Friday, March 20, 2009

Better Lies for Auto-Replies

I've been auto-replied six times this week. You know, that computer-generated response e-mail that tells you the person to whom you are writing is not in their office, will not return until such-and-such a date, and if you have an emergency you should contact this that or the other person.

Aside from auto-replies being mildly annoying (especially when it comes from someone who just asked me to drop everything to work on and send in something on deadline, and then they're not there to get it) I think they're utterly boring, too. If you're going to have your computer give me the brush-off, why not at least be a little more creative with the wording?

Artistic: When the planets align in the proper formation, my crystals realign my chakrahs and Pices enters the seventh house, I'm sure my muse will be at the level of maximum energy to allow me to compose the perfect organic reply to your e-mail. Until then, I hope you'll respect my process and pray to the Earth Mother for my well-being, as I do yours.

Busy: Look, I can't read this right now. In fact, I'm so swamped I can't remember the last time I went to the bathroom. So give me a couple days and I'll get back to you. Unless I blow out a kidney.

Contrite: I cannot believe that I actually missed your e-mail. What was I thinking, taking this week off to sit by my mother's bedside while she's in ICU? She's a strong old gal, I'm sure she'll live. I am so, so sorry. Believe me, you have no idea. And I won't be able to make it up to you for at least a week. Can you ever forgive me? Say you'll forgive me. Please.

Environmentally Conscious: Sorry I'm not here to answer your e-mail. I'm off trying to reduce my carbon footprint before the polar bears go extinct. Please don't waste any more of our planet's resources by trying to contact me until I get back next Monday, thanks.

Honest (artfully): Hey, thanks for your e-mail. You know, I'd respond personally but I'm in this terrible place right now, and I need some alone time. At least that's what the people at Intervention are telling me. You understand.

Honest (brutally): You again. Jesus Christ, if one more damn person whines at me I swear, I'm getting Daddy's rifle and climbing a water tower. Save some lives and leave me the hell alone for a week, will you?

Incapacitated: Would love to reply to your note, and plan to just as soon as I make bail. And just so you know, those sheep? Were asking for it.

Reassuring: Not to worry, I'm still speaking to you. Just not this week. Pay no attention to those rumors about me putting out my resume and looking to jump ship; I am 100% committed to you. Any calls asking for references are just for a car loan, I promise.

Superior: I'd answer this e-mail, but obviously you're not important enough to bother. Write back when you've achieved a bit more in life. If you ever do.

Tired: They're calling it (yawn) narcolepsy but basically twenty years of (yawn) insomnia just caught up with me. So (yawn) I'll get back to y . . . .zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oddly enough writers never send me auto-replies, or at least none have to date. I don't think that's fair; writers should also have auto-replies for those special days when we just can't get to the e-mail. Something like:

Thanks for your e-mail. I'm busy tearing out my hair over that scene where Lucan confronts Sam over the incident in the nightclub bathroom. You know how it is; he wants to make love; she wants to shoot him with the gun that has copper bullets. It's taking forever to get through this scene, and I think if my dialogue gets any lamer Christ won't be able to heal it. So talk to you when I figure it out or I'm bald, whichever comes first.

Okay, your turn -- how would you word your auto-reply? Let us know in comments.


  1. The blocked author: I'd be happy to answer you, but my writer's block is now so complete that it prevents me from composing to do lists, let alone emails. When I regain the ability to write a complete sentence, I'll get right back to you.

    The buried in authenticity author: I'm sorry but my alternate history world doesn't have computers and since I'm deeply immersed in the story, I can't utilize this timeline's technology until the book is finished. Will reply after I turn the book in.

    The sandbagged by life author: Thanks for your message. I will answer you email as soon as I put out the fire in the kitchen that started when a kid had an emergency while I was cooking dinner. You know how it is. Well, probably you don't. You're organized. These things don't happen to you, so the hell with you, stuff your message, I'm busy here.

  2. For the select few, i have actually gone as far as having auto replies to be specific to the sender. One of them even looks just like one of those emails you get when you put in an address that doesn't exist. It's awesome.

  3. For the text addicted:

    OMG! WTF!?! I thot we clrd ths up. Can't U C I'm wrking. Chk bk in a wk.

  4. Apologetic author: Look, I know you e-mailed me, the damn mailbox crashed. But I'm in a Proustian fugue at the moment, you know? It takes great suffering to see great beauty or something or other? I'm torturing a few characters here, so they understand the internal and external beauty of their personalities. I can't possibly get back to you until I kill someone. I know you understand and I'll get back to you... sometime. Oh, and FYI? Those naked pictures and advertisements for penile enhancement devices don't help.

  5. Anonymous3:32 AM

    Dude. I'm busy. Bite me.

