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Very Short Reply Expected (vrypan.net)
456 points by vrypan on April 21, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 226 comments

I think people tend to grossly exaggerate how many emails they really do get. Are you really that damn busy that you can't spend a minute or less writing a more natural and conversational reply that indicates to the other person that you're reciprocating the amount of thought and effort they invested in their message?

I agree with some others here in saying that this is awkward. You don't strive for efficiency in social interactions. You stay an extra couple of minutes to let a friend babble on about a story you don't care about because you're socially tactful and tact is the lubricant that preserves our social relationships.

I think it's simply a suggestion to compensate for the lack of social context that we all know exists in text-based communication.

If we were working down the hall from each other I could pop my head in and ask you a quick question with enough extra social context (tone of voice, energy level, volume, facial expressions, etc.) to let you know I respect your time and just need a quick answer on something, not a full conversation, and that if you look busy and give me a short response, I won't be offended at all.

If I delivered that very same question via email, since you're a nice person you would wonder whether I would be offended by a curt response, and to err on the safe side you might spend more time answering it than I intended to ask you for. Then I feel awkward for having asked it, and there's awkwardness all around.

The problem is the age-old textual deadening of social cues, not this poster's solution, I think.

> Are you really that damn busy that you can't spend a minute or less writing a more natural and conversational reply

It's not that simple.

If I'm in the middle of a coding binge I can switch over and fire off a 'VSRE' without losing place. Converting that into a 'sociable' reply requires a mental context switch out of coding land and into human land. That doesn't cost me 2 minutes, It costs me half an hour [0]. So either the e-mail gets a terse response, or the sender waits a couple hours till I hit a mental break point in what I'm doing.

[0] http://blog.ninlabs.com/2013/01/programmer-interrupted/

When I'm programming, I close all email and instant messaging applications, as well as put my phone on Airplane mode. I find limiting interruptions in this way to be incredible for mental focus. I highly recommend it, if you don't already do this (?).

I also use the following website to set a timer for however long I have to program (whether it be a 15 minute sprint or a luxurious 90 minute block):


As for the main topic, I have this as my signature:

  Hi [name]

  Thank you,
  Paul Santana
I copy and paste the person's name from the To: field in Outlook (this ensures I never mistype someone's name), delete the last name, and write a few words in the middle. Done; professional and courteous email template without any additional effort.

> I copy and paste the person's name from the To: field in Outlook (this ensures I never mistype someone's name), delete the last name,

Oh, _that_ explains the number of "Dear [full-version-of-my-name]", overlooking the shorter version in my own sign off.

If you want people to address you by a shorter name why not put that in the from?

In some places you don't have control over the From (or the footer for that matter). E.g. I get a forced from in the form »LastName FirstName« which I'd rather have the other way around (also because last-first without the comma isn't common here [in fact, I've never seen it before]), yet I cannot.

>When I'm programming, I close all email and instant messaging applications

You can't do that when you code and also run a business. I'd love for this to catch on, I'm going to discuss it with my team at least for IM.

Why wouldn't you wait until you take a break to reply to emails? You're choosing to switch over during a "coding binge" when you don't need to.

I can't speak for the author, but sometimes the emails contain messages like "Major emergency - stop what you're doing right now" where, if I didn't get the email until 30 minutes later, could be problematic.

I have a filter, which pops up a notification only for certain emails. Those from my boss.

so all of your emergencies must come through your boss... that would not work for me

Many people do eventually get so many emails that they have to think about how to manage them better. I don't think his solution is very good - he probably should just not write back to every email, or just write back curtly without some odd acronym. People get used to it, and if they don't like it, they email you less.

Note that he's not suggesting adding an acronym to his replies. He's suggesting adding VSRE to emails you send to someone if you expect they may be busy, and you only require a short reply. If they have time and feel like writing you a long reply anyway, no harm done, but if they recognize the acronym, they can go ahead and send you a quick note.

I already do something like this regularly, but since there's no existing shorthand, it generally means adding something like, "I'm sure you must be busy, so if you literally want to just send a one or two word reply, that's no problem! Cheers." If there were a universally-known way to say that in 4 characters, it would make things a bit easier when both parties are busy. That said, you could also just use a macro to add the above to an email.

The closest parallel to the OP's suggestion that comes to mind is adding (nt) to the subject line of an email if there is no text, saving the reader the time of opening the body of the email. (Although this is made obsolete by most modern email programs, which show previews.)

It's not so much the volume, but that we tend to check e-mail in between other activities.

So, if I pop into personal email for 5 min during work hours, I don't want to have to sit and think for a few minutes to reply to one email. If I don't pop into personal email every so often, then people complain that I'm unresponsive or do really intrusive things like calling me.

> I think people tend to grossly exaggerate how many emails they really do get.

For some people it is a real problem... I get 100-300 emails a day and I know people who get a lot more. And these people aren't "well he's pg, of course everyone emails him for advice" these are just general day-to-day emails.

Personally I'm with you in valuing politeness over efficiency, but I do spend a lot of time reading and responding to emails, and sometimes I get a couple of days behind in doing so.

(Maybe my experience differs to that of many HN readers as I'm not a hacker, I work in advertising and publishing.)

The difference is that not everyone who sends an email is a personal friend and not every email truly deserves that much time, either. I've found myself with the same problem, resulting in many emails not getting a response for over a week. I'm hoping this catches on. Anyone who thinks its too impersonal should simply not indicate VSRE in their email and not worry about brevity in their replies.

