SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better Paperback – Aug 24 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Despite a subtitle indicating both workplace and domestic e-mail solutions, veteran editors Shipley and Schwalbe get right down to business in the audio edition of their book, shining a bright light on the pitfalls of cyberspace that sabotage careers. Given the brevity of their recording, such focus is practical. Shipley and Schwalbe present their material in an easy conversational style, invoking just enough self-deprecating humor to keep listeners relaxed and grounded without getting off track. They cover a myriad of large and small electronic sins: improper uses of the CC and BCC fields; lack of decorum and deference appropriate to professional relationships; delicate revelations that should only be tackled in a face-to-face encounter; and potentially threatening or offensive language. This is a well-organized defensive driving course for beginners-or recent offenders-traveling the information superhighway in a contemporary office setting. This audiobook belongs on the shelves of resources at college job-placement offices and in corporate training or professional development departments. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 26).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Informative, entertaining, thorough, and thoughtful.” —Dave Barry, The New York Times Book Review
“Read it or weep.” —Michael Lewis
“Handy . . . Written with concision and good sense.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Witty and wily . . . Fun to read.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“With Shipley and Schwalbe’s excellent instructions in hand we can email as confidently as we load the dishwasher and turn on the microwave.” —New York Review of Books
“This is just the book I’ve been waiting for.” —Bill Bryson
“Send can help any of us send emails that build better business relationships and get better results.” —Spencer Johnson, M.D., author of Who Moved My Cheese?
“Witty and wise . . . Send is far more than Miss Manners for the Web; it’s brimming with fascinating insights. . . . [It] should make Shipley and Schwalbe the ‘Strunk and White’ for the Web.” —Daniel Goleman
“Send is an easy to read primer, full of practical tips for every emailer.” —Bob Eckert, Charman and CEO, Mattel, Inc.
“The definitive tome on email. Send is to email what The Elements of Style is to writing. Thank God it’s here at last. (BCC: David Shipley and Will Schwalbe)” —Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start
“A fascinating, entertaining, and, above all, informative look at email—and how it changed the way we communicate with one another. What Strunk and White is to style, this book is to email. It’s a terrific read. I highly recommend it.” —Charles Osgood
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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.
They touch less convincingly on security: An "independent" business leader, subpoened to offer Congressional testimony, was discovered through Word tracking in a document file to have permitted a Bush official to edit his statement. When confronted with the truth, he said, "The real scandal here is that after 15 years of using Microsoft Word, I don't know how to turn off 'Track Changes.' " Scandalous indeed. Unfortunately, S & S go on to instruct their reader on how to turn off tracking and they get it wrong.
The book does discuss some interesting issues. Trouble is, the issues have been endlessly discussed, published, flamed and forwarded online for the past 20 years. Most corporations publish their own email guidelines, often reflecting their distinct corporate culture. I've been using email since it was first available to civilians-1980 I think it was -and for as many years have shared in the online debate. My teenaged daughter, when I asked her about email, said, "I don't know much of a world without email." I reminded her that, as a Waldorf student, she had in fact been protected from the evil influence of computers almost until high school.
She came back with a story published in Reed College's student newspaper, "The Quest": A San Francisco high school, trying to take the edge off college rejections, offered prizes to students with the most rejection letters and the worst letter. Harvard was honored with "most obsequious," Cornell with "most emphatic," but it was an email from Reed College that took "worst overall." The winner had emailed Reed's admissions office to check that all his documentation had been received. In response he got a misdirected interoffice memo that said, "He's a Deny."
So there's no doubt that Shipley and Schwalbe's recommendations remain valuable. As a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and a book that received critical attention from heavy-hitters like Dave Barry, "Send" will find its way to many hands. I bristle at the suggestion that it equals the stature and grace of Strunk and White's "Elements of Style," which will occupy space on my bookshelf till my demise and beyond. But "Send" promises to reach an audience that doesn't know Usenet from fishnet. And that's a good thing.
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.
That's where this book is so important and valuable. It can easily be read in a day or two, but the practices within it, if followed, can change the rest of your career.
The book has a good mix of specific how-tos combined with real-world anecdotes. The anecdotes are hysterical and sometimes strike very close to home. I'm amazed they got so many people to open up so much with their e-mail horror stories. Also, the examples they use of various bad e-mail practices are very funny and keep the book light while still delivering a serious message.
For a little added fun, go check out the video on YouTube of the interviews they did walking the streets and offices of New York.
The one shortcoming of the book? There's not really anything in it about how to keep your e-mail well organized, especially when you have huge volumes of it to contend with, and that typically does have an impact on things like making timely responses to people, doing appropriate follow-ups, etc. For that, I recommend David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity or my book, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors And Closing Deals Online.
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