Many years ago, a friend who was part of the team that helped construct the Internet gave me the best single piece of advice I have ever received about e-mail: Don't ever write anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't put up on a billboard in Times Square. With Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, New York Times Op-Ed editor David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, editor-in-chief at Hyperion, may well have done for e-mail correspondence what another celebrated pair, William Strunk and E.B. White, did for formal composition in The Elements of Style. A breezy, one-sitting wall-to-wall read packed with actual and frightening examples of e-mails gone horribly wrong, Send is thoughtfully indexed and scrupulously annotated, making it a perfect candidate for any office bookshelf. In addition to highly practical chapters, such as The Anatomy of an Email, with 10 subchapters on everything from the To: line to the sign-off, the book contains many amusing factoids and sidebars. (Did you know that the first spam message was sent in 1978?)Shipley and Schwalbe spend a fair amount of time by no means too much reminding us that e-mails fail to carry important cues built into other forms of communication, and advise us on when e-mail might not be the best medium to deliver a message. If we're determined to use e-mail against their advice, though, the pair walks us through a number of scenarios designed to help us avoid the most common mistakes before they escalate into a full-fledged flame war.
The book's title even serves as an acronym for the four most valuable characteristics of successful e-mail: Simple. Effective. Necessary. Done. If you have a computer, you'd be wise to keep a copy of Send within an arm's length of it.