Is this really something worth making an argument AGAINST?

Just as a data point for you, I get about 50 emails a day that require an answer. I'd love people to show clearly that they're happy with an answer of at most 5 words, but mostly I have to top, tail, and generally be polite.

I've timed it - many emails require at least 2 to 3 minutes for a very short, but properly composed reply. For me that's nearly 3 hours a day.

> natural and conversational reply that indicates to the other person that you're reciprocating the amount of thought and effort they invested in their message?

"If it was hard to write, it should be hard to read."

"If it took long to write, it should take long to reply to."

When sending a VSR that might otherwise be rude, I just add "Sent from my iPhone" at the bottom. Don't tell anyone.

That's my default signature in all my email clients. If the email is actually really long and comprehensive, I just remove the signature. So far, I've gotten away with it.

I used to hate that signature but I've discovered how useful it is when sending a short, terse email from my phone. Nice idea.

It gets suspicious if you write this and you don't have an iPhone ;)

"Sent from my Samsung"

"Sent from my Windows Phone"

"Sent from my $OEM"

They all follow the same pattern these days.

Hotmail syndrome. I'm going to change mine to say "Sent from Google Glass" just for kicks. "This message transcribed from an awkwardly public soundbite"

I prefer "Sent from my phone". Why on earth would I advertise my particular brand of phone?

I changed mine to "Sent from my iPhone 6". People were wondering how I got one =).

I prefer "Sent from my rotary phone". No need for free advertisement or misplaced smugness about a disposable gizmo.

I might start using "Sent from my Pokedex" or "Sent from my Pip-Boy 3000"

I just append ☎ to my signature.

(I know it's a rotary phone. But it existed pre-emoji so renders most anywhere, where U+1F4F1 [📱] doesn't.)

Very clever

Annnnnnd this is why geeks have a reputation for social awkwardness.

Many of my most truncated email responses have come from executives and other businesspeople.

VSRE sounds great for anyone with limited time, and sufficient trust. I'd feel good using something like this with another person who I know well, or know to be businesslike. I wouldn't use this with someone I don't know well in a social context.

I think that for a lot of the execs truncation is a well established way to communicate self-importance.

It's more about effective communication than power games. Brevity is natural when you have to communicate with lots of people via email and your main priority is getting shit done. What's funny is that for random/cold emails, i'm far more likely to reply if I can respond in a line or two without being rude.

That's a great point. While I can't see this catching on in the wider world, it could certainly be used in a small team, say at a startup. In fact, I think I'm going to pass it on to the other two devs on my team right now!

This is not social awkwardness. This is social efficiency.

No, you've got it all wrong! Geeks aren't socially awkward, they're socially "efficient"

Social conventions aren't established by protocol drafts, they're organic.

Also, people write long replies for a reason. Wording indicates emotional state. If you have trouble reading emotional state, you don't care. If, like most people, you do care, then this proposal is ridiculous.

An example:

"How about we schedule lunch next week? VSRP"

VSRP: "Can't make it, extremely busy. Maybe next month?"

FULL: "Sorry to say, I can't make it. I'd really like to but we're in a crunch right now, and I've got a booked calendar. Perhaps next month when things have died down? I'd really like to catch up but this month is already overwhelming"

I might take the VSRP as a bit of an affront. The full explanation however is quite understandable.

Personally, I find the latter response just disrespectful of my time. If all you want/need to say is you can't make it, don't write a bloody novel! All I need is an answer.

There's a time and place for long communication and it's in person. Not in an email.

That would be a problem between you and...you.

People are more important than "your time", and a failure to realize that is a dehumanization of the other party. The latter response demonstrates emotional sensitivity towards the other person in the conversation. Among most people, that is important. It makes the other party feel good. It reinforces that you do care about the other party enough to ensure that they are not potentially affronted by terse communication. This is why normal people, lacking in the self-absorption your post exudes, do this sort of thing.

And in any case it doesn't take more than a few seconds to write or read; when the hell did four sentences become a "bloody novel"?

>And in any case it doesn't take more than a few seconds to write or read; when the hell did four sentences become a "bloody novel"?

Welcome to the generation of twitter. :)

Thing is, we're not in high school anymore. We're all adults here and we should be able to see the difference between being rude and being terse.

"potentially affronted" is not a thing I particularly care about. If I want to affront you, oh you'll know. Believe me.

More interestingly, the only people I've ever seen write email like in that example are people who send/receive less than about 5 emails a day. The more they have to process daily, the shorter their messages become.

> Thing is, we're not in high school anymore. We're all adults here and we should be able to see the difference between being rude and being terse.

In written contexts, there often isn't. Without what I would call a significant amount of personal history, there isn't enough data and there aren't nonverbal cues to demonstrate terseness versus rudeness. Many people will assume rudeness, because that's what that pattern generally looks like.

Also, there's the nerd stereotype of being a standoffish jerk to consider, which you are doing a bang-up job of reinforcing with crap like this:

> "potentially affronted" is not a thing I particularly care about. If I want to affront you, oh you'll know. Believe me.

This is the sort of thing I would expect a teenager in the throes of self-absorption to say. I say this because I did. Then I grew up.

You're being an asshole. You'll be happier if you stop.

> "You're being an asshole. You'll be happier if you stop."

