I (person A) sent an email to person B with a CC to persons C and D. The email contained two distinct pieces of information, item 1 and item 2.
There was a fairly quick reply - the reply went from person B to person C, with CC to persons A (me) and D. The content of the reply was very simple: "Is this OK?"
Mmm, did this mean all the information in the first email or only one piece of it (item 1 or 2)? Who knows? I didn't, but I was keen to see the reply (if any). Was it only unclear to me, all, or just some of us?
The next morning I saw the awaited reply from C: "Item 1 is OK with me." These emails are breaking some record in brevity - simplistic - and also reducing the information content, and not necessarilly reducing the confusion-potential content. This reply raised other questions about item 2 (for me):
- This is not OK.
- No opinion on it.
- Oblivious - the question from B was misunderstood.
- This is OK - then the question from B was known/understood (somehow) to apply to item 1.
Who knows what this last reply meant - who cares (I hear you say) - but for me this was another example in potential sources of confusion.
One way I try to avoid this:
If I can't speak to the person and clarify the situation then I state my assumptions up-front, then they can reply with a clarification or correction - either way we reduce the scope for confusion and misunderstanding.
Note on brevity: It's OK if those involved are on the same wavelength. A great example of this was when Victor Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher after a recent new publication:
VH to Publisher: ?
Publisher to VH: !But, if in doubt, spell it out...