“Sorry :(” – brief emails and their politeness features
Anyone who has engaged in significant and frequent email communication has probably at some point sent a very brief email. Something along the lines of “Thank you so much” or indeed “Sorry :(”, but do these short emails have any unique characteristics? This talk argues that they do, and that they compensate for brevity with increased density in text of some CMC cues (Liebman & Gergle, 2016; Vandergriff, 2013) and the ‘thank*’ politeness marker (Pilegaard, 1997). These very short emails are additionally highly context dependent for their interpretation relying on knowledge of the historical relationship between the sender and recipient (Kádár & Haugh, 2013, p. 76).
This talk will discuss the composition of such short emails in comparison to a larger dataset of emails with diverse lengths, of which these brief emails form a part. This larger dataset is a collection of 1072 emails between a sole trader and her international academic clients who require proofreading or transcription services. The talk will focus on how writers can use such sparse text to effectively convey their message, and why such short messages as “Thank you so much.” are deemed worth the effort of sending, and how these may be necessary in terms of relationship management/relational tie maintenance (Goffman, 1971; Milroy & Milroy, 1992; Spencer-Oatey & Xing, 2003).
Keywords: CMC, email, relationship management, politeness
Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in Public; Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Harper Colophon Books.
Kádár, D. Z., & Haugh, M. (2013). Understanding Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Liebman, N., & Gergle, D. (2016). It’s (Not) Simply a Matter of Time: The Relationship Between CMC Cues and Interpersonal Affinity. In Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) ’16 (pp. 570–581). San Francisco, CA: ACM.
Milroy, L., & Milroy, J. (1992). Social network and social class: Toward an integrated sociolinguistic model. Language in Society, 21(1), 1–26. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500015013
Pilegaard, M. (1997). Politeness in written business discourse: A textlinguistic perspective on requests. Journal of Pragmatics, 28(2), 223–244. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(96)00084-7
Spencer-Oatey, H., & Xing, J. (2003). Managing rapport in intercultural business interactions: a comparison of two Chinese-British welcome meetings. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 24, 33–46. http://doi.org/10.1080/07256860305788
Vandergriff, I. (2013). Emotive communication online: A contextual analysis of computer-mediated communication (CMC) cues. Journal of Pragmatics, 51, 1–12. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.02.008