The 7 Types of People You Encounter Over Email

Wouldn’t it be so funny if you sent this to all of them?


At least half of my daily communication happens over email. It’s how my friends send me funny YouTube links, my editors assign work and my father calls me out for not picking up the phone. (Sorry, dad.) Wherever I go, whatever I do, it’s the one place where everyone in my life can reach me — although no one approaches it in quite the same way.

I know people who take three weeks to answer a simple yes or no question, and others who feel the same query merits a six paragraph response. Some of them ignore the subject at hand completely and send a cat video instead. But rather than get enraged at this maddening, completely illogical exchange (!!!), I try to take a deep breath and see things from their side of the keyboard. Sound familiar?

Here, a handy guide to all of the contacts in your inbox:

1. The Emoji Addict


The crying-laughing face may have won “word of the year,” but the Emoji Addict’s salsa dancer, Santa, dragon, ice cream cone and bowling pin icons make no sense. They definitely did not answer your question about that PowerPoint presentation, nor do they ever show up in your email when reading by computer as opposed to phone.

Worse than being assigned the bad partner in group projects, the Emoji Addict is almost impossible to communicate with…unless she’s a genius in productivity, of course, and this is the new-new shorthand.

2. The Over-Enthused


OMG, yasssssssssssss!!!!!! She loves that idea!! And exclamation points!!!! Sometime this makes you feel like some sort of brunch-planning savant, but usually just annoyed.

At least you know she’s not mad at you.

3. The Selective Listener


It took you 45 minutes to draft a message to her. The finished product included four paragraphs with three clearly articulated questions and bullet points.

She, on the other hand, took two days to write back and answered only the last question…in an incomplete sentence. Tip: Scream into your pillow before writing back.

4. The Pulitzer Prize


As in, she might be trying to win one. Her emails take your entire lunch break to read, filling up valuable online shopping time with a very detailed description of her dog’s latest bout of colitis.

Every once in a while, they’re worth it for the gem-of-a-link at the end. Mostly, however, they make you empathize with the Selective Listener’s selective responses.

5. The Passive Aggressive


You’re all for proper grammar, but would it kill her to use a measly colon-x-closed parenthesis combo in addition? All those perfectly placed commas and periods have you convinced she’s pissed — and you tend to overcompensate by turning into the number two lady on this list.

6. The Houdini


You know this girl. You like this girl. And you know this girl likes you! But getting her to answer your messages — ever — is akin to finding a Mansur Gavriel bag on sale: impossible.

7. The Balancing Act


While she gets back to you promptly, it’s not so soon that you feel pressured to immediately reply. Her sentences are complete and offer a few well-placed smileys sprinkled throughout. All the key information you need is there, with maybe just one random tangent to keep things interesting. Not only do you look forward to her emails, but they help move your own to-do list along. Wait, you don’t know anyone like this? Yeah, me neither.

Illustrated by Clare Drummond.


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  • I have met way too many selective listeners in my life. And even worse is that they were, 9 times out of 10, also the passive aggressive (or just aggressive) type. Life then was always like walking on eggshells.

    • Aydan

      uggggg yes, the worst when they are coworkers or bosses, like HELLO I’M SPEAKING TO YOU — IT’S IMPORTANT!

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  • I like to think I’m fairly balanced with coworkers.

    With professors, however, there’s a bit of a progression (regression?). I begin as The Pulitzer Prize, showing no weakness. Each carefully chosen word is an assertion of not only competence but refined creativity. As I become slightly more comfortable, perhaps after one solid semester, I’m The Over-Enthused e.g. “I’ve attached a PDF copy of the annotated bibliography. If you need anything else from me, let me know! Also, thanks for submitting your recommendation letter ahead of schedule and giving me one less thing to worry about, I sincerely appreciate it!!!”. And once I’m good and familiar, regularly popping in your office to use your keurig without so much as a “hello,” I fall somewhere between The Passive Aggressive and a lazy booty call. “Thanks.” or “are you awake I have a question”

    • Alison

      Yup, we can tell. I had a student who said she was so discouraged by my not answering her email that she decided to stop doing the reading for a month. It’s nice to see a more honest assessment of email here.

      I get so many “Passive Aggressive lazy booty calls.” Your phrase is perfect.

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    This is my not so subtle way of telling everyone that nothing grinds my gears like the Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • cuffers27

    I have this client who ends most emails with “. . .” – so passive aggressive

    • katdances

      Me too, but they use “…” instead of any comma, point or anything. I don’t understand why though

  • Alison Syrett

    If anyone has advice on how to deal with the selective listener, please, please share! Like, do you forward the same email back and bold all the important parts? Do you just let all those unanswered questions float into the ether?!?

    • Well, I do appreciate being told once more all the things I have skipped the first time, in a nice way. I also tend to apologize for all the oversights afterwards and promise to remember all the explanations that might be needed in the future. And I may do you a favor or two to compensate for the time you lost telling me one and the same things … *blush*

    • lu

      i rewrite the email to be as concise as possible. No “how are you’s” or whatever rambling, just “hi, what about question? And question? Also, question. thanks!”

  • Luce

    Oh my god, I am such an over user of exclamation marks! If it’s an important email, more often than not, I have to go over it and remove them where it’s completely not necessary.

  • katdances

    Oh no, I think I’ve been all of them at least once. And just saying, being correct with the points and commas, it’s just being polite. Not pissed. Not. At. All. You know? (jk, but really, just being polite :c )

  • Alessandra

    Pause. I know this was supposed to be about email but the real kicker here was the tease of Mansur Gavriel bucket bags on sale.

  • meme

    This is why we had really strict rules for correspondance, but then we tried to be “cool” and now we can’t handle it, and sound like 13-year-olds when confirming attendance to a staff meeting and stress about how to address your boss when he started using your nickname but it feels not sincere. (Yeah, that’s me, your exclamation points crazy lady).

  • lu

    i always use the exclamation point, oops! Sometimes the period makes the sentence feel so mean or aloof, like “thanks for the help.” doesn’t read as kind or sincere as “thanks for the help!!” and just now I thought about changing the punctuation at the end of my first sentence but I think the exclamation reads more bubbly like how elle woods might speak vs april on parks and rec saying a sarcastic “oops”.

  • kforkarli

    Ugh I despise emoji filled emails. Even worse is when they come from your superiors. Just say what you need to – otherwise you require a face-to-face. NEVER RING ME THOUGH

  • Szia Ujj

    Illustrations are always on point!

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