Bill Hackos, Comtech Services, Inc.

Emails. That wonderful new technology created in the 1980s, coming into general use in the 1990s, is fast becoming a curse. Each of our consulting staff members spends an hour a day (250 hours, or more than one month each year) processing emails. JoAnn spends her evenings and weekends catching up on emails. I recently read about a Bay Area entrepreneur who was receiving more significant emails each day than he could reply to. He built up a backlog of one thousand emails before deleting all one thousand and sending a note to his address list to resend anything super urgent.

That’s not the only problem. Because emails are devoid of the feedback clues we get when communicating in person, on the phone, or even when instant messaging, we can get into trouble as recipients misinterpret our emails.

A new book is coming to the rescue for those of us who need help. SEND: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe (Knopf, 2007) is an excellent little book that should be required reading for everyone who uses email as part of his or her job.

This book contains lots of funny actual and fictitious emails that the authors have received, but more importantly, it gives valuable advice to those who send emails.

The authors start out with the eight deadly sins of email: vague, insulting, incriminating, cowardly, never ending, sarcastic, casual, and inappropriate. They give lots of hints on when to use email and how to compose an email. In the chapter, Anatomy of an Email, they discuss how to use To:, Cc:, From:, Re:, Attachments, font size and color, openings, and signoffs. They give lots of hint about what to do in the body of the email. They discuss in detail how to compose the six essential types of email— the Ask, the Answer, the Facts, the Gratitude, the Groveling, and the Connecting.

Finally the authors explain their acronym, SEND:

  • S stands for Simple. Your emails should be simple and to the point.
  • E stands for Effective. The email should accomplish your goal.
  • N stands for Necessary. If it’s not necessary, it probably shouldn’t be sent.
  • D stands for Done. Are you passing the buck by your email. Is this something you should be doing yourself?

You and your staff should be able to read this little book in an hour or two of time well spent.