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SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better Paperback – August 24, 2010
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Guest Reviewer: Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses, and is the author of many bestselling books, including Emotional Intelligence and most recently, Social Intelligence.
Poor Michael Brown. During the darkest days of the Hurricane Katrina debacle, Brown, then director of FEMA, the agency that so badly bungled the rescue efforts, sent this email: "Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?"
Emails can come back to haunt us--any of us. Few among us have mastered this medium, and only slowly are we realizing its dangers.
From the earliest days of email people "flamed", sending off irritating or otherwise annoying messages. One explanation for the failure to inhibit our more unruly impulses online is a mismatch between the screen we stare at as we email, and the cues the social circuits of the brain use to navigate us through an interaction effectively: on email there is no tone of voice, no facial expression. When we talk to someone on the phone or face-to-face these circuits would ordinarily squelch impulses that will seem "off." Lacking these crucial cues, flaming occurs.
It's not just flaming--I've sent my fair share of emails that were, in retrospect, embarrassing, too familiar or formal, or otherwise wrong in tone. Email invites these lapses in social intelligence in part because the social brain flies blind. In the absence of the other person's real-time emotional signals we need to take a moment to shift from focusing on our own feelings and thoughts, and intentionally focus on the other person, even in absentia, and consider, How might this message come across?
The peril of being off-key is amplified by the temptation to hit SEND prematurely: before we've thought it over and had a chance to ease up on that too-stiff tone, drop that bit of sarcasm, and remember to ask about the kids.
In the old days of letter writing--a dying art--we had plenty of time to rewrite before sealing the envelope, and so flaming letters were far more rare than red-hot emails. And so the brave new world of email could benefit from a civilizing force, a voice that articulates the ground rules online.
Enter Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, a new book by David Shipley (an old friend of mine) and Will Schwalbe. Send not only articulates the way to win--or keep--friends online, but offers practical tips on both email etiquette and on the writing style most suitable.
In this witty and wise book Shipley and Schwalbe give essential guidance on vital matters like the politics of using Cc (nobody likes to be left out); when to just reply and when to "Reply All"; the danger of the URGENT subject (too many and you cry wolf); fine-tuning your greetings to fit the relationship (if you use the wrong one, you can lose them at hello); how best to apologize online (put the word 'sorry' in the subject or else the email may never be read).
But Send is far more than Miss Manners for the Web; it's brimming with fascinating insights. For example, now that email has become the way we talk, showing up in person has added impact as the ultimate compliment, signifying that the person, meeting or project has special importance for you.
Years ago a slim volume by Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, laid out the ground rules for good writing; the book became a bible for authors, widely known just as "Strunk and White." Send should make Shipley and Schwalbe the "Strunk and White" for the Web. --Daniel Goleman (www.danielgoleman.info)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps more helpful are the suggestions to stop, read, and think before hitting the "Send" command: Check your spelling, punctuation and word choice - is your meaning clear? Cut the fluff. Consider your position in relation to the recipient. Avoid frivolous requests or demands. Understand that everything you write can be permanently saved, searched, and sent to others. Learn how to clean up your hard drive, but understand that corporate backups retain copies of every document and porno pic you've ever sent or received -- except for that one essential document you need.
S & S give much attention to the "To," "Cc" and "Bcc" lines. Here's a helpful suggestion: "Never forward anything without permission, and assume everything you write will be forwarded." When responding to an email addressed and/or copied to a group, should you "Reply" or "Reply all"? The social and political ramifications of such questions get quite a few pages.
The emotional content of email gets some ink too. Flame wars are discussed, as well as the wisdom of using email to fire employees or initiate divorce proceedings. The authors argue convincingly that some messages are best delivered in person, despite the personal risk.Read more ›
Guy Kawasaki called the book "the Elements of Style" of email. I don't believe I'd go that far. It isn't exactly a reference you can pick up again and again. There is some how-to, but don't expect to learn how to manage your email or how to use an email program. Once you read the book through, you are done. I am impressed with their blurbage on the book--Bill Bryson says, "This is just the book I've been waiting for."
There is some good information here about when to send email (and when to phone), how to write an email, the pitfalls of emotion in email, and how to avoid legal trouble. But as an experienced email user, I didn't learn anything new in the book--except that maybe I'm guilty of being a little casual in my communications. Hey! Hey! Hey! That's who I am. :-) :-) :-) :-P
While most of us take emailing for granted (and, unfortunately, never -- or only rarely -- think about how our message might be received at the other end), David Shipley and Will Schwalbe take us behind the electronic curtain to show us that digital yellow-brick roads might well conceal oodles of anti-personnel devices, most of them of our own unconscious design.
"All ye who enter here..." might do well to stand at the portal to the World Wide Web. Unfortunately, there's no such warning. And so, all of us -- too glibly, too happily, too unreflectively -- bound through without first taking the time to learn some basic do's and don't's.
Shipley and Schwalbe have compiled such a list -- and have provided anecdotes and illustrations aplenty to make digesting that list an eminently enjoyable undertaking. If, for example, you should ever experience "a sudden chill in the ether," you need only turn to page 131 to discover a possible source of the temperature drop between you and your pretended e-pal(s).
While "Five Words That Almost Everyone Misuses" (p. 121) certainly wasn't necessary to any reader who's spent a pleasantly sardonic afternoon with Mr. or Mrs. Malaprop, "This Is Annoying How" is the kind of literary circus act that leaves us gasping with delight.
If you're one of those readers who enjoyed Lynn Truss's "Eats(,) Shoots & Leaves" -- not only for its usefulness, but also for its moxy -- "Send" is your kind of book. If you're NOT that kind of reader, buy it anyway -- it may save (you) a friend.
I was most impressed by the authors' own example of email correspondence with their editor. They reprint some terse emails with their editor and discuss the two possible interpretations of his tone and wording (each author had a different interpretation; was the editor insisting that they send some progress notes immediately?). The exchange back and forth perfectly illustrates the way emails might be mis-composed or mis-interpreted, setting up the need for this primer.
Send is a short book full of funny theoretical examples such as Bill Gates composing emails from his microsoft.com address, gatesfoundation address, and his hotmail.com address. It's packed with illustrative examples and practical advice about why email is both so fantastic and so troublesome. (Did you know that 70% of calls end up in voicemail? Why not send an email? When should you call instead?) The double-edged sword of email is how fast it can be composed. Email is appropriately used for everything from informal to formal conversation, so one must be cognizant of the larger context of their email composition.
Authors David Shipley and Will Schwalbe remind us to "think before you send" and to "send email you would like to receive." The book is accompanied by an appendix on deciphering email headers, and full index, and bibliographical notes.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very basic book on emailing and adequate guidance on how to email for effectiveness and to maintain professionalism. I was hoping for more examples on structure and brevity.Published 6 months ago by Lisa Kosak
The book is a great reminder for how to focus on the basics. If we continue to focus on the basics, 80% of all our issues can be solved by them. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Matt
This "IS" likely used as a corporate training guide to email usage. It's also clear why Hillery had a copy of it 'rush' delivered to her after Benghazi and while using her... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Chris E. Thompson
Perfect for users who don't want anyone to see your suspicious, illegal, immoral and/or unethical emails... Read morePublished 9 months ago by King Ed
A: I'm learning not to reply as much to flamers.
Of course, Ms. X always gets the last word, even more than I do. Read more