Posted in Personal life, Writing

Who Needs Email Anyway?

A post in praise of, er, post!

Photo of antique post office sign
Found in my back garden when I moved in to my house, an old post office, and now given pride of place on my kitchen wall

As I tackle my triple-figure inbox this morning, I’m feeling distinctly nostalgic for the old-fashioned letter. Emails, eh? Who really needs or wants them? Not me, that’s for sure.

Today I have scheduled a large chunk of time to catch up on my inbox – never my favourite task. Even though I know there are some welcome missives from lovely people, most are tiresome, asking me to do things I don’t want to do or telling me stuff I already know.

They also make me feel guilty when I am slow to reply, which I usually am, as I have so many other more urgent and interesting tasks on my to-do list.

The Email Imperative

Why is it that so many people assume that emails deserve immediate answers, even sending you follow-up emails to remind you to reply to their original one? That’s never been the case with letters.

At least, not since Victorian times, when there were multiple and speedy postal deliveries every day in London. You could drop a line to someone in the morning to tell them you would meet them for lunch same day.

Comparative Costs of Emails and Letters

Perhaps it’s the fact that emails are free, and cost the sender nothing but time, that makes people more liberal than with letters. The price of stamps these days is certainly enough to make you think twice before sending a single letter, never mind subsequent ones.

Photo of my collection of post box money boxes
Flying the flag for the humble post box in my front room

I’m also frustrated by the notion of the email spam filter, though of course also grateful for its existence. Yesterday I have just discovered a whole raft of entirely valid emails in my spam box, for no apparent reason. Does my postman ever hide random letters from me in that capricious way? I think not. Not that I’ve spotted yet, anyway.

I wonder how much people would curtail their email habits if they had to pay for every one they sent, or, as in the early days of the postal service, for each one they received? On second thoughts, perhaps I shouldn’t give Googlemail ideas…



English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

6 thoughts on “Who Needs Email Anyway?

    1. My goodness, Laura, four digits! I don’t think I’d ever catch up in that case! But how funny that you prefer emails to texts – definitely the other way round for me. Answerphone messages, on the other hand, I can barely bring myself to listen to. I tend to catch up with them only when my phone tells me that they are about to be deleted when their storage time maxes out. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t even bother leaving one!

  1. While on a sad mission last week sorting through my late (recently) Dad’s papers etc., I came across letters my mum had written to him while he was working away in Spain. They included a very funny account of what was going on in local village politics! I suspect that now, when the email dominates, such delightful discoveries will become a rare thing indeed!

    1. Hi Wendy, so sorry to hear of your loss, but how wonderful to find letters between him and your mum. That’s really special. I have kept lots of letters from before the age of email, and those from my grandmothers when I was a child and then in university are among my most precious possessions. I wonder how on earth archivists will cope in future, when such a great swathe of material will have disappeared into the ether.

  2. A friend of mine hated e-mail when it began as she – as you have said some do – feared that an e-mail MUST be replied to IMMEDIATELY and felt hassled by them! (Since then she has become a FB fanatic, posting huge amounts of ‘Green’ information!) . I suspect she still dislikes e-mails, you have to send her a FB message …

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