David Pogue's email tips for public figures

The New York Times' David Pogue answers a letter from an anonymous writer who says he or she is "about to enter a somewhat public life." Here's an excerpt:
A) How many wackos do you hear from in a day?
B) How do you handle said wackos?

(A) I don’t hear from that many wackos. Maybe about one a month. (That’s if you define “wacko” as “someone who rants incoherently.” If you mean “someone who disagrees with you,” then the answer is, “daily.”)

(B) If the person is obviously deranged or pretending to be, I don’t reply. Otherwise, I try to send at least a brief response.

Not everyone is happy with that degree of engagement. After reading one reader’s six-page account of his customer-service nightmare, I wrote back, “What a horror story. So sorry to hear it!” But the reader, evidently having expected me to take up his cause personally, wrote back simply, “**** you, too.” (Swear word omitted.)

E-Mail Etiquette for Public Figures


  1. I’ve always liked David’s work, but I have to disagree here. There is a huge difference between using an inbox and a to-do list for to-do management: namely, the power to defer items into the future. I write about this in my book Bit Literacy, but there’s a good summary on my Lifehacker post about to-do lists.

  2. I remember when Jesse Kornbluth blogged (quite admirably) on beliefnet.com he mentioned that he alwasy responded to every right wing Christian nutjob’s angry rant emails with the simple reply: “Thanks for sharing.” :thumbsup:

    Of course, a public official can’t do this. They have to deal with every pathetically misinformed jerkweed with kid gloves. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that every well-intentioned person serving the public in some elected position has to suffer through. Personally, I’d sooner work in a grade Z fast food dump than run for and serve in any public office, and have to coddle idjits.

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