We all like to think that we know it all, that we've taken into account
the advice of our predecessors and that our actions are informed
by the knowledge of their mistakes and how to avoid them. Generally,
this is posited as, "Those who do not learn history are doomed
to repeat it." The problem with this aphorism is that it's tougher
to learn from history than it seems, even if the history in question
is our own personal history. Few of us make a mistake just once,
and it’s not because we're uninformed. We're too busy to be
simply informed of wisdom. We have to be repeatedly reminded, in
a manner that is clear, concise and enjoyable to experience. Otherwise,
we'll tune out, with a shrug and an, "I know that already."
The virtue of David Shipley and Will Schwalbe's 'Send: An Essential Guide
to Email for Office and Home' is not simply all the new information it
offers about the ever-evolving hazards of email. Presentation is key
here, that is: good writing and layout make one hell of a difference.
You may have heard some of what you read here before, but you've not
seen it so concisely and readably presented. 'Send' lives up to its subtitle
and more. Impeccably organized, ever cleverly written, this book offers
common sense with enough clarity that it might penetrate the crap-drenched
corridors of your brain and save you just once, just one time, from doing
something really stupid. And once that happens, you'll find yourself
thinking about other advice within and preventing further self-inflicted
'Send' benefits from being a small book with a careful focus. Seven major
sections outline the essentials. The introduction asks and answers the
question, "Why Do we Email so Badly?" The reasons are not what
you’d expect. We then go through the sort of tutorial that should
be given to every user before they are given access to their email account.
The authors discuss "When Should We Email", "The Anatomy
of an Email", "How to Write (the Perfect Email)", "The
Six Essential Types of Email", "The Emotional Email" and "The
Email That Can Land You In Jail".
Each section is laid out in a manner that is pleasing to the eye and
easy to read. The authors told me in an interview that they did, in fact,
want the book itself to resemble a well-written email, and in this they
have succeeded admirably. The problem with many self help-books, a genre
this book belongs to that I generally dislike – greatly – is
that they are difficult, smarmy, or unpleasant to read. Great advice
is useless advice if it goes unread, or if when read, one is inclined
to ignore it because the authors seem to be lording it over the unfortunate
reader. Shipley and Schwable avoid all of these traps and it's something
of a miracle.
They're engaging writers who use a bit of humor, but avoid jokiness.
The advice is always solid and never concealed behind attempts to overwrite.
They put it in blue boxes fercrissakes, so you can't miss it. Here's
a book where layout plays a major and helpful role. You can look at this
book chock-full of advice and not have it hurt your mind so badly that
you decide not to read it. Instead it grabs your attention and rewards
What's important here is the influence that email's style has on our
interactions beyond the world of email. We no longer simply use email
to replace post office letters. Email's ease-of-use encourages communications
that might not otherwise transpire, and the style of those communications
can creep into our personal lives. The manners, etiquette and common
sense you'll find here will have implications and effects far beyond
the world of you and your email. This is history that need not be repeated.
It can be learned, without the pain. Or at least, if you feel the pain
yourself, you might know just enough not to extend it beyond the confines
of your own tiny mind. One lesson learned. One email left unsent. One
comment left unsaid. You've read this book. You've changed your life–for