Communicating in an Electronic Age

The advent of electronic mail has expedited business communications — but at a great cost to clarity and basic business etiquette. Many electronic messages reach their destinations in a state of linguistic chaos, lacking the traditional hallmarks of good business correspondence: a clear purpose, logical organization, and appropriate punctuation and mechanics.

Despite the conversational feel of much computer-based communication, email is a written form and should therefore observe many of the conventions associated with traditional business letters and memos. This book considers these conventions while also addressing issues new to a world of increasingly electronic interactions — for example, copying, forwarding, and other technological capabilities.

Although it is often treated as conversation, email is not conversation, and people who use email for business communications must always remember: email endures. Unethical or inappropriate email messages can do significant damage not only to the sender’s reputation, but also to the reputation (and perhaps balance sheet) of the sender’s employer. Used wisely, though, email can be a powerful, efficient communications tool to inform, influence, inspire — and, ultimately, to advance one’s career. The goal of this book is to help emailers realize the full potential of their electronic business communications. 

There are certain email topics this book does not cover. For example, it does not address technical aspects of emailing, such as choosing between HTML and plain text, nor does it cover email marketing strategies. Also, keep in mind that the following discussion concerns professional email habits, not personal ones (though quite a few parents and grandparents would be pleased to see recommendations from this book implemented in the email messages they receive from their younger relatives!).

This book is not intended to replace or override your company’s specific policies on email use. Heed your employer’s email requirements and guidelines, and be sensitive to your unique organizational environment, as email culture can vary from one company to the next.