Making Your E-mail Go Further and Do More
E-mail is playing an increasingly important role in business communication, with tens of millions of pieces of mail being transmitted daily. In 1998, the Electronic Messaging Association estimated that by the year 2000, users will send approximately 6 trillion electronic messages. Forrester Research, in a 1996 report titled "People and Technology Strategies," estimated that 60 million Americans were exchanging e-mail and that the use of email would grow tenfold over the next five years.
Elsewhere, Kate Delhagen of Forrester Research noted (in 1998) that e-mail has exploded over the last five years and that within 10 years; over 80 percent of the U.S. population will have an e-mail address.
E-mail is also becoming a problematic form of business communication because of barriers that exist at both the company and individual user levels:
- A lack of common standards and expectations (etiquette) among users
- A need for universally supported software/formatting features
- Security questions (internal, external, encryption)
- Increasing concerns about the document life cycle of e-mail
In addition to the material in this chapter, useful and regularly updated information is available about these and other e-mail topics at various web sites, some of which are cited in Table. Regularly updated information will be extremely valuable because of the rapidly evolving nature of this field.
Lack of Common Standards and Expectations
There are no commonly accepted standards for e-mail that are parallel, for example, to those for business letters. Writers who have style questions about business letters and documents can quickly check commonly available references, such as The Prentice-Hall Style Manual (Mary A. DeVries, Prentice Hall, 1992), The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition (Editors, University of Chicago Press, 1993), or The Gregg Reference Manual, 7th edition (William A Sabin, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 1994). However, guidelines for e-mail are less common and less widely circulated.
This is changing, but the problem of accepted standards remains. Perhaps the best-known and most widely accepted source for standards is Netiquette by Virginia Shea, which is available both in hard copy and on-line http://www.albion.com/netiquette/book/index.html
Maximizing E-mail Communication
Be sure your e-mail messages carry the impact to get the recipients' attention and achieve your intended goal. Table details some frequently encountered problems of e-mail and links them to the writing and editing process. Whether it's making your subject line too vague or forgetting to spell check, you can maximize communication and avoid pitfalls by keeping the writing and editing process in mind when you create e-mail.
Missing or uninformative subject lines are a problem for e-mail senders and readers. Subject lines for e-mail, as for memos, are intended to focus both the sender and the reader: The sender can check the subject line to see if the goal of a memo was met, and the reader can decide when, or whether, to open the incoming message.
Recommendation: Use subject lines that are concise and informative and that highlight the goal of the message or a needed action.
E-MAIL PROBLEMS LINKED TO A WRITING AND EDITING PROCESS