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Miss Manners: Early morning email doesn’t have to wake you up

Dear Miss Manners: I just received a sharp rebuke from a co-worker for sending him a personal email (following up on a prior conversation) at 5:45 in the morning. His reply stated only that “this exchange should not occur before 7 a.m.”

I was taken aback by the tone of his reply. I have never exchanged emails with him outside of business hours before. Presumably, his smartphone alerts him of incoming email and my message disturbed his sleep.

I hadn’t anticipated this – I may be old-fashioned, but I still think of email as a desktop activity. Should I apologize for this apparent intrusion?

Gentle Reader: It used to be that surprise, late-night house calls were understood to be limited to those who could expect to be welcomed with open arms. Exceptions were made for emergencies, warrants and comic figures in Shakespeare plays.

But nocturnal knocks on the door and emails are not the same thing. You did not expect your co-worker instantly to act upon – or even to see – the early-morning email, any more than you would have expected an immediate response to a posted letter.

That the mail came early and set the dog barking, which in turn woke up the baby, who toddled down the stairs to the kitchen, terrifying grandma, who spilled her coffee, is not your responsibility.

That said, the best answer to your co-worker is to apologize and gently say that you were having the same problem until you discovered that it was possible to mute the sound announcing new emails on your phone.

Money talk

Dear Miss Manners: When interviewing for a job, is it considered bad manners to ask how much the job pays? Ironically, it is not bad manners for the employer to ask how much you have earned in your previous jobs.

Do you see a problem with this practice? Isn’t the real question how much are both parties willing to agree upon in the business relationship?

Gentle Reader: Your tone suggests a certain impatience with Miss Manners, who is forced to point out in her own defense that her only action, thus far, has been to read a letter addressed to her.

Who says that it is bad manners to ask how much a job pays? Certainly not Miss Manners. Bans about discussing money in personal situations do not apply in the business world.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin. Send questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.