Not at all. I've noticed a general uptick in happiness since I started taking people at face value and stopped worrying about walking on egg shells for no reason whatsoever.

You know what you get by trying too hard to be polite and making absolutely certain no feelings could possibly get hurt? The language bureaucrats use to say "Your tax basis this year is X" on two A4 pages.

I hate it when people beat around the bush. So I avoid doing it.

I think two key parts of what you said are "most people" and "normal people". This normativity is taken for granted here. Preference for terse messages is ultimately a matter of taste and I've yet to see evidence that one belongs to a clear majority.

It may not be a clear majority of people, but it's pretty obviously a majority of people who set expectations in public discourse. That's why it's normative.

Four sentences constitutes a "novel" now? What is going on in the world that people dont have the time, or worse seem not to care, to communicate in a normal way?

This is strange to me. It was just 3 sentences, and you were the one who asked them for a response.

And I'd find anyone that wrote "VSRE" to be very disrespectful. And since I'm a bit hot headed I'd probably write a big long response, just out of spite. :-)

My understanding was that the whole point of VSRE is to be respectful of your time. The idea is simply to let you know that there's no need to write them a long reply if you don't have the time. You're still welcome to do so if you wish. How is that disrespectful?

Perhaps the acronym should've been something like VSRA (Accepted), or SROK (Short Reply OK) instead.

Or even more inviting: VSRW (Very Short Reply Welcome).

I think there's time and place for both VSRs and long responses.

> Social conventions aren't established by protocol drafts, they're organic.

Organic stuff lends itself better to optimization - by constant feedback.

I often have to write FULL responses like the example you provided and find this incredibly annoying. There are many reasons to that. Sometimes, I just don't have time to craft a nice sounding and formatted answer at the moment (if I'm going FULL, I won't tolerate any spelling mistakes, typos, double spaces, etc. If one commits oneself to quality, it should be 100%).

But sometimes, the crafting of the answer FULL requires too much cognitive power. Quite often in situations similar to your example, my real reaction is a linear combination of things like "I'm not sure if I have time", "I wanted to go to a party on friday", "I'm worried what my girlfriend will think of this", "I really need some rest", "I'm worried we won't have much to talk about and it will feel awkward", "I'd really like to save this money for 3D printer electronics", "goddammit, I'll break my ketosis again if I'll eat a normal lunch with you", etc. It takes a bit of effort to craft a message that is a) nice, b) not an outright lie. A bit of effort I don't always want to make at the very moment.

So yes, I'm all-in for any kind of social protocol that would allow me to decline/postpone requests without having to explain myself to other party just for the message to sound polite.

So, this is an attempt to add something organically. It's optional. If you would find a VSR an affront, don't say VSRE. The whole point is a declaration that the sender won't find it an affront. It says you don't need the emotional state transmitted like that.

No one is required to use it and even when you receive a mail tagged VSRE, you may still decide to write a long reply if you can not communicate your messag in a few words.

The obvious use case is you are communicating with someone for the first time or for not so long, you are fine with a short reply and you know that recipient would like to write a short reply but will not do so in order not to sound impolite.

Sounds like the VSRP would be more like:

"Can't. Next month?"

If we're really going for the gold:

"No. Next month?"

I'm liking

No ++month?


If we're really going for brevity above all else, then I think it can be taken for granted that the answer's 'no' if we suggest moving the month—so the 'no' can be dropped, too. (Alternatively, interpreting the reply as "Yes, how about next month?" seems to work perfectly well, though it's unusual.)

And organic things can be inefficient.

As we are not organic beings, clearly it would be foolish of us to accept such unnecessary inefficiencies.

I agree with the second part of your statement. Why not make things more efficient where we can?

The main reasons are:

1) Because it isn't always worth the cost

2) Because we don't always fully understand the systems we are modifying

Which hearkens back to, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke". Inefficient is not automatically broke.

In this case I don't think that these reasons apply. Introducing a VSRE on the initiator side, or a Short Response, Not An Asshole on the responding side would be a worthwhile change with a manageable side effect.

Don't fix it if it ain't broke seems to run counter to innovation. I'd try for improvement on a functional system if there's a positive expected outcome.

> Short Response, Not An Asshole

Heh. Forget IANAL; we need IANAA.

BTW. Since we're talking about efficiency down this thread, here's a very nice example of optimizing communication:


I wish this concept was more widely known though.

EDIT: original description (http://www.sl4.org/crocker.html) is dead but I found it's contents in cache, so I'm quoting it below:


Declaring yourself to be operating by "Crocker's Rules" means that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you. Crocker's Rules means that you have accepted full responsibility for the operation of your own mind - if you're offended, it's your fault. Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor. (Which, in point of fact, they would be. One of the big problems with this culture is that everyone's afraid to tell you you're wrong, or they think they have to dance around it.) Two people using Crocker's Rules should be able to communicate all relevant information in the minimum amount of time, without paraphrasing or social formatting. Obviously, don't declare yourself to be operating by Crocker's Rules unless you have that kind of mental discipline.

Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you. Crocker's Rules are a discipline, not a privilege. Furthermore, taking advantage of Crocker's Rules does not imply reciprocity. How could it? Crocker's Rules are something you do for yourself, to maximize information received - not something you grit your teeth over and do as a favor.

"Crocker's Rules" are named after Lee Daniel Crocker.

Edited, thanks!

It is quite confusing that the "rules" do not seem to be set out explicitly as a list of rules, but that as those two paragraphs which seems to be written about rules (in plural) written elsewhere.

