While working on her laptop this afternoon, 29-year-old Erin Johnson announced to her roommate that she was going to read an email aloud for feedback.
“Can you tell me if this makes any sense at all?” Asked Erin, before proceeding to read a completely normal email.
“It literally just said ‘Sounds great! See you then’,” says Erin’s roommate, Sally.
The email, which was a response to her former college mentor about meeting up for coffee, was on its sixth draft when Erin reached out to Sally for her thoughts. Despite the simplicity of the response, Erin was reportedly convinced that the email was “incoherent” and “probably super rude”.
“I just had to get another pair of eyes on it,” Erin explained afterwards. “Sometimes you draft an email so many times it just stops making any sense, you know? And when I say ‘an email’, I will say I do this with literally every email I ever send.”
Even after Sally’s repeated reassurances that the email was totally normal and made complete sense, Erin remained skeptical about the email’s readability. About an hour and a half in, she became fixated on certain punctuation and word choices.
“Does it still make sense if I say ‘good’ instead of ‘great’?” she asked Sally, who thought they were done. “What if I replace the first exclamation mark with a period and then put two exclamation marks at the end, to show I’m excited. Is that better or weird??”
“Literally every variant she pitched also made complete sense,” said Sally. “She was an English major. She couldn’t write an incoherent email if she tried.”
Regardless of her qualifications, Erin spent the remainder of the afternoon agonizing over the response, and repeatedly came to Sally for feedback and criticism. At one point, Erin scrapped the entire draft and started fresh. However, the subsequent email that was created wound up looking identical to the first.
At one point, Sally announced that she had a headache and was going out for a walk.
“When Sally left, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” says Erin. “I needed her there to tell me if what I was writing was weird! Do people use semicolons anymore?”
By sunset, Erin had made the decision to put the email away for the night and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning.
“I just know I’m going to look at it tomorrow and realize it doesn’t make any sense.”