Timely correspondence

Aphra Behn by John Riley (1646-1691) Wikimedia Commons

Aphra Behn
by John Riley (1646-1691)
Wikimedia Commons

Dear Aphra,

I appreciate your guidance! I particularly appreciate your sharing of K.T.S.’s letter, and my question follows from one of her suggestions to session chairs regarding acknowledgment of receipt. How quickly should one acknowledge receipt in professional correspondence? Or rather, how long can one delay before lack of acknowledgement deviates from best practices? I’d also appreciate your guidance on the other side of this problem. I have begun, more and more frequently it seems, to find my correspondence unacknowledged. How long should one wait before following up (for example, with a publisher or colleague)? How should one craft this follow-up in order to convey the importance of a timely response but without aggravating the situation?




Dear Clarissa,

My Heart feels for your uneasiness, my dear. These Difficulties are indeed great; but how great will be your Honour to maintain your calm in face of them! In answer to your first, I would have you always address your Correspondents as quickly as you reasonably can. Prompt replies within days and before the elapse of a Fortnight are what you ought. Should your own Correspondence be ignobly ignored, a polite note that prompts the Receiver is surely acceptable. Send your note with the original email, and be sure not to Blame or Deride, but do provide a clear date of desired Response, which may help your Receiver understand your own time constraints. Yet, the manner of your undertaking is nearly as important as the Matter. Only the Barbarous would take offense at a polite Inquiry. The truth of the matter is, that Mail delivery IS sometimes unreliable, and you may use this fact to offer a polite Excuse for a lack of response from your Correspondent. For example, you might begin your Epistle by alluding to your Submission as a potentially lost piece of Mail. The greatest Letter-Writers of our century have used this Device successfully. If it IS lost, then you have saved yourself the Misery of never having a Reply. If it was actually overlooked, you have allowed your Correspondent a graceful way of addressing your work without Remonstrance. These trials may indeed be difficult, but O my Friend! without them, we know not ourselves, nor what we are able to do.

Your truly compassionate friend,


Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn is a pseudonym for ABOPublic. This is not the real Aphra Behn—she died in 1688, and the world hasn't been the same since!
Aphra Behn

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