Today's post is the introduction to the book.
"I get email: therefore I am"
- Scott Adams
The art and practice of letter writing goes back more than 7,500 years! Civilizations from both the East and West have left many documents to posterity from the Sumerian ages to Egyptian hieroglyphics to the adages of Confucius through the psalms and biblical epistles up to the Declaration of Independence.
The first known letter is from 5,000 B.C. regarding the purchase of a field in the city of UR (Iraq) owned by a person called Annini.
Canberra Times 5/23/1928
The introduction of the Internet has profoundly revolutionized not only the speed and delivery of mail but the very nature of letter writing and communications. Few question the obvious benefits. However many lament and miss the lack of style, personalization and ability to impact. Personal letters have been supplanted by smiley faces, wild blends of fonts and multi-media attachments. Who can forget a lock of hair, whiff of perfume or memento included in the contents of a letter or the excitement of seeing a friend or loved one's handwriting on a newly arrived envelope?
Although we cannot (as yet) deliver the qualities over email that letters have provided over the millennia, we can maximize the impact that our electronic correspondences deliver in our personal and professional communications. The intent of this book is to provide all of us who rely on electronic content to maximize its benefits and to utilize the power of our modern language without losing the impact of the past.
Today, email is an integral component of business and personal communications. It's often the vehicle for requesting meetings (business and personal), staying informed at work or sending prospective employers one's resume. The list is endless. When people sit down to write an email, they want it to be read. We want it responded to. They want action. Like many things in life all can learn better ways of doing them and using email etiquette (Netiquette) and dramatically improve the likelihood of senders getting the response desired from their emails.
One day, a few years ago, the author of this book was in a stationary store picking up supplies for his daughters. Glancing around, he noticed a spiral notebook which had a cover with a matrix of what he presumed was the Periodic Table of Elements. It seemed reasonable that this would be a more educational item than a plain cover, so he purchased several.
Upon arriving home he was ready to pass the notebooks along when suddenly he noticed that the cover was not what he thought but rather a matrix of internet abbreviations for email and texting. This proved to be disconcerting and was another example of the way electronic communications is affecting so many aspects of everyday routine and changing emphasis on what were common things just a few years ago.
This situation was hardly earth moving but, among other things, it pointed to something more troubling. Many aspects of education, human interaction and information are now dependent upon electronic communication and media. Although this has many positive effects, there are many negative ones as well. This brings us to the major catalyst for this book. The author has been affected by email in many ways which are disconcerting . . . the proliferation of email, the confusion which can result by misuse and this list goes on. One of the areas where the author felt profound change was email etiquette (Netiquette) compared to letter, phone and direct etiquette standards of the past. So started the idea for this work. It is intended to reduce the abuse, lack of reasonable standards and to maximize the positive power of email.
Language and vocabulary trends with email
Email has proliferated at a rate few could have foreseen. One hundred seven trillion (107,000,000,000,000) emails were sent in 2011 and the count is growing significantly year by year. Despite all of the tools and capabilities technology has contributed to provide better content and communication, proper Netiquette and its requisites have declined as quickly as volume and technology have proliferated. Even more alarming is that a huge amount of acronyms, abbreviations and English (or native language) shortcuts are becoming standardized in even the most formal communications.
Websites, dictionaries and lists which focus on these new terms are also growing and competing with traditional reference work websites. Seemingly many users are more interested in learning new acronyms, terms, and phrases. With the lack of standards committees, words are spelled numerous ways, others take on new meaning or characteristics and still others are alternately presented in upper and lower case. Even spell checkers can be different in their spelling of certain words.
At best, the application of email slang does not help writing in traditional English with correct grammar, structure or Netiquette. A single error in an email can ruin highly stylized content or highly structured tone, or other considerations.
Email Netiquette - Why the care?
The capabilities technology has given to email and electronic messaging have dynamically changed how people compose, read and reply to communications. The most obvious of these is the sheer volume of emails sent which are dynamically growing. Many users experience an average of 199 (Osterman Research from "Network World", 1-24-2011) emails a day, more than 40,000 per year. It is important for a sender to understand that even the opening of an email might be questionable. Once an addressee reads (or scans) the mail, will that person reply? Will the same recipient open a subsequent message? Consciously or not, starting with the inbox, each email user begins to rate the quality (essentially Netiquette) of each sender. It is of course, the goal of any sender to successfully deliver their purpose or intent in the emails they send. By employing, consistently, proper care, consideration and Netiquette, this goal is maximized.
How many emails are bad?
With the billions of emails being sent every day, 88% to 92% of these are abusive. (MAAWG) Of those remaining, 50% are misunderstood by the recipient even though 90% of the users believe they are sending clear, properly interpreted communications. (Nicholas Epleiy and Justin Kruger) So less than 5% of all messages deliver the bare essentials of any accurate content. Combined with the probability that another 50% of these contain bad Netiquette and/or multiple mistakes, the final number of "bad" emails approaches 98% If a sender places themselves into this 2% - 4% tier of well executed correspondences, their productivity, success and even prestige will be effectively increased. As email continues to proliferate, the need to present well executed messages will become even more essential.
The trend by many email/text senders has become one where, instead of looking to improve grammar, lucidity, or proper tone, the writer seeks ways to be "fashionably" incorrect. This process of chic incorrectness implies that the sender may know how to write a message properly but, in fact, he/she is regressing into permanent habits which will be more counterproductive in the desired results.
· Gives you an edge over others
· Empowers job interview results and resumes
· Fosters traditional letter writing quality and effectiveness. See the Gettysburg Address then and now (on the following pages)
· A means to incorporate a sense of process to your communications.
Netiquette Last Stand Resisters
There are those who resist, some arrogantly, Netiquette. It is beneath them; they have no time; it's inconvenient, un-cool, they know best.
(Not so) Personal Letters
As briefly mentioned in this book's introduction, the esthetic and emotional impact of personal letters is virtually eliminated by electronic mail. Additionally, many people compromise privacy by utilizing work mail to send and receive correspondence. Many users of their job mail systems are unaware that most businesses have provisions for storage of all messages.
"The art of letters will come to an end before A.D. 2000. I shall survive as a curiosity"
- Ezra PoundHow would famous letters of the past look today? Here is one scenario:
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
- Abraham Lincoln
The Gettysburg Address
TO: The U. S. Congress
CC: US Army
RE: The battle of G'burg
87 years ago the USA was born, so we all would be free. Now we're at war. We just had a big battle and I wanted 2 pay tribute 2 the dead and wounded, of course.
The sacrifices speak 4 themselves and will be remembered. We need 2 make sure we finish the job ASAP. In this we'll free.
God Bless the US.
Although the rewritten Gettysburg Address may seem overly simplified and a bit comical, emails of today produce results similar or even worse. This book is committed to assist all of its readers to take advantage of today's technologies combining them with the positive attributes of traditional communication. By achieving this end, the reader will contribute to their own and others successes.