagues and human beings. Unless the person had already contacted me to let me know that the file was coming, I would think it very rude not to even acknowledge me and someone continuously doing that would probably impact our working relationship.

  73. Free Meerkats*

    I’m a task oriented person wed to a relationship oriented person. And it’s caused much friction.

    I have also been told I’m brief to the point of terseness in email communication; if you ask me a yes or no question, you’ll get a yes or a no. I put in what needs to be said and anything more is a waste of everyone’s time. But I’m working at adding some of the fluff, and yes, “Good morning” and “Thank you” are fluff. Compare these examples of replies to the emailed question, “Do we want fluffernutters on the cookie board?”:

    Reply 1, “Yes.”

    Reply 2, “Hi Griselda,

    Thank you for asking! Of course we want fluffernutters on the cookie board, a cookie board wouldn’t be complete without them. The ones from Bumstead Catering are especially good!!

    Have a great weekend!

    Best regards,

    1. Filosofickle*

      3) “Yes, fluffernutters would be great!”
      That’s what I’d say. Brightens it up without turning it into a thing. Can even toss a “thanks” on the end for bonus points. It doesn’t have to be so extremely chatty to be a little friendlier.

      1. Yellow*

        Or even “Yes please”

        There’s space between only what is strictly necessary and lengthy exposition.

        That space in between can make people feel appreciated. That’s with my effort.

    2. biobotb*

      Like some other commenters, I think there’s a middle ground. Presenting these as the only two options seems disingenuous.

      Also, rightly or wrongly, something like “yes.” can read in a very flat tone to the recipient, which could convey that, in addition to wanting fluffernutters, you’re annoyed they even asked such an obvious question. Is responding “yes please!” like someone suggested, or “sounds yummy” really so terrible?

  74. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I feel like I’m a bit more task-oriented on a sliding scale, but I do value relationship building as well…just not rote repetition, “Hello Bob, I hope you are having a good morning…,” I’ll probably add in the first email on Monday, but not the third time in a week.

    I mostly use fluff for someone I’m emailing out of the blue, haven’t communicated with for a while, or with a new request that they may not be expecting. For someone that I’m communicating back-and-forth with on a shared project or subject, I leave it out.

    For the OP, any chance these document hand-offs can move to a different system besides email? like a shared folder on the cloud? I’d lose my mind if every document or change was sent to me via email. If it’s a shared doc or folder, no need for any social fluff at all.

    1. OP LW*

      No, email works best because sometimes they might want different things–fatal flaw review, complete overhaul, etc.–and sometimes I have specific questions. 99% of the time it works fine, but I was a bit taken aback by a completely blank email. I don’t mind short, direct emails, but it’s been interesting for me to recognize that I do appreciate some added warmth sometimes since in general I think I tend toward being more task-oriented. I wonder if part of it is because I don’t see these people at all in person so this is the only interaction I have with them.

      1. allathian*

        That’s probably a big part of it. That said, my employer’s email system sends emails with attachments but no body text directly to the spam folder, regardless of who sent it. This happened a few times with a former manager who used the subject line for the request, often with no text in the body.

      2. biobotb*

        I think that whether or not you’re having regular face-to-face interactions with someone helps in interpreting their email tone. If you have regular friendly interactions with someone, it’s easier to recognize they’re just a terse email writer, rather than someone who’s rude and/or upset with you.

        On that note, I’m wondering why so many people who are so averse to any “fluff” whatsoever seem to be ignoring/ignorant of the fact that some of this fluff is doing the work that tone of voice and body language could do in person. But without those, sometimes you need to add explicit words to convey a friendly tone.

  75. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Texting, instant messaging and similar chat – these things have eroded the traditional idea of business correspondence. The brevity of IM may be okay for dealing with internal matters, but I would never correspond like that with an external party, who could be a client/customer, business partner, provider, investor, etc. It does seem like the quality of business writing has been declining in the last 15 years.

    Emails to external parties: still business correspondence to me, and should have a greeting, a body, and a closing. That doesn’t mean it is fluff. I don’t use emoticons or exclamation points or anything that I would consider fluff. I keep it clear and professional. “Hi Mary, Please proof the attached and send me the copy by Monday. If you can’t do it by then, let me know. Kind regards, Bob”. Is is it really such a burden to write a simple professional email? We are talking mere seconds of typing. On rare occasion, if I haven’t contacted someone for a while but the relationship is valuable, I might add “Hope you are doing well.” I guess that is the so-called fluff, but I consider it simple politeness, and minimal at that.

