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When should I email?

Archived under Email Writing along with 3 EnglishCoach Comments


Aug 13


A few years ago when I was working in a large corporation, I found one morning that the internet was not working. Luckily for me, the head of IT walked in and I told him that I had no internet connection. His quick reply was, ‘please send me an email’.

Email dependency is increasing, but we need to ask if it is always the correct tool to communicate all information. No doubt, it is the fastest, easiest and least time consuming of all communication tools. But, does this mean better productivity? Has the email that you sent out got you the results you expected? Maybe, it was not opened at all.


The ‘media richness’ framework developed by Daft and Lengel evaluates and ranks the richness of certain communication mediums like text messaging, video conferencing, phone calls, emails etc. For example, a phone call cannot reproduce visual social cues such as gestures, so it is a less rich communication medium than video conferencing, which allows users to communicate gestures to some extent. Specifically, media richness theory states that the more ambiguous and uncertain a task is, the richer the format of media that suits it. So, choosing to negotiate or closing a sale on phone or email may not be the ideal medium, and you would prefer to opt for a richer medium like a face-to-face conversation or video conferencing.

Choosing to communicate complex issues over richer media allows any miscommunication to be quickly corrected. The longer the gap to correct a miscommunication, the harder it is to retrieve the situation.

Here are some questions that you could ask yourself before you decide that email is the only way.

Is speed the only consideration for this message?

What is the cost to the company if this message is not understood correctly?

Is there a better way to communicate to lessen the risk of a misunderstanding?

Does the cost and time of using an alternate outweigh the cost of a misunderstanding?

Once you have considered this, you will probably walk over, talk and follow up with an email. This is what a good leader would do.

Posted by : Sharmila Gautama

    3 English Comments

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