Concluding Thoughts on Email

In the 1990s, email very quickly changed the way people communicated with one another. It is not surprising that some of the social and cultural protocols surrounding email use are still evolving, as such developments tend to lag behind the technological innovations that inspire them.

Unlike memos and business letters, which have historically been associated with a certain amount of professional decorum, email continues to enjoy widespread use as a personal tool to connect emailers with family and friends. Many users of electronic mail become accustomed to a casual, intimate style and have difficulty switching to a more professional mode of communication.

For work-related email, the best approach is in some ways a look to the past: treat your email with the same care you would give a printed, mailed letter or a companywide memo. Especially for important messages, consider your structure carefully, revise thoroughly, print, proofread, reread, and, if necessary, revise, print, and review again.

In addition, think twice before taking advantage of the technological innovations afforded by email. For example, if you are contemplating copying someone on a message, consider whether you would still copy that person if doing so required a trip to the copy machine, an envelope, and a stamp.

By applying old-fashioned attentiveness to modern technological tools, you should be well equipped to realize the full power of electronic communications in the twenty-first century.