What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Why we need “Send: The Essential Guide to E-mail.”

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

David Shipley (left) and Will Schwalbe.

An old acquaintance sends a frosty, one-word response to your friendly e-mail. A co-worker forwards an inappropriate message to your boss. A slip of the finger and the love letter you were writing goes out to all the executives in your office. Mistakes like these prove that people know how to e-mail, but don’t necessarily know how to e-mail well.

To help the masses navigate the choppy waters of e-communication, Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books and Op-Ed editor of The New York Times, respectively, teamed up to write “Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home” (Knopf). Already considered by some to be the quintessential e-mail handbook, Schwalbe and Shipley use real-life examples from government, the corporate world, and even their own In- and Out-boxes to illustrate common mistakes and offer strategies for avoiding missteps.

Feeling somewhat self-conscious about communicating with the authors via e-mail, I phoned Schwalbe to discuss the importance of e-mail etiquette and tips on how to maintain good online messaging relationships.

What made you decide to write a book on e-mail etiquette?
Dave Shipley and I were having lunch and complaining; we’re old friends and do that a lot over lunch. At some point we noted that almost everything we were complaining about had to do with e-mail; annoying e-mails, e-mail misunderstandings, angry e-mails, and also stupid e-mails we’d sent and the problems they caused.

We came to the realization that while many of us spend a large part of our day reading and sending messages, most of us never stop to think about what we should and shouldn’t be e-mailing. So we set out to write the kind of book we could give our co-workers to improve the dialogue in our offices.

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