Would a better name be "Crocker's approach" or "Crocker's style"?

You say efficient, we say awkward.

Communication is about consensus. You can contend that you're right all day long, but so long as you put others off you'll be wrong.


Think about that carefully.

How is communication about consensus? You can put others off and still communicate "correctly".

Protocols are about consensus, almost by definition. In computer protocols, we get the consensus before we start using the protocol. In social interactions, we're molding the protocol as we use it.

As for communicating "correctly", it's a matter of (mostly) definitions and circumstances whether putting people off and "correct" communication are consistent. You may have transmitted the correct information to someone's brain, but not annoying people is usually an important goal, sometimes even more important than that of transmitting the information. Maintaining someone's good opinion of you might outweigh the importance of whatever info you want to tell them.

You can't communicate effectively without a protocol/language/etc, but communicating is not about consensus; it's about communicating ideas/thoughts/etc. Consensus is a part of communication, not its aim.

I agree that not offending/annoying someone is beneficial and might outweigh the message you have to communicate, but that isn't relevant to discussion about the efficiency of the protocol. If in spite of brusqueness, your point comes across, then it's effective communication.

Think of the "consensus" as the embedded state within a communication.

In a feudal society a lord might send a written missive to the King or Queen, and if they did it would contain a ton of horribly polite boilerplate, because the consensus of the time on both sides was that anything less was disrespectful.

It is very possible that your lack of words in a given communication sends a point across that you never intended, even if the point you had in mind also made it across.

Sure, but that doesn't speak to my point that consensus is a component of communication, not its primary aim.

In computer protocols, we get the consensus before we start using the protocol.

VSRP analogue in computing: Unannounced, start omitting headers in response to HTTP requests. They are unnecessary baggage that gets in the way of the actual content of the message.

Not quite. If you're using VSRE, the information contained in those headers is already implicit. I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are protocols where you don't need to send loquacious headers or equivalent with every response. "VSRE" says, "go ahead and assume I know what the headers would be and skip them". If you're not expecting headers, it's not a problem if they're missing.

Better analog, start sending


or something in your request, which allows the responding party to omit headers in the reply (or not).

Awkward would be to just go ahead and start replying in one word without trying to establish a netiquette protocol.

You say awkward, I say me and my efficient friends will have faster communication, tighter feedback loop and outcompete you in everything. :p.

Your reply is way to short to not be awkward. It should be expanded to at least two paragraphs.

At least the proposed solution is better than simply replying "ACK" or "NAK"

I'm glad I'm not the only person who had this reaction.

Sheesh, how hard is it to type out "A one word response would be fine." It takes me less than 10 seconds to type that. C'mon.

Because if you take the trouble to write that out, there will still be slightly more pressure on the receiver to reciprocate by giving a more formal reply, despite the surface content.

I think "how hard is it?" is the wrong question. We should be asking "how can this be better?". It doesn't take very long to type something like "as far as I know", but we still routinely use acronyms like AFAIK, because as long as everyone knows what it means, it's often a waste of time to type the full thing out. The only difference here is that VSRE is not already a custom.

AFAIK, IMHO, INAL, etc. work because they are acronyms for very common phrases. Intelligent people can reason out their meaning based on context without you having to spell them out. That's why they are popular and why they work. There was never a global memo "Hey everybody we're going to start using AFAIK now."

VSRE doesn't work. It's better to just type out what you want to say in this case.

You just say "VSRE doesn't work" without mentioning that the only reason is that people don't already say it. That's my point. Maybe we can agree that we shouldn't jump straight to the acronym. But if we want this kind of custom, and I do, it has to start somewhere, not with a global memo but with people just doing it. I'm just going to start saying "short reply ok". With any luck that will catch on, and then we can abbreviate to "SRO" or whatever people wind up using, and the world will be an ever so slightly more efficient place.

Completely agree!

This is what I use Jabber for--Jabber messages have an implicit VSRE attached. In practice, it's just like email except that the replies are usually short. For me, Jabber messages get delivered to the same places on both my computer and phone, and take about the same amount of effort to respond to.

It has the added benefit of potentially being a real-time conversation as well--this sometimes happens with a flurry of short emails, but it's much more awkward.

I was hoping Google Wave would take off an neatly combine the two. But it never did :(.

Jabber (or any other IM) carries an implicit expectation of synchronicity though. When i get an IM, i assume it requires an immediate response. A VSRE email would require a short response at your convenience.

> I was hoping Google Wave would take off an neatly combine the two.

This is the best thing about Facebook messages: they’re hafway between chat and email and a conversation can seamlessly morph from one form to the other and back.

Facebook messages suck.

- You can't read them without announcing that you did. - FB parses and might even censor you message if it contains blacklisted domains.

I actually really like facebook messages (except for the security issues); I tend to use them for social messages with my facebook friends (which is essentially a superset of my real life friends). I use it to message my girlfriend (tied with iMessage) about "when do you want me to pick you up from work", etc.

(The obnoxious thing is that both of our phones are Verizon iPhones; there's no simultaneous voice and data, and unlike me, she tends to do long voice calls with people. I'm trying to get her to switch to a SIP client, so we can do G.722 wideband and crypto/vpn on the voice too, and non-extortionate international long distance.)

security issues?

You can have them forwarded to real email, which doesn't announce that it's been read.

