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Is email a curse or a blessing?

By: Theresa Pugh

Published On: October 9, 2014

According to authors Shipley and Schwalbe, Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to do it Better, there are many reasons to love email and an equal number of reasons to think before you hit the send key.

To this end, the authors devised the acronym S.E.N.D.

Send button, 3d red vector.


S stands for Simple

E stands for Effective

N stands for Necessary

D stands for Done

Ask these questions before sending an email, especially if you are prone to act before you think.

“Does email inspire us to commit to writing our wildest emotions, allowing them to escape into the outside world where they can sometimes do real damage?”

Yes, it does claim the authors. Research suggests that anger, sarcasm and duplicity are big culprits.

The authors point out that expressing anger tends to upset the social structure. There is a time and place, of course, to express genuine anger, but the time and place is not in an email exchange as this often personal message can reach a much wider audience. The truth is: email gives an illusion of safety and creates a false barrier, which can allow emotions to flow unhindered

When it comes to sarcasm, the authors note that it is a less direct form of anger, but it is still anger. They suggest that in almost all cases the decision to use sarcasm in an email should be abandoned. One of the reasons for this is that detecting sarcasm isn’t always easy. They add:

“Sarcastic statements draw on social cues that allow the listener to infer a meaning that is often at odds with the content. As such, understanding sarcasm requires an ability to perceive nonverbal emotional signals from others.”

Duplicity, according to the authors, is a sin of commission. People do things when they think they can get away with them, and this includes sending emails that would be better left unsent and unwritten. In conclusion, the authors suggest that staying out of trouble with emotionally volatile emails is not that difficult: if you wouldn’t say it directly to the person, don’t write it in an email.

In summary, the authors list The Eight Deadly Sins of Email.

  1. The email that’s unbelievably vague – do that thing. (What thing?)
  2. The email that insults you so badly you have to get up from your desk. (There is no excuse to be insulting in print).
  3. The email that puts you in jail – could be insider stock trading – not a good idea.
  4. The cowardly email – companies apparently do email notices of dismissal.
  5. The email that won’t go away – using repetitive re: followed by re: and re: again.
  6. The email that just oozes sarcasm.
  7. The casual email which isn’t appropriate for a business setting
  8. The inappropriate email filled with sexual innuendo.

And the best reason to love email? It’s one of the best ways to quickly exchange essential information.


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