Email Message

A brief message that is sent or received over a computer network

Email icon with cursor over it
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An email message is a text, typically brief and informal, that is sent or received over a computer network. While email messages are usually simple text messages, attachments (such as image files and spreadsheets) can be included. An email message can be sent to multiple recipients at the same time. It is also known as an "electronic mail message." Alternative spellings for the term are "e-mail" and "E-mail."

The Tyranny of Email

"The first e-mail was sent less than 40 years ago. In 2007 the world's billion PCs exchanged 35 trillion e-mails. The average corporate worker now receives upwards of 200 e-mails per day. On average, Americans spend more time reading e-mails than they do with their spouses."

– John Freeman, The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox. Simon & Schuster, 2009

Focusing Email Messages

"An email message is generally limited to one idea rather than addressing several issues. If you address more than one topic in a single email message, chances are the recipient will forget to respond to all points discussed. Discussing one topic allows you to write a descriptive subject line, and the receiver can file the single subject message in a separate mailbox if desired. If you must send a lengthy message, divide it into logical sections for easy comprehension."

– Carol M. Lehman and Debbie D. Dufrene, Business Communication, 16th ed. South-Western Cengage, 2011

Editing Email Messages

"Edit all your emails for proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Nothing discredits you faster than sloppy email. Yes, you have spellcheck, I know, but not everyone hooks it up. Proofread. Nothing says 'I'm not a business professional,' faster or more loudly than poor composition or writing skills."

– Cherie Kerr, The Bliss Or "Diss" Connection?: Email Etiquette for the Business Professional. Execuprov Press, 2007

Distributing Email Messages

"In the workplace, email is a critical communication tool, so it is common for an email be distributed far beyond its intended range, sometimes causing embarrassment (or worse) for the sender. In 2001, the head of Cerner Corporation sent an angry email to managers, berating them for not working hard enough. His tirade was posted to the Internet on a financial message board read by many people. Investors feared that company morale was low, and the company's stock value dropped 22 percent, costing stockholders millions of dollars. The New York Times reported that the executive sent his next email message with the preface, 'Please treat this memo with the upmost confidentiality....It is for internal dissemination only. Do not copy or email to anyone else.'"

– David Blakesley and Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen, The Thomson Handbook . Thomson Learning, 2008

Rules and Authorities

"In 1999, Constance Hale and Jessie Scanlon published their revised edition of Wired Style. While other etiquette volumes, both before and since, have approached online writing with an eye toward business writers, Hale and Scanlon had a more laid-back audience in mind. The editors pointedly scoffed at the idea that email should be subject to editing—either by sender or receiver. Some samples:

" 'Think blunt bursts and sentence fragments....Spelling and punctuation are loose and playful. (No one reads email with red pen in hand.)'

" 'Celebrate subjectivity.'

" 'Write the way people talk. Don't insist on 'standard' English.'

" 'Play with grammar and syntax. Appreciate unruliness.'

"The authors propose something of a flower-child approach to email. But seen in perspective, they have as much potential authority over what email style should look like as self-proclaimed eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prescriptivists such as Bishop Robert Lowth had over the structure of English. Declare yourself an authority, and see if anyone follows."

– Naomi S. Baron, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford University Press, 2008

Examples of Email Messages

"16th November. Alex Loom kept her promise not to phone me, but two days later I got an email from her saying: ‘When are we going to meet to discuss my research?’ I emailed back: ‘I don’t know. As a matter of interest, how did you get my email address?’ She replied: ‘I figured you probably use the University network and have the same form of address as all the other faculty.’ She was right of course....She added: ‘So when are we going to meet?’ I wrote: ‘I don’t see the point of meeting unless there is something to discuss. Can you send me a chapter?’ She emailed me a copy of her dissertation proposal, all very general and abstract. I emailed back: ‘I need to see something more specific, like a chapter.’ She replied: ‘Nothing I’ve written so far is fit to show you.’ I replied: ‘Well then I’ll wait.’ Since then, silence."

– David Lodge, Deaf Sentence. Harvill Secker, 2008

"One of my favorite email stories comes from Ashley, a senior-level manager at a financial services company, who still remembers the email she received (along with everyone on her team) from the new employee who had just graduated from college. Despite the fact that he had only been on the job for a few weeks, the newbie felt compelled to offer his work suggestions to the group in a 1,500-word email, which outlined everything from his thoughts on dress code to ideas for improving employee morale. For months, his email was circulated internally and became the butt of jokes around the office, with people wondering how this new guy could have been so clueless."

– Elizabeth Freedman, Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace Without Hanging Yourself. Bantam Dell, 2007

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Email Message." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Email Message. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Email Message." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).