How I Email: Margot Boyer-Dry, Founder, Lorem Ipsum

Email is a non-negotiable part of everyday life. For some, it’s an unruly time suck, but enlightened email users have systems to ensure they’re not a slave to the inbox. We’re asking smart thinkers to give us a peek inside their inboxes, share tips, ideas, gripes, and everything in between.

We riff on email with Margot Boyer-Dry, founder and author of the Lorem Ipsum newsletter, which covers culture. Named a newsletter you’ll actually be glad to see in your inbox by WNYC, Margot’s distinctive tone reads like an email from your edgy, but ever-so-with-it cousin from Brooklyn (which is why we figured she’d make for a fun interview). Margot, who is in constant email contact with readers, says a full inbox is like a “box of treasures.”

This interview has been edited. 

What does your daily email routine look like?

I don’t think I have a routine. I kind of respond as emails come in. I probably would benefit from a routine.

All the Inbox Zero people I know are mathematicians, or at least quantitative people. I’m not that. If you are a person who needs stuff in view to remember to do it, leave your inbox full! Keep those unread to remind yourself that you have to do something about them. I think that’s totally legitimate.

I’m a creative person, therefore I get to have a messy inbox. I don’t lose stuff; I’m a responsible responder, and I think it’s okay. Welcome to the club– no more inbox shaming.

With email as the foundation of your business, how does that affect your email habits?

Since I started having a business on email, email has become more of the foundation of how I consume things. So that means I use Instagram less, Facebook less, even Twitter less. But also I’m just kind of a word person, which means that even if it’s just Twitter over Instagram, that’s a truth. I use email to remind myself of things; email is both my communication place and kind of my to-do list.

You do a lot of email back-and-forth with your readers. Tell us a little about those exchanges.

People respond to the newsletter either when something resonates with them or when I ask a question.

For example, I recently wrote about cell-cultured meats and how it’s getting ready to go to market,– that’s just meat grown in a lab without any animal, but it has the same chemical structure as animal meat. And they’ve people in charge have done a survey, and the best they can come up with, as a name, is “clean meat,” which is not a very useful term. It doesn’t say what the thing is, and it’s kind of offensive because it implies that other meat is dirty. And so I asked, for instance, “What should we be calling this?”

Other times people will send me stuff they’ve read or a note of appreciation. The newsletter ends up being a locus of a bunch of really cool kind of pen-pal relationships that happen sporadically.

I wanna know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it. That’s the point of the newsletter anyway — what people are doing and why.

Seems like that could add up to a whole lot of emails. Some people might look at all those emails requiring a response and just think, Ugh. What’s your reaction?

A lot of the time I view a full inbox as a box of treasures because there’s usually cool stuff in there.

If I don’t know what I’m going to say in response to emails, those ones are stressful. I guess it depends on if I have a general read on what’s in there, sometimes that can be like, “I don’t even wanna touch this.”

What’s one of the most memorable emails you’ve received?

Oh, man. I don’t know. I’m bad at favorites. That’s like picking who is the most beautiful person in the world. There are so many beautiful people. So many good emails.

In the newsletter, I recently asked people to share stories about their commute horror stories and being late. I got a ton of interesting emails: this one girl got lost for like an entire day in Germany; some other dude, was slipping up an icy hill carrying a bike with no shoes or something; somebody else got puked on on the train — that’s terrible.