The good and bad news about email

Email makes junk writers

The good news

The advent of email has transformed communication in the business community. We communicate in both intra and inter office environments as never before. Email has become the communication standard for most businesses. One reason for its popularity is the ease of its use. Another reason we defer to emails and not letters or phone calls to communicate is accessibility. Everyone has email. Many business men and women have several email accounts – one or more for business and one or more for personal use. Another reason email has become such a business tool is its versatility. Most email programs allow users to make, reschedule, maintain, and cancel appointments, maintain appointment calendars, archive emails, filter emails, create rules to handle certain kinds of emails or certain users. Still another reason email has become such a business tool is its capacity. Email has almost no limits, either to length of content or number of recipients.

The bad news

Email makes people junk writers.

Toss out the grammar. Deep-six the style. Forget the rules. Spelling? Who cares! “We gotta get this email out by Noon!

Following is a real email written by a manager in a large Fortune 500 company to others in his organization.

“They are many problem cause by the current company Tat their server was down and cannot be recover the lost data.Run out od disk space,Virus entry into system,System asministrator and system engineer push job to each other.Not cooperative and update system without informing each other,user take to long to access application over the network..No contract maintenance agreement from the vendor as onli the vendor can reslove the problem.No 1 track OS,software and application upgrade,administrator don’t bother to documenting them.”

What would you guess was the company’s industry? Communication.

Yes, really!

True, most emailers do not write like the manager above; but many folks take shortcuts with email. They write in fragments, clipped phrases, and acronyms. They misuse grammar and pretend spelling rules don’t exist. Email gives folks a sense of freedom to use shortcuts and jargon and forget their audience.

It is true that many (but certainly not all) email recipients understand the jargon and the shortcuts. They know what words acronyms represent, and they understand clipped phrases. They speak jargon to each other every day. The lack of formal communication is common place in many cubicle business environments.

Despite this common knowledge problems arise when those same business folks communicate to others outside their business environs–others who don’t “speak the lingo.” Follow up emails often become necessary to clarify the original emailer’s intent.

Another problem occurs when emailers try to explain too much. An email is, in reality, a blank slate that can accommodate thousands of words. Some emailers go to great lengths to get their message across because email programs offer easy, flexible and forgiving ways to send as much text and explanation as the emailer can write.

Although email has become the single most common means of communication for both inter and intra office communication, email also encourages many emailers to neglect most of what they ever learned about grammar, sentence structure, style, spelling and punctuation. It has created an unappealing glut of junk writers who pay little if any attention to their readers.

The solution? I wish by some Divine revelation I would receive discernment, or a brilliant and clever idea to resolve this dilemma for businesses. Such a solution might enable me toss my laptop into the Chatahoochie and forget about work for good. Unfortunately, no Divine revelation has occurred. I have no clever ideas. I have seen email newsletters and seminars advertised online that promise real solutions and professional training guaranteed to resolve all the problems that occur as a result of junky email writing.

I do offer two suggestions, common sense solutions, really, to most email problems.

1) Before you send an email, read it. You’ll catch many if not most of your mistakes.
2) Use spellcheck. I don’t know of an email application that doesn’t have one.

Junky emails, in my view, are symptomatic of a much larger dilemma — the deterioration of the American English language as a treasure. All its grammar and spelling rules and style conventions make English one of the most expressive and beautiful languages on earth. And email can turn it into junk faster than you can say, “spam.”

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