  76. That Coworker's Coworker*

    In my firm we get sent to our insurance company’s annual seminar on How Not to Get Sued Due to Emails. They’re huge proponents of As Brief As Possible. Consequently I’m a terse emailer, and I worry sometimes about those who aren’t. Perhaps your colleagues have had similar training, but because you’re a freelancer you haven’t?

    It sounds like maybe you’d like more socializing with your colleagues though. Is it possible to video call them sometimes? Or attend in-person meetings at their office occasionally, or any social events they have?

    1. OP LW*

      Nah, I’m not really interested in actually socializing with them. The interactions just feel a little more warm and human to me when some niceties are included sometimes. I’m not talking about anything beyond the examples I gave in the original letter.

    2. Yellow*

      That sounds really interesting. I’m curious about the training – are there any gems you can share?

      I’m assuming this is about not stating things that are not true or give misleading impressions. Is that the goal?

      1. That Coworker's Coworker*

        The training highly discourages any email with even two separate ideas in it – and particularly avoiding multiple things in one email that could be construed as questions on different subjects. Asking friendly questions or including friendly chit-chat within the same email as a serious question can lead to misunderstandings – or mis-documentation of approvals or rejections.

        One example the insurance company uses is a real email that led to a lawsuit, in which the writer spent most of the email explaining the need for additional work on a project, and hence additional costs, and asked for approval of those costs – but he’d started off the email with something to the effect of “it’s been awhile – we should grab lunch sometime. I’d love to hear about your vacation.”
        The recipient’s response contained a “yes” that the sender took as approval to do the extra work, thus incurring associated expense. The sender later claimed the “yes” related only to the suggestion of lunch.

  77. Florida Fan 15*

    I’m chatty by nature but less-is-more in emails. You send me several paragraphs, I’m skimming but not reading them. Just get to the point.

    That said, there are so many other reasons to be judgy toward people that email style doesn’t even break my top 10.

  78. Susie*

    If I send an email on a Wednesday I may not ask about your previous weekend or what you’re doing next. If I’m emailing someone numerous times throughout the week the fluff may get very very scarce. I think this is a really case by case basis and depends on who I am emailing. I am all about fluff in person, but I’m not going to type about the weather and boring details about my weekend no one truly cares about! I do typically always end with a “thank you” or “appreciate your input” or some sort of acknowledgement of time and value placed on the interaction.

    I have a colleague who literally does ZERO small talk, and honestly it’s so refreshing getting to the point instead of coming up with banter no one truly cares about. You can be polite and personable without fluff 100% of the time. Occasional fluff is ok.

  79. lilsheba*

    I tend to say “hi” when starting an email to someone, add please and thank you, and that’s it. IF someone says “have a good weekend” or whatever I say “you too”. And that’s it. I’m not very fluffy or wordy.

  80. RatInAMaze*

    I don’t mind the fluff, but sometimes the endless ‘Thank-yous’ after the issue is decided or completed make me cringe.
    They clutter my Inbox and distract from the ones I have to answer.

  81. pcake*

    I, too, work as a freelance copy editor. When I know the people I’m editing for, we may add a bit of fluff here and there, but I’m fine if a writer just sends me an attachment. In fact, I wish more of them would do that – while the OP felt doing this was lacking, I don’t want to fill my day having to respond to social stuff when I’m in the middle of working – it derails my mood.

    For the most part I save the fluff for people I know fairly well – and then it’s not generic or fluff; I really want to know how they’re doing and what’s new.

  82. AthenaC*

    If you’re in client service, you’re ALWAYS going to be in the position of having to be the more professional one in emails. Clients are basically allowed to communicate with you however they want, unless they are abusive, but that’s a separate discussion. So the upshot is that however a client emails you – I would let it roll off your back.

    In the files of “just pandemic things,” one of my super professional clients, over the course of the last two years, has gone from super professional to sentence fragments when he emails me. I guess that’s just where we are now!

  83. LittleMarshmallow*

    As someone who struggles to read and has to navigate a hundred or so emails a day, I appreciate a good terse and to the point email. For me and my issues, it’s hard for me to focus and comprehend when I have to sort thru fluff to get to what the person wants from me. It’s so much easier when emails are brief, to the point, and formatted more in list form (I loathe long paragraphs).

    Now, that said, I do try to be warm in emails especially with people I don’t know well (if we are back and forthing an email string for a week, I’m not putting a how are you in every one). If I talk to you all the time I save niceties for in-person and leave emails all business. If I’m reaching out to someone I don’t know I might throw a “thanks for your help” in there though.

  84. idwtpaun*

    I think I’m the person who leans towards terseness but has trained herself to be fluffy. Certainly, some amount of fluff has been the norm in all of my professional communications to date.

