Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Art of E-Mail Writing, Part 1

The next six postings will feature excerpts from my latest book on writing, The Art of E-Mail Writing, which will be released in September 2007 by First Books ( Each posting will highlight one of the six book chapters. The Art of E-Mail Writing makes a great companion piece to The Art of On-the-Job Writing by applying the same principles of writing excellence to e-mail.


The assumptions that e-mailers make create many problems for readers. E-mail is easy. E-mail is casual. E-mail is fast. E-mail is responsive. E-mail is fun. True, true, true, true, true. But e-mail is also writing. No doubt, executives and administrative assistants alike recognize that e-mail saves business writers time. The New York Times reported that electronic writing can mean an additional one to two hours of productive time daily. But writing requires a certain precision not always required by speaking. Writing cannot replicate speech. Yet, according to Time magazine, e-mail messages numbered 7.1 billion per day in 1997, and that number skyrocketed to 135.6 billion per day in 2005, with estimates of 280.2 billion per day in 2009!

Sending and receiving numerous e-mails every day, the average employee seems to have a lot to write and read. But what exactly are all those messages saying? Not much, says a Wall Street Journal article citing managers who often claim that only 10 of the 100-plus e-mails they receive daily have a purpose related to their needs or job function.

When we open our e-mail account, we have enormous power. The challenge for us is to balance this privilege with the enormous responsibilities accompanying it. We need to safeguard against the consequences of careless writing, and we must ensure that we are consistently presenting our best selves in our e-mails.

To purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo, click here:

Coming Soon! The Art of E-Mail Writing by Philip Vassallo, also through First Books: