Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Features

Misdirected email cause for anger

Judith Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My email address is apparently very similar to that of a woman who doesn’t remember hers very well. I periodically get emails that are intended for her from her various friends and relatives.

Even reading the subject lines of these emails tends to make me fume – they are racist, offensive, and completely the opposite of my political beliefs.

I know the correct thing to do is probably just to ignore the emails or send a one-line response about the email address being wrong (which I have done), but is there any way I can also convey the emails are completely offensive?

I guess it’s hopeless to make people change their views, but barring that, how do I get over my own anger triggered by these emails? Sometimes finding one and realizing that people out there believe such terrible things can ruin my whole morning!

GENTLE READER: In the pre-email days, it was understood that it was impolite to open another person’s correspondence even if it was, mistakenly, laid at your doorstep.

This was not always observed; it is all too easy to slice open an envelope without proofreading the addressee. But in those cases, etiquette dictated that the fiction be maintained that the contents remained private.

The same applies to email even if you only learn of the misdirection by reading the subject line. Following the older form – in which it was acceptable to reply coldly, “Please be aware that Mrs. Pence no longer resides at this address” – you may answer: “Please update your address book. Your subject line can be considered offensive, and as the email was not intended for me, I wish to avoid any future misunderstandings.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.