DEAR MISS MANNERS: My email address is apparently very similar to that of a woman who doesn't remember hers very well. I periodically get emails that are intended for her from her various friends and relatives.
Even reading the subject lines of these emails tends to make me fume -- they are racist, offensive, and completely the opposite of my political beliefs.
I know the correct thing to do is probably just to ignore the emails or send a one-line response about the email address being wrong (which I have done), but is there any way I can also convey that the emails are completely offensive?
I guess it's hopeless to make people change their views, but barring that, how do I get over my own anger triggered by these emails? Sometimes finding one and realizing that people out there believe such terrible things can ruin my whole morning!
GENTLE READER: In the pre-email days, it was understood that it was impolite to open another person's correspondence even if it was, mistakenly, laid at your doorstep.
This was not always observed; it is all too easy to slice open an envelope without proofreading the addressee. But in those cases, etiquette dictated that the fiction be maintained that the contents remained private.
The same applies to email even if you only learn of the misdirection by reading the subject line. Following the older form -- in which it was acceptable to reply coldly, "Please be aware that Mrs. Pence no longer resides at this address" -- you may answer: "Please update your address book. Your subject line can be considered offensive, and as the email was not intended for me, I wish to avoid any future misunderstandings."