e-Ps and Qs

I’m a very polite person. As a Brit in Canada, I frequently apologise to people who stand on my foot on the bus; it’s a habit I just can’t seem to break.

As everyone knows though, email etiquette is a different, and very complicated, phenomenon.

Each week I send many, many email requests for information and documents. I am always polite, respectful of peoples’ time (unless the deadline is approaching with frightening speed), and explain exactly what I’m looking for, why I need it, and when I need it by.

I also receive many messages of this kind, from local and off-site collaborators and their assistants. Some are more polite, respectful and self-explanatory than others.

There are two common sign-offs on this kind of message. Both mean the same thing – “I really need this so you’d better send it ASAP”. The one I use myself is different to the one that I most commonly receive.

I’m not going to tell you which is which, but which of the following do you find the least annoying?

1) “Please and thank you”

2) “Thank you in advance”

Are there any other variants out there?

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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24 Responses to e-Ps and Qs

  1. Dr. J says:

    I much prefer Thank you in advance. At least that is the one (or a variation like many thanks in advance) that I use.

  2. hypoglycemiagirl says:

    I’ve never encountered alternative 1, so I’d say 2.

  3. Amanda@Lady Scientist says:

    I’d have to say number 2, but that’s mostly because number 1 sounds redundant to me. Usually the word please is at the beginning of the request (as in, “Would you please…”) and the words thank you are not. That’s just me, though.

  4. Silver Fox says:

    I think 2 sounds better, maybe just because it’s familiar, but I just sometimes end with “Thank you” – even if they don’t do what I request, they have presumably taken the time to read my email. So, maybe I should say, “Thank you for your time” ?

  5. Kyrsten says:

    Depending on who I’m writing to, I will do one of the following:If it’s someone I don’t know at all, or someone I’m trying to get a big favor out of: “I would greatly appreciate it if you could take the time to do “X”. Thank you, and I am looking forward to your response.If it’s someone I know well, and something they should have done anyways, it’ll be a simple “Thanks! Cheers, K”.

  6. Mermaid says:

    I often use a variation of “I really appreciate your help with this matter”, which I guess is similar to 2, as it makes the assumption the recipient will actually help.As long as there is some recognition of assistance, I don’t mind getting the emails. The ones that just make demands and don’t actually acknowledge any effort, such as “This information is required for my grant deadline on Tuesday Feb 10th (the email written Monday morning)” are the ones I wish I could let settle to the bottom of the inbox.

  7. Anonymous says:

    ‘Thank you in advance’ does the job and doesn’t sound rude.Rude = CHOP CHOP!!!ELEVENTY!!11!!1!

  8. Eva says:

    I always say “Thank you in advance” but I don’t like how it sounds, so sometimes I say “Thank you for your help” (even though I haven’t had it yet).”Please and thank you” sounds very strange to me. And bossy, as if it’s an order.

  9. ScientistMother says:

    I use the I would really appreciate, thank you for you time and assistance, but for some reason I think you like option (a).

  10. EcoGeoFemme says:

    I have a slight preference for 2.I agonize over the tone of my emails since I’ve been told I have a tendency to sound snippy.

  11. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Thanks everyone!I usually use “thanks in advance”, but I’ve seen “please and thank you” so often recently that I was starting to wonder if my version sounded weird to everyone else!Oh, and I always send a plain ol’ “thank you!” when I get the requested document.

  12. chall says:

    I use the thank you in advance…. and I respond to the “fixed thing afterwards too”.It would be lovely if people did that too…. in my communications there are more often than not only I who responds like that and it makes me question what is thought of the extra email… too much?!

  13. Mrs. Comet Hunter says:

    I also use thank you in advance – I don’t think I’ve seen anyone sign off with “please and thank you”. Must be a new trend?

  14. Albatross says:

    I like 2 better as well. I’ve never seen #1 but have used ‘Looking forward to seeing/receiving whatever’ as a sign off in reminder emails.

  15. ScienceGirl says:

    I usually do the “I would really appreciate” or “thank you for your time/help.” “Thank you in advance” sounds good too.

  16. Massimo (formerly known as Okham) says:

    I have never seen “Please and Thank you”… there is something funny about it, it almost sounds as “fee free to add expressions of courtesy to my letter as you see it fit…”. I would stick to “Thank you in advance”…

  17. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Yes, a new trend I think! It’s usually in the context of “Cath, could you send me document X, please and thank you”.Chall, I’m sure people appreciate the extra thank you email! It did get ridiculous once though when I was corresponding with a collaborator’s assistant – each of our bosses were submitting grants to the same competition, with ethe other PI as a coapplicant. There were endless repetitions of the “request – response – thank you – you’re welcome” email chain. And once you’ve started doing that, you can’t stop…

  18. The Ridger, FCD says:

    Ah! In a one liner like that – “Could you send this please, (and) thank you” – it doesn’t sound so odd. I was envisioning it after a request rather longer than that.I usually use “Thanks in advance” or just “Thanks”, but my requests are usually longer than one line.

  19. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    It still seems… odd, though. Especially when you see it in the subject line. Maybe just because it’s new.

  20. DuWayne Brayton says:

    …I frequently apologise to people who stand on my foot on the bus…Ok, between that and the Adams reference in your handle (that actually brought me over here), I am now an adoring fan. I’m a midwestern American boy, who grew up on Brit-lit. Most of my friends wonder at my ability to apologize to someone knocking into me, stepping on me or otherwise causing me pain/distress. “I’m really sorry for existing in a space you were meant to occupy, while you were meant to occupy it.”Personally, I think “please and thank you” sounds rather rude.

  21. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Welcome, DuWayne!I do like to drop my Adams references in… there are a couple more on the current front page!

  22. The bean-mom says:

    Is “please and thank you” a Canadian thing? I’ve not heard that one before! I think it sounds a bit obsequious to me, actually.Like everyone else, I prefer “Thank you in advance.” And Ecogeofemme–I, too,spend way too much time agonizing over the tone of an e-mail (which really takes up time when you have several business e-mails a day…)

  23. Science Bear says:

    I had actually never heard option 1 until recently (after moving to the northeastern US). I do hear various renditions of option 2 more often, and tend to find them less demanding and more courteous than “please and thank you.”

  24. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    I love how there are regional variations in communication on the world wide web…

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