Since we published the first edition of this book in 2005, the use of e-mail for business communications has become routine. People now check their e-mail as often—or more often—than they check for voicemail messages. More and more people are reading and writing e-mail on mobile, or hand-held, devices, such as cell phones and BlackBerries, and increasing numbers are routinely using instant Messaging (IM) in the workplace to hold real-time “conversations” with colleagues, clients, and others.
“Business writing” and “e-mail” have become more or less synonymous terms. Nearly all interoffice memos are now sent as e-mail. E-mail is commonly used in place of “hard copy” letters to communicate with clients and others outside an organization. The ability to reach many people with a few keystrokes makes e-mail the most convenient choice for disseminating information about almost anything. It's easier than ever to send documents of all types and sizes to recipients all over the world.
The advances in electronic communication are rapidly changing the way we work. Not least, it is becoming far easier for increasing numbers of people to work remotely—while traveling, from home, and as part of virtual teams. But the same advances have also created significant problems: We're now expected to be reachable at all times, no matter where we are, which makes it very hard to get away from our work; the ability to read and write e-mail from almost anywhere has decreased response speed, raising the expectations for a speedy response; it's easier than ever to send inappropriate or sensitive information to the wrong people; and the permanent record created by electronic communication is increasingly being used as evidence in legal actions.
Over the past two years, hundreds of articles and several books have appeared with advice and guidance for this ubiquitous but still relatively new form of communication. Yet the same old issues keep e-mail use from being as productive as it could be. People still send