    For me, it’s a matter of extent. Something that’s an easy gimme in terms of formulation—”good morning,” “hope you had a nice long weekend” in the opener of a Monday email, or “have a good weekend” on the last one sent on Friday—I don’t mind those. The ones that require a little more brainpower in how to answer without being too redundant or ones that require some thought as to tone, those can end up costing me a measure of my daily emotional quota. I don’t begrudge them, largely because the ones I mean aren’t anything that could be deemed inappropriate or excessive by a reasonable standard, but I could live without them.

    That said, I wouldn’t send an email like the OP described unless it was a follow up to a discussion that happened over messenger or call. Even then I’d probably put something like “here it is, thanks.” But I also wouldn’t take it personally, OP, the person who sent it maybe has even less of that communications quota than I do and has allowed themselves to keep their emails professional in the strictest sense rather than draw on communication reserve they simply don’t have. Or maybe they’re a bit of a rude jerk, well that’s a problem for them and not you, also!

    1. Timothy (TRiG)*

      I’d find a mention of a “long weekend” in a Monday morning e-mail odd. Surely it goes in a Tuesday morning e-mail the day after a Bank Holiday Monday? (Where, colloquially, Bank Holiday is treated as a synonym of Public Holiday, even though they’re actually different, at least in Ireland.)

  85. Little beans*

    I work in a very relationship-dependent field and fluff is definitely necessary to some degree, but when I’m in my peak busy season, I sometimes just don’t have time to add 2 extra sentences to every email. What I do is: I have a keyboard shortcut that I’ll just pop onto the end of most emails saying “Hope that is helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions.”

  86. Soanon*

    I find this is dependent not only on industry but different teams within industries. I worked in Industry #1, where you would be reported to HR for terse emails (not exaggerating) and the fluff was considered collegial. I then worked in Industry #2, where Team #1 was more “terse” with no fluff, no sign offs, no nothing except the point but Team #2 was more like Industry #1 with fluff, overattachment to decorum (using “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Ms.”… like I don’t have time to keep track of the marital statuses of 30 people), what I considered toxic positivity (“Everything is burning down but remember: you got this!” “Keep it up!” “WE ARE TEAM #2!”), etc. I adapted to Industry #2 and then emulated, within my own comfort zone, the team tone and even the general tone of respective senders. I came to really appreciate the general no-nonsense approach of Industry #2, but, starting out, I also spent a bit of time reminding myself that Terse Email Person was usually also the Very Friendly Person in real life.

    But I would still think a subject line message with an attachment and no body is pretty rude between general colleagues who aren’t bouncing ideas/drafts back and forth. I can think of five colleagues in 15 years where I’d do that.

  87. Nancy*

    If someone sent me an attachment with no subject line or anything else written, I would not open it because I don’t know what it is. At minimum say what attachment you are sending.

    Other than that, I don’t care what phrases people use, as long as they don’t contain vulgarity. We everything else in my life, cannot imagine caring that much.

  88. TLC*

    I have a colleague with an inspirational quote in her signature. Her signature gets auto-added to every single email or reply she sends, and the quote is invariable a larger font size than her actual email. So as I go through these long email threads of back and forth conversation it’s really hard to find what I’m looking for, but I certainly can tell you her feelings on changing the world…

  89. nonprofit writer*

    Such an interesting discussion! I am also a freelancer, and a big fan of fluff. To some extent, it’s part of my job, since I do a lot of fundraising communications and warmth is a big part of that. My business is also built entirely on the relationships I’ve cultivated through my network, so I really rely on warm email communications to connect with my clients. I don’t expect my clients to communicate the same way I do, but I would definitely feel similarly to the LW if I received an email with an attachment and no text. In fact, I would probably reply to ask them to confirm the scope of work and the deadline, etc.

    I try to be tolerant of other communication styles but I do wince when I see some of my husband’s emails because they just sound so terse to me. But he does include at least a few niceties and so I think generally they are fine. I’ve also learned to edit my own emails in recent years because I realize the fluff (and the sheer length of them) can be a lot for some people.

    I had a relative (who is famous in our family for being almost comically terse in her communications) once “ask” me for a favor (which involved me doing free work for her young adult son) by cc’ing me in an email to my mother in which she simply stated that he would be sending me something to edit. I was like, hang on, my paying clients are somehow able to say please and thank-you (and, you know, actually *ask* me directly to do things rather than just state that they will be done–in an email to someone else!) and so you’d think the bare minimum for asking an unpaid *favor* would be to include at least a little of that!

