It might help to consider the [email] message as a written verbal communication rather than real writing. 1
“[Computer conferencing is like] writing letters which are mailed over the telephone.” 2
Is email more like a letter sent by phone or spoken language transmitted by other means? Commentators of all ilks—from casual users to professional linguists—have weighed in on the discussion. While the general sentiment seems to be that email has elements of both spoken and written style, discussion of the issue often degenerates into defense of personal email style.
Why is the question so hard to resolve?
To ask whether email is a form of speech or writing suggests that the very question of a dichotomy is meaningful. As we saw in Chapter 1, seeing speech and writing as opposites is only one way to think about the relationship between them. It’s probably more realistic to recognize that under the right circumstances, the prototypic features we associate with speech or writing can be found in either form. If we can’t even agree that spoken and written language are distinctly different from each other, it’s understandable that attempts to fit email to the procrustean bed of one or the other can seem like an exercise in futility.