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Yes, You Can Typeset Your Email

Many people write me to compliment me on my email typography.
Over lunch the other day, with a first-time, face-to-face chat with a long time email correspondent,
I was told:

"Fred, I really like getting your email... 
it's always so easy to read, and I can get 
all the information very quickly."

That conversation prompted me to write this article.

Others over the years have written to say " how do you take so much time with your email... " or to ask " What email program do you use to format your type so well? " Well, it doesn't take but a moment, and it's not the program. All programs will format email nicely as long as the writer takes another minute or so to make sure it's just right. After all, if it's worth writing, or responding to, isn't it worth making sure it's a comfortable and fully understandable communication?

Ever since the old days of Compuserve, GEnie and Delphi, online communication has run from very easy to very hard. I used to hate those emails and posts to forums that were long, run-ons, or disjointed diatribes. In the same respect, don't you hate it when you write someone with a genuine thought, that needs a clear answer and the reader replies with "yes." or "I said so, didn't I". So, over the years I've always tried to remember what communication is, and how to apply the design principles to good communication in email.

What is email?

Duh... of course you know what email is, but fundamentally it's a method of communication -- an electronic letter sent as electrons and assembled on the recipient's computer as pixels on a monitor... either turned on or turned off -- forming words on the screen. Let's look deeper.

In every form of communication there are three parts: 1) the sender, 2) the message, and 3) the recipient. All three of these elements have to work in perfect harmony with each other, and in the correct sequence, if a complete communication is to take place. Okay, you knew that already, right?

However, in many communications a 4th element gets interjected, and will cause trouble if not managed perfectly: noise.

Noise is a barrier to readership. It's a deterrent to reading your message. Noise can mislead, or distract. It can muddle the message beyond recognition. I'm not talking about electronic noise either.


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