Why do you want to hide that you red the message ? Is it when you would like to ignore the sender but are too curious and would like to know what message he sent you ?

Also because people that know you have read the message will sometimes expect a reply straight away or will think you are ignoring them.

Exactly. Facebook knows that, and I imagine that's why they implemented this "receiver has read the message" as a way to pressure everyone to keep replying right away.

Yes you can. That is a feature that is completely able to be turned off.

How? I was only able to find browser extensions (i.e, hacks) to disable this "feature".

They ask in the fb app before doing it. I assume you can say no there.

I don't know about the site itself, I really only interact via my phone.

You could always use something like ShortMail. It's basically Twitter, but for email.

It's been around long enough now that you probably don't have to worry about it going away anytime soon, and its users really like it.

(I am not affiliated)


One thing I've noticed is that people who expect short replies sometimes write very short mails to begin with. I think that might be more effective to set expectations than coming up with a new acronym and having to wait for it to catch on (if ever).

If the content you need a short reply to is a bit longer, you can also write a short summary before the longer part. Something like "Below is blah blah blah, wondering if you have any quick comments. Thanks, yournamehere." Then below is your multi-paragraphed whatever.

I believe that Steve Jobs was one that practiced this when dealing with customers. And it seamed like his responses were always dead on target - whereas a PR team would launch into a long winded response to a customer, Steve summed it up in one sentence.

That surely drove Apple's PR team crazy...

I've seen people who are great at short emails... but I've also seen a lot of miscommunication when people shoot fragments back and forth. It's a fine line between concise and useless.

That's something I learnt the hard way: to customers, and internally between services, the less you write the best position you have.

I like this idea, but I wonder about the phrasing. I wouldn't want my more... loquacious colleagues to misinterpret it as an imperative ("please do not send me a wall of text").

I immediately felt the same way and though NLRN - no long reply needed - or something along those lines might be more polite. Good idea though!

Aha! I've been trying to introduce people to the abbreviation "NRN - No Reply Needed" for text messages. It seems such a waste for someone to just text back with a reply of "ok" and pay 25c or whatever for the privilege when you don't really need to know they received it. These 3 characters at the end of a message could save a great deal over time.

Interesting point. Is VSRE something that empowers the respondent to choose: A "social out from a full polite response"? Or is it a "social obligation to provide a short response?"

Make it explicit - VSRA vs VSRE, acceptable vs expected. But this makes the whole thing unnecessarily complex and I would prefer VSRA - I am fine with getting a very short reply. If it is not possible a, long reply is also fine but try to keep it as short as possible.

Different suggestions from the comments.

  CURT - condensed unfussy reply tolerable
  CURT - CURT unfussy reply tolerable
  NLRN - no long reply needed
  TCRA - très courte réponse attendue
  VSRA - very short reply acceptable
  VSRO - very short reply okay
  VSRW - very short reply welcome
That got forked quickly. And we need a standardization committee. Or maybe a poll will do.

I quite like the idea of using the OP's original phrasing of 'welcome' as I find that pleasingly polite

    VSRW - Very short reply welcome

I came to the comments hoping this would be here. "Expected", well, seems to place an additional expectation on the recipient, whereas "Welcome" merely invites an additional option.

That's my favorite one for the moment.

Likewise. +1 for VSRW

  BRIF - Brief response is fine

How about CURT - condensed unfussy reply tolerable

Than let's make it recursive.

  CURT - CURT unfussy reply tolerable

Abbreviation needed? Phrase the question such that a curt response is encouraged. A la, "Herbert: we're meeting tomorrow at 2 in my office to discuss the new release of jquery. Be there?" (The question tends to elicit a "Yes" or "No")

I still prefer 'VSRP - very short reply preferred' because it's sooo close to RSVP.

That's not my perception from the "... Expected" bit, personally. It seems the social obligation would be on being short/brief.

Then you probably shouldn't use it with them. After all, that is exactly what it's for.... OTOH, those folks probably won't pay attention, or may even protest, "it was a short reply!"

I love this. I'm also extremely fond of EOM (short for End Of Message. An email with a short subject and no body).

Often I send EOMs to imply a VSRE. For example, "Grill tonight? Have burgers. Off work @ 6. EOM"

Very interested in learning others.

NNTR: 'no need to reply' is another common abbreviation.

Pro-tip: Use them as TextExpander snippets to avoid getting another message asking you to clarify what EOM/NNTR means as only a subset of people are familiar with & use these abbreviations.

Until everyone starts communicating this way, and it becomes completely normal.

Remember, a geek invented the smiley ( and I'm sure there are many other examples).

NNTR is great! Thank you!


I turned my wife onto EOM and she adopted it right away which has saved some time I am sure. I am also going to be using VSRE in upcoming messages where applicable.

NT: No text

This one is shorter than the rest, and easy to grok. VSRE OR EOM? I'd have to look those up.

Between NT and EOM why does being shorter make it more obvious, you'd need to look after whichever one you hadn't heard before. If anything I'd say EOM is easier to guess, due to its similarity with other acronyms: EOL (coding) EOP (business) where EO always stands for End Of.

I agree. I'd never guess what NT stood for. Even if I managed to deduce what it meant and how to use it by its usage patterns, I'd still not be able to guess. It reminds me of NB -- an acronym I learned how to use from context and even began using myself occasionally, only years later realizing I didn't actually know what it stood for.

