Read Before You Hit

Email Photo
Photo by Dr. Antonio Comia — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

There are two things that we all like to do, do with some frequency, and (especially these days) can see them done whenever we want. Yet, no one has ever told us (at least in print) the right way to do them: sex and email.

Now, at least for email, there is a really good guide.

David Shipley and Will Schwalbe have written SEND: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. Shipley, who is the deputy editorial page editor and Op-Ed page editor of The New York Times, and Schwalbe, who is senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books, have created an easy, informative, and clear manifesto for email’s best practices.

Are you wondering if you need to have this book as a handy reference? Simple start: how well do you know the proper uses of: Subject line, To, CC, Reply All, Bcc, EOM, flags, fonts, sign-offs, signings, exclamation points, abbreviations, and when to mimic a lawyer by adding disclaimers? Or, perhaps more importantly, you want that really, really helpful and good to know topic: how to avoid the email that can land you in jail. (Remember the great email sent by an A.H. Robbins’ employee to a colleague about the side effects of the company’s fen-phen diet medication: “Do I have to look forward to spending my waning years writing checks to fat people worried about a silly lung problem?” Most helpful in that civil suit.)

There are sections on writing the perfect email, how to apologize via email, reasons to love email, when not to email, the eight deadly sins of email (seven plus one for technology), and the big moments in email history (from Queen Elizabeth as first head of state to send an electronic message, to John Paul II as first pope to send an email apology, to Britney’s husband-dumping via a BlackBerry message.)

By the way, do you want to know the way to say “@” across 33 languages?

I made a small contribution to the book: in addition to being a close friend of Will’s, my pet peeve is the need to avoid the subject line that never ends — Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: When replying pay attention to the subject line.

This is a book that will make sure your work goes better, and that you get a good night’s sleep. If you read it, and make sure your email circle does the same, no longer will you lose sleep thinking:

    1. Did I really send that?
    2. Did she really mean to respond in that way?
    3. Is that person really such a jerk?
    4. Did I just destroy my ______________? (Insert: art, work, friendship, love, life).

Go ahead, now you can hit Send.

- Bill Reichblum

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