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AfriGeneas Genealogy Technology Forum

The Essential Guide to EMAIL

E-mail, for all its efficiency, often fails to achieve its intended result; a vague or carelessly worded message can cause major problems — personal, legal and financial — for senders and receivers. Helping you avoid these problems is the goal of “Send,” an informative, entertaining, thorough and thoughtful book. The authors are media veterans — David Shipley is deputy editorial page editor of The New York Times; Will Schwalbe is editor in chief of Hyperion Books — with extensive, and not always positive, experience sending and receiving e-mail. They summarize their essential message in two rules: “Think before you send” and “Send e-mail you would like to receive.”

These rules may seem obvious, but both are deceptively easy to break in our rapid-fire, multitasking world. Many of us, especially if we have handheld e-mail devices, routinely process e-mail while engaging in other activities such as walking, talking, eating and even (you know who you are) driving. I am not proud of this, but I have processed e-mail while accompanying my 6-year-old daughter on the “Small World” ride at Disney World. These are not ideal conditions for thoughtfulness. It’s impossible to concentrate fully on your e-mail when you’re distracted, especially by animated dolls shrieking about international understanding. You’re going to get careless; you’re going to make mistakes in both content and tone.

And there are many, many mistakes to be made. In “Send,” Shipley and Schwalbe describe in detail the alarming array of ways you can botch e-mail even before you start writing the message. These include using a misleading or meaningless subject (“Re: Re: Re:”); addressing the e-mail to the wrong recipients, or too many of them; putting somebody in the “To” list who should be a “Cc” or vice versa; and misusing the sneaky “Bcc” and “Forward” commands, which can easily cause a confidential message to become very public indeed.

The authors also touch on a pet peeve of mine: people who abuse the “Reply All” command. Perhaps you are one of them. You receive a message addressed to many recipients — often a much-recycled joke, story, list, urban myth, etc. There are millions of these floating around; many of us simply delete them unread. But you, the “Reply All” abuser, read it and decide to respond with some clever comment of your own (such as “LOL”). And instead of hitting “Reply,” which would inflict your reply only on the sender, you hit “Reply All,” thereby forcing everybody on the recipient list to receive, and delete, yet another useless piece of e-mail. Please do not take this personally, “Reply All” people, but: everybody hates you. We hate you almost as much as we hate the people who mass-mail this Internet sludge in the first place.

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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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