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Ultimate 15-step email survival guide

Get your message across with our advice

We all use email, but do any of us use it well? Get your message across with our advice.

The late 1990s saw a revolution in office communications. Email, we were told, meant we'd never again have to trouble ourselves with face-to-face meetings and conversations – we could simply email our colleagues and business contacts instead.

It soon became clear, however, that something was missing from this de-personalised, electronic means of communication.

When speaking to someone in person, you pick up signals from their language, facial and verbal expressions, vocal intonation, body language, eye contact, posture, smell (not always a good thing) and a host of other factors.

But email is a different kettle of fish. By removing these visual and audio signs, you starve the recipient of vital clues to your meaning. It's such an informal and disposable medium that few of us devote the time and care needed for real clarity. And, unlike established non-visual modes of communication such as the telephone and the letter, email doesn't have well-known conventions and etiquette to guide participants through the maze of meaning.

On email, everything boils down to your ability to write an effective message. So you'd better get it right – with our help.

Paul Johnson is author of the Email Survival Guide, published by Bookguild and available from £6.49 at Waterstone.com, Amazon.co.uk or via survive-email.com.


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