  6. Hi. You’re currently reading an auto-responder for my e-mail.

    Please note that this service has retained serious damage as the result of virtual rejections. So if you left a message with the words “no”, “pass”, or “but” contained within the body of said e-mail, I will not be held legally responsible for your electrocution by circumstances beyond my remote control next time you turn on your computer.
    Have a good day.

  7. The I'm-Just-Not-That-Into-You Author: Wow, this is awkward, but not nearly as awkward as if I'd said it to your face. See, I was just being polite when I let you yammer incessantly in my ear during that workshop. Now that I know your entire life history, I can say with confidence that I have absolutely no interest in you and never will, so to stave off further unwanted interaction, when you asked for my email address, I directed you to this unmonitored account. Find someone else and get on with your life. P.S. I also blocked you on Twitter.

  8. I would respond to your email, but I am so bored right now that responding to you would be to much of an effort.

  9. I was going to suggest that my husband set this for his Out-of-Office Reply last week. But he didn't think it was "appropriate" or "conducive to further employment". Whatever.

    Hi. Costs are up. The economy is down. And the bean-counters have sent all of us on furlough this week. I'll address your issues once they're paying me to again. Thanks.

  10. I'm so sorry my email address was used to spam you.

  11. Anonymous10:25 AM

    LOL Lynn, this is why we love you.

    Mine would say:

    "Maybe I'm here. Maybe I'm not. If I keep this up, you'll never know, and then I won't be automatically expected to reply immediately to every email I receive. Don't you wish you weren't a slave to your computer? Ciao."

  12. Brutally honest works for me.

  13. Anonymous11:50 AM

    The Cover Everything Author:

    If You're My Agent, did you like my proposal? Did you? Huh? Huh? Huh? Call Me.
    If you're My Editor, of course I'm working on the next book And it's on time. Really. I'd love for you to call me but I'm somewhere outside cell range where no one can bother me so I can delve deeply into my characters' motivations. I'll call you...later.
    If you're a reader, yes, (insert character name here) will be getting their own story. Um...soon.
    If you're a review site, sure I'd love to do that 80 question interview. Pencil me in for 2014.
    If you're any of my kids - No I can't babysit or loan you money.
    If you're my husband - pick up dinner on your way home. Luv you big time.

  14. Sorry, can't come to the computer right now. I was doing research and got a little....tied up.

  15. LOL

    I love all of the auto-replies so far. Here's what mine would be:

    You know, I meant to reply to you earlier, but someone started talking to me in the middle of the response and then I had to close the window and do something for them and then someone else came along. See a pattern? Yeah. That's what I thought. So, I'll eventually answer your email when there are no more people around...probably.

  16. The Method Author:

    I'm staying in character for the duration of this editing period. I will not be able to receive your e-mail until I'm back in the Sol System, or I finish the last chapter. Whichever comes first.

  17. Sorry I'm not here to answer your email at the moment. If you lived in the Florida Keys where it's currently sunny and warm, you'd be out on a boat or on the beach, too.

    What irony-- my wv is colde -- as in that was a cold email response?

  18. Lynn, I enjoy your blog everyday so I've nominated you as a recipient of the Sisterhood Award. Thanks for a daily good read. :) You can get details at

  19. If it's not directly related to the murder of my minor character that just won't die, or an agent, please place me on your "do not mail" list.

  20. Can't get on the computer to answer email right now. Should be back in a week or so :D

  21. Brutally honest rocks. Thank you for the laugh. :))

    To get someone's attention: I'm sorry but you have reached the Metropolitan Correctional facilities email. Records show you tried to contact Please leave a message. We assure you that your message is important, and will be received in no less than____3-4____years. Have a nice day! :)

  22. Anonymous8:54 PM

    Author in a blue funk:

    Hello, at the sound of the beep you could leave a message,but why bother? There are already too many messages out there and they aren't very original. All the best messages have already been heard. Yours is probably no different. But if you do choose to ignore my guidelines, send your message by snail mail.

    And please include a S.A.S.E. in case the world ends and I can't find a envelop and a stamp


    Author stuck in revision:






  23. I'm sorry, the voices in my head have taken my email account hostage until I finish their story. The nice men in the white coats should be here soon (unless by some chance I do get the bloody draft finished).

  24. Anonymous1:42 AM

    Author not so much blocked as stumped:

    Look, if you can tell me what happens after Cade wakes up and tells Ally all about his parents' death, I'll reply to your earlier email immediately thereafter. Otherwise, it's gonna be a while.

    And also - I love Lucan. More Lucan.

  25. Busy and Environmentally Conscious - Those are my favorite. You have some interesting lists here... Thanks for sharing! :) I like to read witty things on Mondays!

  26. Anonymous7:15 PM

    Author with young children:

    Sorry for the inconvenience, but nobody told me I'd never again get a moment's peace after I spawned. "I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm bleeding..." I swear, it never ends. But when it does? I'll get back to you.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.