    However, I like her son and didn’t really want to get into a thing with her, so I simply replied by saying, “Oh, does Son need some editing advice? Please tell him to feel free to email me directly!” He was totally polite and very appreciative when he did reach out so it was fine but geez. I was annoyed with his mother for years afterwards.

  90. So sleepy*

    Sooo agree with AAM here. Everyone has a style, and that’s on top of all the cultural backgrounds and neurodiversity and just general preferences and opinions and experiences of individual people. I soften my language constantly. But, I can’t stand most fluff – honestly, when I see “I hope you are well” from anyone who I know has zero interest in my life, it drives me bonkers, even though I know they are doing exactly what you describe – trying to be friendly and not overly direct (just in a different way than I do it).

    Similarly, I work with lots of high-level execs where half their emails are just “FYI” or my personal favourite, “Perfect – GO!” (there’s admittedly a hilarious language barrier in the latter, and it’s almost always in response to something where I’ve given more than one option and have to guess at which one she thinks is perfect, lol).

    Lastly, I hate thank you emails, unless they are specifically in response to something where the person needs to acknowledge receipt – otherwise, it’s just an extra 15-20 emails a day on top of the 200 I have to sort through already. I’ll often tell people (with whom I have a good relationship) “I consider your silence to be your thank you” – one less email is a gift in itself.

    BUT, I understand that everyone is different. So I don’t send thank yous unless the person needs confirmation of receipt. And I don’t ask how people are doing (I might call, or send a separate message for the purposes of relationship-building, but I’m not going to pretend like I’m emailing to see how they are doing when I’m emailing because I need a report they have). I will acknowledge if I haven’t spoken to someone in a long while, or apologize if I seriously owe them a proper conversation but really need X right now, or tell them I hope they enjoy their day/week/weekend, or act like something is a misunderstanding / give the benefit of the doubt when they are just so incredibly wrong (lol), but that’s me. We are completely different, OP, and yet also very much the same! So give all the people the benefit of the doubt. The ones that are true jerks will reveal themselves, the rest just happen to be more direct communicators, and it shouldn’t reflect on them otherwise.

  91. Nodramalama*

    I add niceties and don’t need a lot of fluff back, but I do perceive at least a lack of hi and thanks/goodbye as rude, especially if someone is asking me to do something. And I would be pretty put off to get an email with just an attachment. Then it puts the onus on me to figure out what I’m meant to do with this attachment.

    I don’t think it’s asking too much to want a
    hi nodramalama, see attached for XX. Thanks

  92. fluff*

    manager sent an email out a ways back

    “can all team members please make sure to have greetings and signoffs in all emails. Also, please don’t send single word emails.”

    He immediately got twenty variations of



    1. fluff again*

      assume a namefield was added before that last quote mark, and dont add stuff in brackets to comments..

  93. Antiqueight*

    I have the close out fluff saved into my signature text so that I only have to remember the opening bit (I tried adding both and writing the content of the email between them but it does irritating things to the formatting when you do that.)
    I am bad at remembering in general but at least this way if I completely forget it appears like I only forgot the opening section and wasn’t intentionally being curt… at least I hope that’s how it looks.

    I got pulled up and censured for it by a manager in a role where they didn’t like that I just replied to the content of emails and didn’t give fluff. Mind you same manager also didn’t like it when I was friendly.

  94. metadata minion*

    There are a lot of places where I do include social filler, but if I’m sending a thing to someone I already know well, that’s one of the places I’m least likely to do it. I’m sending you an attachment, you were expecting to get it, so I won’t make you take extra time reading an email wishing you a good day when the only thing you actually need is the file.

  95. Forgot My Name Again*

    NT but customer-facing, so I think I write adequate fluff.. though in the right context, I will send an attachment with only a subject line and no body text. But it’s got to be following on from a conversation or something like that!

    As an aside, one thing I’ve noticed on the signature of some colleagues’ emails, which I really like is “Saving the carbon cost of unnecessary emails: The sender of this message does not require or expect final emails that are simply to say thanks or act as duplicate confirmation.” – it’s a little thing but it has reduced the number of emails I’ve had to deal with, fluffy or otherwise!

  96. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    This is the equivalent of walking up to someone’s desk, giving them a file and then walking off without a single word. If you know each other well enough, that works… but a small “please see attached” isn’t going to hurt.

  97. Frenemy_of_the_People*

    I think it’s perfectly possible the sender hit send after attaching the doc without thinking and hadn’t written in anything yet. I’ve done that. Sent a blank email with an attachment. Good Luck Recipient: Figure it Out! I’d let it go, if they usually at least say SOMETHING. Or respond, “I received XYZ document. Were you looking for anything specific, or just the standard editing?”

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