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Chapter 1. E-mail: The Good, the Bad, & ... > E-MAIL ALSO HAS DISADVANTAGES


E-mail, when not used responsibly, can cause some trouble.

E-mail messages may be misunderstood.

  • Poorly written messages can cause confusion or misunderstandings and may take additional communications (and time) to straighten out. The following two e-mails inform the recipient that a meeting time and location have been changed. The first message is poorly written nd hard to follow. The second message clearly communicates the necessary action, as well as the date, time, and location of the meeting.

  • A sensitive message's meaning must be negotiated face-to-face or voice-to-voice. An e-mail message can be misinterpreted or can create bad relations because the voices, gestures, pauses, or other nonverbal cues are lost. The following e-mail message addresses a sensitive issue that would be better handled face-to-face. In an interactive, face-to-face conversation, Marv might discover that Joan did not realize the parking spot was Marv's and is willing to find a new place to park.

  • An e-mail written without using the proper tone to support the message may be misinterpreted or come across as sarcastic or harsh. A misinterpreted tone in e-mail can even undermine relationships and create hurt feelings. The tone of Sam's message could be misinterpreted as whining or sarcastic.

    “E-mail can be a disembodied horror, threatening not just privacy and intellectual community but literacy itself.”

    —Tolson, 1999

    Larry's harsh response is called a flame, or nasty note. Notice how he shouts with capital letters.



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