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You Send Me: Getting It Right When You Write…

You Send Me: Getting It Right When You Write Online

by Patricia T. O'Conner

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General Background and Overview
"You Send Me" is subtitled "Getting it Right when you Write Online", which is as good a description of the general subject matter as any. It's written in a friendly, slightly snarky voice that's not entirely dissimilar to Lynne Truss's "Eats, Shoots & Leaves", and is going to appeal to pretty much the same selection of people that ES&L does.

Good Stuff
This is a good business writing primer for people who spend the majority of their writing time e-mailing co-workers. It's also relevant to a lesser extent to people who do a lot of personal e-mailing - not to mention posting to chat groups, forums, and anywhere else where the formality of 'real' busines writing is too much, but the casual nature of IM and text-speak just makes things too difficult on the reader. And some of the info in there is just smart practice/etiquette for people who are sort-of new to the interwebs (things like checking out hoaxes before forwarding them on; or assuming that anything that starts with the prefix "this is not a chain letter" probably is).

You Send Me written in a fairly accessible voice, with no few dips into snark, humour and pop culture references that amused me (although they might not be everyone's cuppa - caveat lector), which is another tally mark in its positive column. And the grammar section at the back was also fairly well done - I found it easy to navigate, and non-intimidating. That being said, I don't always agree with every single grammar call they make, which may be partly to do with US vs NZ usage: if I had to guess, I'd say I probably agree with 97% of their calls.

Bad Stuff
Like any treatise on anything related to the rapidly-evolving world of the interwebs, this book has dated quickly: its publication date was only 2002, and some of the comments in it already feel as though they're right on the outer edge of their use-by date. There is, for example, a wee bit of discussion around family webpages - something you see very seldom in today's online landscape - and absolutely nothing on conventions around blogging (which has kind of taken their place).

That being said, the general principles are sound, and for someone completely new to the field of business writing online (e.g. someone graduating school and about to take their first job in the 'real world' who needs a primer on the difference between personal and professional writing online), You Send Me could be extremely useful.

The one thing I would have liked to have seen more of is a comparison of online to offline techniques: where something that would be OK in, e.g. an e-mail, probably wouldn't be in a business report or memo - and *why*. Possibly a little more page space could have been given to techniques for working out who exactly your audience is before you start writing for them, since getting this right is at the heart of good writing, regardless of the medium.

Ratings and Recommendations
This was a reasonably good book, and I'd recommend it for anyone interested in improving their online writing skills - but it's not the best I've read on the topic (thus far, that honour would still go to my Writing for the Web coursebook, Web Word Wizardry, by Rachel McAlpine).

I'm going to give the book an 7/10 - worth checking out, but not up there with my absolute 'must-read's in the business writing genre. ( )
  Starfirenz | Apr 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0151005931, Hardcover)

Which came first, abominable writing or the computers on which that writing is wrought? Either way, say Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman in You Send Me, "much of what passes for writing in cyberspace is dreadful." Sending e-mail, joining chat rooms, and putting up Web sites is so easy that you might think the writing doesn't matter. Guess again. "When you write well, you connect," say the authors. "When you write badly, you don't." Some of You Send Me--lessons on grammar, punctuation, spelling, and confusing words--applies to all writing; the rest is tailored to online writing, particularly e-mailing. There's advice on writing subject lines, getting to the point, and getting the facts right. The authors recommend politeness and discretion, the use of the Shift key, and the inclusion of greetings and closings. Ask permission before sending attachments, they advise, "don't put anything in an office e-mail that you wouldn't want the whole office to see," "go easy on the Forward button," and "never hit Send in anger." And remember: "The less time you spend thinking about your message," they say, "the more time someone else has to spend reading it." --Jane Steinberg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:24 -0400)

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A guide to using proper grammar, spelling, and manners online that focuses on correspondence through email and how it has changed the way the world communicates.

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