The Science of E-mail

When I first started communicating by e-mail, I treated messages like a letter. I started each missive with a salutation, wrote in complete sentences, and closed with my complete name.

Nowadays, e-mail and texting have become so ubiquitous that the conventions of formal correspondence don’t seem to apply. Speed replaces courtesy. With speed comes sloppiness. Most faculty have received e-mails from trainees that begin, “Hey!” Or we have received messages so short and full of abbreviations that they read like hieroglyphics.

A column in Science recognizes that e-mail messages can balance the brevity of the electronic age with the formality of the Victorian Age. The advice gives several examples of how to tailor correspondence to different audiences. Even though e-mail may seem ephemeral, each message can leave a strong impression.


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