EOM, on the other hand, is immediately clear to me because of it's similarity to EOL (end-of-line) and EOF (end-of-file).

I see you enjoy neardoc/heredoc

How about VSRA. Very short reply accepted. VSRE can come off a bit harsh both for the sender and receiver. By using VSRA you're saying "hey, if you're real busy I won't be offended by a super short response. As others have mentioned here, the idea of VSRE can be socially awkward. By making it optional you avoid that. I suggest this not as a replacement but as an alternative. You could use VSRE with people you know well and VSRA with anyone else.

We have already quite a few alternative suggestions [1] including VSRA but we probably have to do a poll to settle on one. I have not enough karma to start one but the idea is probably doomed if several alternatives start to spread.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5586653

I starting answering emails shortly without needing to see VSRE because I'm warm enough on the first email. After that, it is all short answers unless I have a reason to do otherwise.

A fan of the idea - giving people permission is a good solution. The word "expected", however, can carry different connotations. VSRO (very short reply okay) might be friendlier?

I wish email came with a YES/NO embed button. Even a RECEIVED/READ button would be useful. Recipient can hit those buttons and move on... Sender knows the status and can move on.

I know you can embed Google Forms, but don't know if they work for all email clients. Anyone use them?

Initially I wasn't a huge fan of the 'seen' status in Facebook messenger, but it's actually really useful when speaking with my good friends (who I know won't reply, but knowing they've seen it is all that's necessary).

I just wish it was optional so that certain contacts won't necessarily know that I've seen their message.

I find "VSRE" unnecessary: if you write efficiently, anyone capable of a VSR will follow suit.

Writing "efficiently" can be rude. Look at his example. You can't just reply with only the word "no", because that's rude.

Why do you need to write a long reply to say no? His example can be shortened to:

Dear John,

Thank you ..., I would be happy to ... but unfortunately I am unavailable. Please [....]


A. Guy

This shortened version takes as much thought as the 'very short' version and doesn't require a new acronym. There are cases where the longer reply would work better, but most of the time you don't need to give your reasons for saying no to someone. I'd say his response is pretty formal, and that's probably unnecessary for 95% of the unsolicited email he gets. In less formal responses you can convey some enthusiasm (real or not) with an exclamation mark, and that removes the potential rudeness ("Hi John, Thanks for your interest! Unfortunately I am not available that weekend. Best of luck, A. Guy"). Translating emotion to or from text does require a little bit of effort but it's really no different than normal spoken conversation.

"Efficiently" and "politely" are often opposites.

I think you're jumping ahead; it can't be an acronym before people even start using it. Maybe write "Short reply OK" for now.

personally I find "short reply OK" to be preferably. It comes across as less harsh, it tells the other party that you are ok with removing the random fluff if they want to. VSRE is a demand that all the fluff be removed


(That's my new acronym for "It can totally be an acronym")

i usually end an email with a multiple choice question. that way, the receiver could just reply with the answer.

did you like my comment?

a) yes

b) no


Until this thread I honestly thought I was the only person who spends time agonizing over the wording of simple replies.

There's this one person I know well, a chatty extroverted business guy, not a socially awkward engineer, who always has extremely short, curt emails. He comes off in his emails as kind of a dick because of this, and now whenever I meet him in real life I find him annoying (when previously I wasn't annoyed at him).

It's an interesting idea, probably worth exploring.

It seems like email is exponentially getting harder to manage all the time. One thing I've noticed is if I send a reply from my phone that has the "Sent from my phone" signature on it, then people are 100% ok with short, blunt replies where they wouldn't be without that signature.

Mobile email has changed the etiquette of communication already. Even without the "Sent from my phone", people are using short replies from their cell phones and tablets. It's better for both the sender and receiver on a mobile device.

Steve Jobs was famous for his terse replies to customer emails. e.g.

customer: "Will the forthcoming iPad support tethering?"

Jobs reply: "No"


That's what I was thinking. It'd be great to have a list of email on your phone and reply with a simple swipe menu (eg yes, no, ack, date, contact name). You could get through 10-20 emails a minute

I wonder if putting 'reply generated by short responder' at the end would make it socially acceptable

I am since a while omitting dears and wishes and being very terse in my replies. Most people seem to get the message, relax and simply reply to me with similar tone, making the whole exchange much more pleasant and less prone to misinterpretation.

Perhaps instead of adding an acronym out of the blue — that very much no-one outside HN will ever bother figuring out — we could train ourselves and our correspondants to understand that there is no need for excessive form under the majority of circumstances. The medium is very flexible, but our attitude is stuck. And maybe the reason for the stuckedness is that email, unlike less pervasive media, is used by people of every age, every degree of computer literacy, every background, etc. There: one more reason why VSRE or any variation is unlikely to make it further than a couple of days from today.

While I understand the spirit of this proposal, I vehemently oppose it.

In social interactions you DO NOT tell the recipient how to answer. You are talking to another sentient being, not a computer. VSRE comes across as an imperative, which is simply not work well for healthy communication. It basically tells the recipient (or recipients) reply my way or the highway.

It also depends on the question or how it was understood. With VSRE you are working under the assumption that your phraseology and verbiage is flawless and universally understood. Specially in a field such software development with tons of people from a ton of different cultures, VSRE will invariably cause more harm than good.

In fact, you could even suggest to your recipient, in a more amicable way to answer briefly.

VSRE, in my opinion, is the antithesis of what communication and technology should be about.

