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When to Use (and not use) E-mail

The "e" in e-mail means "electronic" NOT "everything," so consider the following before going on e-mail autopilot.

by Ronnie Moore
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The "e" in e-mail means "electronic" NOT "everything," so consider the following before going on e-mail autopilot.

E-mail is an effective communications vehicle when:

  1. Simply downloading and uploading information. E-mail is the cheapest and fastest way to send and receive information, including information, pictures, etc. via attachments.
  2. You need to reach many people at the same time... often at different locations.
  3. The message does not require repeated interaction. E-mail's intended expedience and efficiency is compromised when the communication requires discussion.

E-mail is not effective when:

  1. It is replacing face-to-face communication. And here lies the human disconnect. We need to see each other's eyes. We need nonverbal communication. We need to hear someone's voice (even if it's on the phone).
  2. Conflict needs to be resolved. Without a voice or a face or body language, you have huge potential for misunderstanding. We often say things via e-mail we would not say if we were not safely behind the screen. There are several reasons that conflict resolution should occur in person, or at the very least by telephone, but never via e-mail.
  3. Communicating private/proprietary information. Read your employer's e-mail guidelines. Chances are your employer can read your e-mails at any time. Chances are you can be held responsible for what you originate or what you forward, and you are not held responsible for unsolicited messages you receive. Save the questionable or personal stuff, for your personal e-mail account.

Well-formatted, clear, concise e-mail messages are critical to getting our messages read and getting the responses we need. But before you think about what you're going to communicate in that e-mail, make sure e-mail is the best way to go.


Copyright 2007 Ronnie Moore

Excerpted/recreated from "Why Did I Say That? Communicating to keep your credibility, your cool, and your cash!" by Ronnie Moore