Why did you not answer my email?
Most likely, one of the explanations below will provide the answer to
this question. If you believe that none of these applies, or if you
believe that you really should have received an answer, you can try once
more — but don't send the same email many times. Some of the answers
in the list below suggest methods for getting email to me; if they
apply, then you may wish to give those suggestions a try.
However, if you keep trying to send me email that ignores the
guidelines below, don't expect to get a reply; and don't be surprised if
your system is blocked from connecting here.
And don't forget: if I don't know you, there's no guarantee that I'll
ever reply, no matter how perfectly your email follows the
The most common reasons
- It was something you should have researched for yourself
Perhaps you asked me a trivial question that you could have done
some preliminary research on yourself using
Google or some other similar
service. If you have done some research, you need to explain what you
did and why it did not help.
- It should have gone to a mailing list
Perhaps you wrote directly to me to followup something that I
posted to a mailing list or perhaps you just wrote direct to me with a
question because you had seen my contributions to a related mailing
list. In either case, your questions should be directed to the list,
not to me. This is to give you the best chance of obtaining a timely
and useful answer. I may not even read your email for some days; I may
have nothing to say about the particular question; I may choose not to
answer for any of the other reasons given below.
This is not to be confused with sending me a copy of a message that
you are sending to a mailing list — I will only see whichever copy
arrives here first and I have no problem with that. What I don't want
to see is questions addressed solely to me, for the reasons given
in the previous paragraph.
- It was blocked or dropped
If your email was blocked, you will most likely have
received a bounce message from here, giving the reason. In
general, it will be because your mail host has been guilty of bad
behaviour in the past (e.g., delivering spam); if that's the
case, you're out of luck unless you setup another email account and
write from there.
If your email was dropped, you will have no way of knowing
about it. I use procmail to drop email from annoying senders, or
about annoying subjects, or for a variety of other reasons. Such email
is silently delivered to /dev/null. Again, you may be able to
work around this, if you have a good reason, as described in the
- It looked like spam
I have an extremely low tolerance for spam. Anything that
looks even remotely like spam gets deleted instantly. Make sure
that your email does not invite this reflex action.
- It looked like a flame or pointless complaint
I have very low tolerance for flames or for pointless
complaints and whining. Anything that appears to fall into these
categories will probably be deleted unread and is most unlikely to
attract an answer. Senders of such email are also likely to find
- It was badly formatted or hard to read
Like you, I am busy. I don't have the time or the patience to
work at reading my email. If it's nicely set out, punctuated and spelt
properly, uses quoted material with restraint and in the normal manner,
then I'll probably read it. If it includes an entire previous message
with mailing list trailers, or long signatures, or other stuff that
makes it hard to read, I won't read it.
In particular, if it demonstrates utter incompetence with your mail
software that results in lines of random lengths, quoted material that
turns into a mess, or other unsightly effects, I will glance at it just
long enough to see this and I'll immediately delete it.
For quoted material, make sure that you trim irrelevant sections
(especially mailing list junk, signatures, etc); interleave your own
comments with the quoted material, placing your contributions
below the particular material that you're commenting on. Any
deviation from this tried and true method will result in your email
- It was too long or it included attachments
I generally won't read long email, unless it's in response to a
specific invitation from me. I will never read email that has
unsolicited attachments and I'll probably block
people who send attachments.
- It was not interesting
I may have already said all I have to say on this topic; or I may
simply not find it sufficiently interesting. In either case, there's
nothing you can do except live with it.
- It was not plain text
If you send me email in some proprietary format (e.g., a
Word document), or in HTML, I won't read it. If you send it as a
multipart/alternative, I probably won't read it even though it
has a text/plain part. The only acceptable form for email
is straight text/plain.
- It covered too many topics
If you're writing to ask me a question or to report a bug or
anything else non-personal, please limit yourself to one topic
per message. I may be able to answer one question instantly and then
forget it; if the message contains other questions, then it starts to be
a burden to me and I'll probably just ignore the whole thing.
Copyright © 2001, 2003 Greg Black — All Rights Reserved
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