VSRE sounds like a good idea, as long as the recipient is on close enough terms to not be offended (or stifled) by "expected". (The witness will please answer with a simple "Yes" or "No".) Maybe VSRPA (Very Short Reply Perfectly Acceptable) would be more appropriate.

How about VSRP - Very Short Reply Preferred?

I'm going to use it, and I'd love to receive emails tagged as such.

So, submitted to the Urban Dictionary!

In China most people never went through the whole e-mail era and practically jumped right into mobile. QQ is the defacto communication channel and Wechat 微信 is quickly replacing QQ as the method of choice today. The point is, e-mail was intended to mimic letter writing, so "short" wasn't the point. Chat messaging and short voice messaging protocols via mobile devices and their clunky keyboards were, so why not adopt a new communication method instead of a new acronym no one knows?

I don't think politeness and length of message really correlate.

"Can I marry your daughter?" "Sorry, no" or "Sorry, no, she's already married" isn't less polite inherently than a 30 page screed about how you would rather just give her a shotgun to kill herself instead of torturing her like that, etc.

In fact, my shorter replies are usually my most polite. I think there is a point where it gets too short (single word answers, like some of pg's answers on hn, might be below the lower bound).

>"Can I marry your daughter?" "Sorry, no" or "Sorry, no, she's already married" isn't less polite inherently than a 30 page screed about how you would rather just give her a shotgun to kill herself instead of torturing her like that, etc.

Counter-examples aren't a very good denial of correlation though. Sure, you can come up with examples of long replies and short replies where the longer reply is less polite, but that doesn't say anything about the general trend.

If you could get some SEO happening for VSRE it would be very much appreciated. Hyperlinking to your post every time I want to use VSRE would be very time consuming.

If it means "very short reply OK" why isn't it VSRO? "Expected" almost sounds too demanding to me...like you'll actually be disappointed if I write a little more.

"Very short reply Welcome" VSRW was discussed elsewhere to make clear that it is an invitation but not an expectation.

I like this too, I might start using it but with a text expander so others don't reply asking what the hell it means.

+1 this sounds nicer.

I'd want to maintain the French aspect, esp if it's an alternative to RSVP....

Strictly: Très courte réponse attendue. My preferred: Tout courte réponse attendue.

So maybe TCRA instead of VSRA...?

Dear god, why? That's just cargo culting.

"tout courte réponse" is not correct french, "very short reply expected" would translate to "très courte réponse attendue", but lucky you, it starts with the same letter. "toute courte réponse" would be roughly acceptable, but more familiar language.

I like VSRE for composition as well as response efficiency.

Many email guides recommend short emails. But it can take more time to craft a pithy missive than a longer explanatory FYI note with a question at the end that needs responding to.

I'm not suggesting that we don't take care in writing emails, but no one wants to spend all day editing emails to some arbitrary standard of brevity anymore than they do answering them.

VSRE. Brilliant convention.

The most viral/popular acronyms are easily pronounceable, I think. Acronyms like lol, rofl, afaik, imho etc. Not that you go around saying them all the time, but you can easily pronounce them in your own head so I think they tend to stick there and flow into your text easily. Maybe something along the lines of "sro" (short reply ok) would be better ...

I fail to see how "vis-ree" is any harder to pronounce thatn "roff-ull", "af-ack", or "em-ho"

You pronounce lol, rofl, afaik, imho? Talk about awkward.

how else would we say "roflcopter"?

I never say AFAIK aloud, but I do always pronounce it "a fake" in my head when typing.

Rofl I've always pronounced (on the rare occasions that I do), as rhyming approximately with 'waffle".

How do you pronounce "RSVP"?

Aresveepee, obviously. Rolls off the tongue.

Viyesaro? I'm tempted to put an accent on the last "o"...

Edit: um, viyesaree. Someone suggested VSRO elsewhere, for "very short reply OK" and I liked that a lot better, apparently.

"rizvup" according to a Charlie Brown cartoon -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRLhfL1UZoM#t=432s

I guess VSRE is a very appropriate method to skip the social formalities and discomforting feeling it brings along with it. Some people (like me) like to keep it brief and to the point, rather than pulling strings of over-politeness. It doesn't mean we are rude or something, its just that we are comfortable with this way of interaction at work place.

Another initiative along a similar vein that I tried for a while is called 5Sentences: http://five.sentenc.es/

I have tried to adopt the principle now, without including it in my footers.

In the environment that I'm in something like this would be great if everyone could adopt it - very few would in reality.

At work, where everyone uses Outlook, I often just set up a "poll" for this (even for only 1 recipient - it's only a couple of clicks). It does rely on me being able to guess what their answer will be, but for things like "Please confirm you'll meet deadline X", it's fine.

Obviously, this doesn't work in non-homogeneous environments.

IMHO "Very Short Reply Expected" makes it sound like an answer longer than ~5 words is not welcome. I think it ought to be more inclusive so that in case there is more to say you still feel welcome to do so. Maybe something like SRW for "Short response welcome"…?

If a sales/business dev guy sent me a unsolicited message promoting their latest ad delivery platform or obscure SAAS solution, with VSRE at the end of his message - I would definitely view his approach in a better light.

But, likely my response would still be: "No."

Which, despite the "VSRE," would probably still come across as douchey. I don't think the op's idea would actually even work in practice, because the recipient still isn't communicating that what they are saying is polite. For all the sender knows, they could still be saying it gruffly.

