e-mail survey

Subject: e-mail survey
From: Christopher Miller <cmmiller -at- BRAHMS -dot- UDEL -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 21:55:06 -0500

Thanks again to all who responded to my e-mail survey. Here's the paper
that I wrote for my rhetoric class. My professor limits us to 1 page:


Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 14:30:00 -0500 (EST)
From: Christopher Miller <cmmiller -at- brahms -dot- udel -dot- edu>
To: Multiple Users . . . <techwr-l -at- vm1 -dot- okstate -dot- edu>
Subject: electronic text

Seems like everyone's using e-mail these days. People who can
access the Internet from their office can communicate electronically
with the world. Is e-mail just a new delivery system for the same old
business documents, or has it become a new way of communicating?
An informal survey of technical writers provides information that
helps to define e-mail's function and explain how e-mail is changing
business communication.

Most technical writers agree that e-mail has become popular because
of its convenience and speed. With Internet access, one can deliver
mail around the world at a speed that greatly outpaces conventional
delivery systems. Utilizing options commonly available with on-line
mail applications, one can send various business communications,
such as letters and memos, to multiple recipients with a single
command. One can sort through e-mail at any hour of the day, in the
office or at home. E-mail is not, however, a new kind of business
document, rather it is a vehicle for business documents. Technical
writer Ellen Adams points out that e-mail is only a progression of
communication technology. She says, "Just as smoke signaling
evolved into wide-area computer networking, so has the Pony
Express evolved into e-mail." E-mail is not changing the function of
business communication, but it is a more efficient way to

But many e-mail messages are written in an informal style, which
may affect the way people write other forms of business
communication. A lot of e-mail is "written conversation" (that's an
oxymoron, don'tcha think?). You can include stuff like contractions,
smileys, and slang, and who cares about grammer and spelling? ;-)
You just write it, and send it quick. Although my survey didn't
indicate whether there is an actual shift in the writing style of formal
business documents, I did notice a surprising attitude--many
technical writers applaud the informal style of e-mail. Technical
writer Cynthia Schwartz observes the way business people tend to
write: ". . . they take on a voice that is formal, unnatural, and contains
complex sentences with lots of big words. They don't write like they
talk." An informal style results in a voice that is not contrived, but
has a conversational clarity. Finally, you can just come right out and
say what you want to say.


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