E-Mail: An A to Z Challenge Shenanigan
By - April 5, 2013
Ah, e-mail. Something everyone does, right?
Technically, yes, we all e-mail (except that guy over there who collects stamps and insists that he will never cave to the pressures of modern society like e-mails and cell phones. But who cares about him? For the purposes of this post, let’s just ignore him like the drunk great uncle at the family Christmas party, shall we?). But even so, I’ve come across a disturbing disconnect.
While everyone might e-mail, I’ve found recently that the words, “I’m going to check my e-mail,” or “I’m going to answer e-mail,” don’t mean the same thing to everyone. In my life particularly, I find that it means something very different to me than to friends or family in my town.
Let me backtrack and say that most people around me work traditional 9-5 jobs, and said jobs deal mostly with other people in town. Therefore, when they conduct business e-mails (if they conduct them, and that’s a big if!), the e-mails are used to quickly pass along a phone number or otherwise short piece of information or to schedule an appointment. This is because for people in a small town like mine, lengthy transactions take place in the office. An appointment is set up, and a person goes by the insurance office to sign paperwork or drops by the bank to set up an account, etc. Other e-mail for people of this nature involves personal e-mail, such as Aunt Bertha sending a picture of niece Annabelle playing in her spaghetti or best friend Tina wondering what time you’re coming over Saturday for the Friends marathon. This ensures that to people in my town, “checking e-mail” is a five minute task, maybe twenty or thirty minutes at the most.
This explains why, when I tell friends or family that I need to check e-mail, they don’t seem to understand when I have to cut aside an entire chunk of my day to do so. They can’t fathom why I might have trouble keeping up with my e-mail if I don’t have several hours to do so in a given day, because their e-mails don’t involve what my e-mail—or that of any person who deals with business across the country every day—does. When almost all of your business is conducted via e-mail, as it is in the publishing industry, e-mails cannot be always be so quick. Sometimes, they take great amounts of detail, explanation, discussion, and more. For example, I might need to e-mail to my editor to explain what I’ve done in my manuscript revisions to repair plot holes she pointed out in her notes, scenes I’ve added to amp up the romantic plotline she thought I should emphasize, and places I have clarified that pesky relationship between person a and person b she felt needed, say, a flashback scene for explanation. Such an e-mail could take a good thirty to forty-five minutes to construct depending on interruptions.
Now, take that type of e-mail and multiply it. More of my e-mails require this type of response than not, as do many freelance workers. Ergo, “checking e-mail” can be a lengthy and sometimes daunting task. Not to mention that in business e-mails conducted within this industry, all e-mails must be worded professionally, carefully, without grammatical and spelling errors, and sometimes somewhat formally. I’ve noticed that folks who don’t deal in business e-mails every day don’t always follow the rules of netiquette, so that may be yet another reason they look at me like I’ve just claimed to be the daughter of Richard Simmons when I say checking my e-mail might take a few hours.
So, if you ever start to take your business in a direction that might involve employing the net more and real-life meetings less, be aware that you’re entering a territory where e-mail might involve more time constraints than you realize. Be ready, prepare for the onslaught, and start exercising your typing fingers, because you’re about to get an e-mail workout!
Do you use e-mail more for business or pleasure? How much time do you spend e-mailing a day?