Smilies can accomplish what the author intended.

    "Can't, busy this week"

    "Can't, busy this week :("
If you don't mind looking like a wuss.

Should there be an RSVW (welcome) as well as an RWVE (expected)? i.e. RSVE I'd interpret as "I don't have time to read long replies" whilst RSVW I'd read as "I'm happy for your response to be brief, but if you prefer verbose knock yourself out".

Add "Sent from my iPhone/Android Phone/etc" as the signature for all of your emails, not just your mobile ones. With it, a short reply is socially acceptable, and you are able to give brief answers.

My circle uses NNTOOR in the subject line, plus the text being communicated (No Need To Open the email Or Respond (everything's in the subject line).

It's awesome to zip through 10 NNTOOR emails in one minute!

VSRE is implied in twitter or SMS simply because the length of the message is limited. Maybe we could introduce replies without bodies for emails? RWB? also know for "Royal Winnipeg Ballet"

This is awesome, thanks for the suggestion, I can see myself using this quite often. If I don't need more than a VSR, now I can indicate that to the person.

Very Long HN Thread Expected to discuss VSRE to death.

The only thing I'd change with this is 'E' to 'O' for OK. "Expected" is just a bit too pushy. What if I don't want to reply at all?


Seriously though, I'd rather have this built into an email system than relying on people to start understanding and following acronyms.

Well, we already understand and follow RSVP, and that's not even English.

I suppose I meant new acronyms. It's certainly not impossible, as you have pointed out, but I don't have high hopes for people. Hell, most people can't understand how REPLY ALL works. On the other hand, if they were using an email client and it literally would not let them type a long response, that would be foolproof.

That developed organically over many years. RSVP is an now a valid (if peculiar) English word.

Could you elaborate on "developed organically" and "many years"? It seems apparent to me that at some point, someone used the word RSVP for the first time without explaining what it meant. Perhaps by "developed organically" you mean "it happened so long ago that it seems natural now?"

No, I do not mean that it happened so long ago that it seems natural now. I mean that no one ever had to force it unnaturally, unless in the context of a larger and stricter school of etiquette such as the court of Louis XIV in France.

The meaning of the term RSVP was precise and encapsulated well before the word "RSVP" ever came into being. "Please Respond" is a common and well-understood expression for an invitation and RSVP is merely a shortcut and clever reference to specific school of French etiquette that used the phrase "respondez s'il vous plait."

In contrast, VSRE encompasses both a new form of etiquette and a new acronym that doesn't reference anything special.

Under what situation would a short reply not be acceptable?

Seems to me that VSRE/VSRO telegraphs what should be known anyway. I don't like it.

Or you could finish with "A simple yes or no is fine" and prevent the recipient from having to googling an acronym.

How about a friendly footer: “Short, one or two word replies are not only ok, they are much appreciated!”

And in reply MVCE (Many Verbose Comments Expected).

I sometimes end emails/IM questions with "Yes/No?"

I'm a fan! I'll be using this.

I just VSRE anyways.


Do you still beat your wife? -VSRE


good idea

In the early days of the telephone, there was some debate about the proper way to start and terminate a discussion.

Many were fond of starting a discussion with 'ahoy', ending with 'that is all'. Alas, 'hello' and 'goodbye' won the competition.

That is all.

Fun fact of the day, in the Simpsons Mr. Burns always answers the phone 'Ahoy-hoy,' which was Alexander Graham Bell's preferred greeting.

Now that I know this I am _very_ angry that 'ahoy' and 'that is all' didn't carry the day.

Never mind what carried the day -- I'm adopting this protocol starting now, convention be damned!



not trying to be rude or to troll the author, but how does a post about a personal acronym make it to the front page? HN's little mysteries :)

now just waiting for those downvotes...

Because, honestly, that's the least uninteresting post as of this minute. At least it beats the umpteenth post about EmberJS/AngularJS/EmberJS-vs-AngularJS/. IMHO FWIW YMMV etc.

Because we all deal with the too much email problem. Here's a nice solution. However, that solution won't be understood or used until it gets a critical number of eyeballs etc.

A) Weekends are slow news days

B) It's one of those ideas that combines a very common problem with a very simple solution.

You could probably call it a meat-level communication hack or something.

I like it, but I'd probably use it in the subject line. Similar to how some people use <EOM> to signal that an email has no body.

Now let's see if it gains traction.

Also, if you write "EOM" in the subject, GMail won't complain about sending an email with no body.

I still end up having to explain eom half the time.. kind of kills the intended brevity.

I wonder if we could also request a RAQE without being rude.. (response to all questions expected). My pet email hate.

"I still end up having to explain eom half the time.. kind of kills the intended brevity."

this is why i posed the question. how many people can the author honestly expect to reach through hn and twitter or blog to make this new acronym widespread enough to actually save time. if you want a short reply just add it to your signature, "please reply briefly"

The trouble with EOM is that you still need to click on the email you received to un-bold it. EOM or not, you are still opening it.

If you read your email on a desktop, or from the the gmail website I would definitely recommend learning the keyboard shortcuts so you don't have to click. In just a few seconds I can star all the ones in my inbox that I plan to read, and archive the rest including the EOM short mails. I do end up archiving a lot of unread mail this way but that rarely bothers me when searching for old mail.

Check if your client has keyboard shortcuts that can mark-as-read from the inbox summary. I know gmail and gnus both support it.

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