A revealing primer on the art of effective emails and other communications.
Babicki, in his debut self-help guide, covers the many peculiarities of computerized messaging: How to shape an eye-catching subject line; how to troubleshoot error messages from a returned email; what the file-extension suffixes on attachments mean; what the email time stamp tells others about your personality (night owl vs. early riser); and how to craft a corporate email security policy. His advice on these sometimes-arcane topics is precise—“RTF format should only be used when it is certain that the recipient uses Outlook”—while also remaining intelligible to laypeople. The author also instructs readers on time-honored principles of proper English and clear expression. He delves with detailed lucidity into rules of grammar, punctuation and usage; prescribes the proper formatting of numbers and dates; and inveighs against the dangling participle. He also explores the tonal shadings of different kinds of salutations, crusades for concise and gracious style, warns against the gassy redundancy of such wordings as “final outcome” and “at an early time,” and appends a blacklist of “the most irritating phrases,” from “out of the box” to “team player.” Good writing grows from good thinking, so he instructs readers on the pitfalls of logical fallacies, from the ad hominem attack to the begged question, and on the distinctions between assumption, presumption and inference. Furthermore, since communication is the cornerstone of civilized life, he limns its legal and moral underpinnings in copyright and plagiarism strictures, codes of courteous Internet deportment and techniques for pacifying flame wars. (He recommends a “Zen” approach, for example, in replying to angry missives.) The result is a mashup of Strunk and White, Miss Manners, Aristotle and Microsoft Help, all laid out in a well-organized, very readable text sprinkled with amusing examples and phrased in the tart, aphoristic style of an exacting schoolmaster (“The better it sounds, the more it is trusted”). Overall, Babicki’s technical expertise and literary aplomb make this a fine manual for the everyday scribe.
A comprehensive, stimulating guide to getting the word out.