“I Hope This Email Finds You Well” and Other Things We Don’t Really Mean

There are many things that should be left behind in 2020: Tiger King, bread baking, forced Zoom happy hours, doomscrolling, and starting your emails with “I hope this email finds you well.” (It’s even worse if you add an exclamation point at the end.)

For the first month of the pandemic last March when most of us at work moved to working from home, it seemed like every other email I received started with “I hope this email finds you well during this crazy time!” or a similar version. And each time I read it I found myself cringing.

I understand wanting to be nice and have well wishes for someone else, but no one is doing well. We’re in the middle of a raging global pandemic. One that we thought would only last a few months and not find ourselves still working from home and wearing masks almost a year later. We’re all just hanging in there by a thread. I’ve taken to describing how I’m feeling by a range of sirens and whether or not they’re making noise.

I can assure you that I’ve never started an email with “I hope this email finds you well.” I’m not that kind of person. At my old job, I would sometimes start emails with “I hope you’re doing well”—which I feel like is a more palatable option—or, if it was a Monday, “Hope you had a nice weekend!”

It’s the middle of February and I’ve received three emails so far that start with “I hope this email finds you well.” IT IS 2021. We’re not doing that anymore.

The one part of that phrase that really gets me is “finds”. Well, assuming that you spelt my email address correctly, my inbox isn’t completely full, or the email doesn’t get lost in the mail server, your email will most likely get to me. It’s not like you sent your email out on some worldwide search to find me.

The overuse of the phrase makes it seem impersonal, and most of the time, it’s just a nicety to start your email before you ask someone for something. And depending on how well you know the person, then maybe some sort of generic email opener is fine, but you’re not fooling anyone with “I hope this email finds you well.”

I guess it sort of falls under the category of how you ask someone how they are when you first see them and no matter what, the other person says “good” because you know it’s just a societal pleasantry and no one ever actually says how they’re doing. (I’m talking about seeing or meeting someone you sort of know or how cashiers ask how you’re doing. If you’re good friends with someone, then I assume that you can be like, “Well, actually no, I’m not doing okay” and go from there.)

Sometimes it feels like checking off a box in interacting as a human.

There have been times when I really want to reply: “No your email does not find me well. Everything is terrible.” But I don’t know how that would be received. (Last week when I received an email with that opening, it was the day after Andrew Benintendi was traded and I just wanted to send back a link to the story and call it a day.)

Let’s put this out into the open: No one is doing well. And that’s perfectly okay. We’re dealing with something that last happened in 1918 and between dealing with keeping ourselves and loved ones safe, teaching children at home, working from home, unemployment, anxiety of the unknown, and much more, we’re all just exhausted.

The next time you find your fingers typing those seven words, stop, hit the backspace a bunch, and stare at your cursor. You’re stronger than your urge to write that email opener.

3 comments

  1. Oooohhh man when I see a version this in a school email it’s usually from a parent who is going to make my life miserable 😂 but the admin still does uses various phrasings that all mean the same thing. I hate using it, and try not to but sometimes I just follow convention.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I worked as a cashier, sometimes I’d say “OK” or “fine” when people asked how I was doing, and it freaked them out. They didn’t know what to do when someone told them anything than “good.”

    “In these uncertain times” is a first cousin of “I hope this email finds you well,” but I realized this morning what bothered me about it so much. There is NO SUCH THING as “certain times.” Sure, the pandemic and ::waves arms around at everything:: have made things less certain, but I could also get hit by a truck tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

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