by Gary Beach

Letters Have Advantage over E-Mail

Jul 01, 20062 mins
Data Center

Scores of handwritten missives in response to my May 1 E-Mail Addiction Publisher’s Letter offering tips to tame the e-mail beast sent me scampering to find my tarnished letter opener.

On a 757 loaded with business executives glued to their laptops, I certainly stood out in seat 13C, slipping handwritten letters out of envelopes and writing a response to each. On paper! With a pen! In ink! Several passengers shot me a “haven’t you heard of e-mail” glance as they walked down the aisle.

“Obtain some white writing paper and a fountain pen—like your mom used,” wrote one reader. “You’ll find yourself taking pride in your choice of words and the presentation of your thoughts. Word processing and e-mail have robbed us of our ability to think,” he concluded.

Another correspondent suggested an idea that has bounced around for ages—but with an innovative twist. “How about charging people 1 cent for each e-mail?” he wrote. “[The money] could be collected at the ISP level and be used for schools, charities.” And he kept going. He estimated the cost of receiving and deleting unwanted e-mail at 2.5 cents per e-mail. Want to take a bite out of operating expenses? he asked. Start with the people you employ. Guesstimate how many unwanted, irrelevant e-mails they receive each day. Now multiply that number by the number of employees, and then multiply that by 2.5 cents.


One IT exec took the opportunity to point out (correctly) that CIO was guilty of sending out unsolicited survey research e-mails, and another suggested I should hire a secretary to read my e-mail.

It took me five hours to respond to all the letters. And at the end of writing my last note, I had a serious case of writer’s cramp.

But otherwise, I felt good. I felt my time had been well spent, which is a very different sensation from what I get after an e-mail session. E-mail may be quicker, but the good old-fashioned handwritten note is a surefire way to get the attention of those who matter to you, both in your business and in your personal life.

So I say, Write on!