ShiSend 07-08-84


The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home



David Shipley and Will Schwalbe

Alfred A. Knopf, 2007, 245 pp., ISBN 978-0-307-26364-3



The secret is, of course, to think before you click. Send is a survival guide, filled with helpful lessons, a bit funny, and e-ssential. (adapted from the flyleaf)


One of email's stealthiest characteristics is to simulate forward motion, giving a feeling of action when nothing is happening. (7)


The great goal: email that is so effective that it cuts down on email! (7)


"On email, people aren't quite themselves: they are angrier, less sympathetic, less aware, more easily wounded, even more gossipy and duplicitous."  (10) 


Deadly emails can be vague, insulting, cowardly (You're being let go.), unending (Re: Re: Re: Re), sarcastic, too casual, or inappropriate. (13)


"How you send something can have a profound impact on what you're sending.  Your method of delivery sends a message of its own." (15)


Conveying an emotion, handling a delicate situation, and testing the waters are usually done better by voice. (23)


"Email is both so intimate and so easy that it makes unwise actions far more likely…." (24)


"Rule: When it comes to outgoing messages, don't assume instant familiarity." (26)


Every email is an interruption.  A letter is less intrusive. (27)


"The ease with which an email can be forwarded poses a danger."  [Don't we all know it?! dlm] (27)


"Rule: Never forward anything without permission, assume everything you write will be forwarded." (28)


Never use an email to check references.  You can't hear the pauses or strains in the voice. (40)


Job interviews, performance appraisals, job firings, and marriage proposals are among the obvious things that should be done in person. (50)


"Never do anything electronically that you would want others to do to you in person." (51)


"When I send an email to one person, there's a 95 percent chance I'll get a reply.  When I send to ten people, the response rate drops to 5 percent.  When you add people, you drastically decrease the exclusivity and make people feel they don't need to read the email or do what you ask." (56, quoting Patrick Lencioni)


"What a cc says is simply this: I want you to know what's going on, even though you probably don't have to do anything about it."  (62)


Blind copies are sneaky things.  Handle with extreme care.  Don't talk behind the backs of the people you work with.  But, on rare occasions, Bcc's are a way of signaling faith in your colleague, if you value his/her confidence. (74)


"Cc: I want you to know and I want the others to know that I want you to know.

Bcc: I want you to know and I DON"T want the others to know that I want you to know." (77)


"The Subject line is the most important, most neglected line in your email." (78) 


Some useless subject lines: What to do?; ?????; Re:; FYI; Two things; Great news; Urgent; Tomorrow; Status; How is this? Quick question; We would like your assistance. (79)


Here's a BAD example of an actual email.  Note how the enthusiastic Subject is deflated in the email:

"To: All Employees

 From: H.R.



The Friday before Memorial Day weekend is a full working day.  If you leave early, you need to mark it as a vacation day."  (86)


Do you really need the attachment?  Can you put the material in the body of the email?  If you do send an attachment, tell in the message what's in it. (88)


Avoid all these symbols: Urgent, Notify Sender, and Follow-up Flag.  Let the email speak for itself. (92)


Fonts.  Don't allow the font style to overwhelm the message.  Use black: it's easiest to read.  Twelve-point type is the norm for business.  Don't use backgrounds or wallpaper: neither is appropriate for a serious message. (96)


Use titles but avoid Ph.D.  Address people as "Dear."  Don't be too familiar or rude.  (99)  Don't be inappropriately formal or informal.


Your signature tells others how you want to be addressed. (111)


Vocabulary conveys tone - formal, casual, literal, figurative, precise, vague understated, exaggerated, simple, prosaic, etc.  Some words are safer than others. (116)  Be vivid and specific but write according to your relationship with the receiver. (117)


Don't use words if you don't know what they mean.  You can embarrass yourself. (121)  Poor spelling can change the entire meaning of the message. (123)


Simple, short, repetitive grammar intensifies. (127)


Thank you is appropriate after someone does you a favor but snotty before. (128)


Punctuation can be important.  Compare No thanks to you. with No. Thanks to you. (129)


Keep paragraphs short.  Don't bury the key point.  Don't fear white space. (130)


CAPITAL LETTERS indicate shouting.  Generally we don't like to be shouted at.  Unless there is a celebration! (132) 


Regarding requests. 

"Email makes it easier than ever before to fire off requests.  With the click of a mouse, you can ask anybody to do just about anything.  This is not such a good thing." (141)


Put something attention-grabbing in the Subject line.  Make your request early in the email.  Be brief.  Be specific.  When you are asking an important question, don't bury it.  Keep it to one sentence.  Be straightforward.  Be polite.  Follow up, but gently.  (143-153)


Resolving differences.  "It's always worth replying promptly and with special cheerfulness to people with whom you've had misunderstandings or difficulties in the past." (161)


Thanks.  Email is a terrific way to thank people for small things.  For big things call or write a letter. (167) 


Apologies.  Three cardinal Rules for apologizing for a mistake you made on email:

       1.  Email got you in trouble, but it probably won't get you out of trouble.  Fall on your sword and get on the phone.

       2.  Don't blame email.  You sent it.

       3.  Pray that the wounded person has made a similar error and may therefore forgive. (173)


Emotions.  Email makes us impetuous!  Be careful.  "Strong emotions are beasts that are hard to control when let out on the page or screen…." (175)  "Sarcasm may be a less direct form of anger, but it's still anger." (186) 


"In case you were worried, there is no proof that email makes you stupider." (193) [But it sure provides the opportunity for a whole lot more people to discover it! dlm]


"If you're going to be mean, it's best not to do it on email, for practical reasons as well as cosmic ones." (195)  "If you wouldn't make the comment to the other person's face and stick around for the response, you probably shouldn't put it in an email. (198)


Email is not ephemeral.  It's easily made public and it can live forever.  "And it's not just your job you can torpedo--what you put in email can help sink a whole company.  Think Enron." (199)


"Email has a special ability to make it look as thought you're breaking the law even when you're not." (200) 


"Nothing bad can happen if you haven't hit the Send key."  "If you haven't sent it, you still have time to fix it." (217)  Use this acronym for proofreading:

       S - Simple

       E - Effective

       N - Necessary (if not, delete it)

       D - Done (how will you follow up?)  (218)


Final Word: Give grace to the other guy and be hard on yourself. [dlm paraphrase] (222)



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