On Japanese E-mail Mannarism

One of Japanese “E-mail mannerism” article is causing bit of arguments on twitter. Idea is that the article is saying that one should be suffixed with sama (Japanese Mr./Ms.) to names showing up in “TO” header, which a lot of people claim it is bad know-how.

I actually believe it is very bad idea. Simply because TO headers are not context sensitive. For example, say, someone sends you E-mail with you referred with suffix of sama, among with your colleague in CC, each with same sama suffix. You reply to that E-mail and suddenly, what you see your colleague referred as sama and other person referred without that suffix. It is considered rude that you refer your colleague with sama suffix, when you are talking someone outside of your organization, and further more, it is of course considered rude you don’t put the sama suffix for addressee, if you are appending the suffix at all, it is very inconvenient.

Some other things considered part of E-mail manner in Japan with my take on them:

  • Don’t send things in formatted E-mail (as long as it’s not WINMAIL.DAT, it should be fine these days — but also append text version of the E-mail. Most software do this automatically if you send in formatted mail.)
  • In the body, address recipient with his or her company name, department, and name. (Many people do address someone this way. I don’t do it for few reasons. First it’s redundant, and second, it risks recipient’s personal information when it happened to be delivered to someone else. I even omit this completely for quick responses.)
  • Introduce yourself on the every E-mail. (Not necessary bad idea, but I don’t personally do it unless I’m sending E-mail to someone for very first time, or case it is first E-mail in very long time.)
  • Include your full name, E-mail address, company name, company address, company URL, etc. as a signature (I think name and company is enough. There’s privacy implications as E-mail is not necessary private. I also put in statement that the message may be signed because I do sign E-mail, and to prevent confusion when signature.asc ends up in the E-mail — which is not applicable for everyone.)
  • Put in line break often. (I think this is stupid. Because putting in line break will cause ugly display when someone adjust their window size. I’m not opposing putting in extra line between topics.)