Don’t waste words. That includes meaningless disclaimers at the bottom of your emails.
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
This message (including any attachments) is confidential and may be privileged. It may be read, copied and used only by the intended recipient. If you have received it in error please contact the sender (by return E-Mail) immediately and delete this message. Any unauthorized use or dissemination of this message in whole or in part is strictly prohibited. Please note that, for organisational reasons, the personal E-Mail address of the sender is not available for matters subject to a deadline.
This is so dumb that I have to have a little fun with it. Here’s why:
- No one can enforce a contract sending you an email. A contract requires consent, and an exchange of value — ask any lawyer. Ken Camp, the target of this email, consented to nothing and received no value. This “contract” is the legal equivalent of chanting “Nyaah, nyahh, you’re a doo-doo-head” and expecting the recipient to actually turn into a doo-doo-head.
- It’s logically freaky. The disclaimer says the email can only be read by the intended recipient. I’m not the intended recipient. The only way I know about that threat is because I read the email — which the disclaimer prohibits! I’ve just been sucked into an M.C. Escher drawing. Reductio ad absurdum.
- It prohibits its own reply. If you received this email and replied to it, your reply includes a copy of the email. You’re sending it (back) to someone who isn’t the original intended recipient, and therefore isn’t allowed to read it. Please turn yourself in to the closest authority for prosecution.
- It’s passive-aggressive. Only cowards make passive-aggressive threats (“may be read . . . only by,” “strictly prohibited.”) As with all passive constructions, we don’t know where the threat is coming from. But we know it’s serious because of the “strictly.” We’ve graduated from “You’re a doo-doo head” to “You’re in big trouble now.”
- It lacks the Oxford comma. And it spells email “E-Mail.” How annoying.
- It uses “please” to hide how offensive it is. It’s a nice threat. Please consider the environment, please contact the sender. And most offensively, please make a note that, for reasons of our own convenience, we don’t respond to our own email address. This sender is happy to clutter up your inbox with meaningless drivel but doesn’t promise to respond.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@jbernoff”]There’s nothing more offensive than using “please” to conceal your own rudeness.[/tweetthis]
There is stuff that belongs at the bottom of your email, like your name and contact info. And there are even legitimately required legal disclaimers (for example “This is not a solicitation to buy securities.”). But unless you’re giving legal advice or selling stocks, there’s no excuse for your email disclaimer.
Extra words dilute meaning. Disclaimers ask to be ignored, but at the same time nag us with the worry that we might get in trouble if we do. Impotent, contradictory, passive-aggressive, obsequiously rude disclaimers aren’t just filler. They actively communicate that your company doesn’t trust its employees, has lawyers that are paranoid idiots, and values a half-a-gram of false safety more than the tons of time it asks of its customers.
Don’t be rude. If your company puts a worthless disclaimer on its emails, get rid of it.