Emails and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger are the instant forms of communication used by almost everyone on the planet nowadays. They allow us to send text messages, voice notes, photos and even start live videos. Such apps canceled the vast distance between us. We feel as if we are living in the same place and not thousands of kilometers apart.
Now one of the most used ways of communication is email. Though they are mostly used in business, many people prefer to use emails to communicate with their friends and family. A lot of vital information is shared, going back and forth in the air around us. Text messages, files, and links are all sent in mere seconds.
The email technology though was not developed overnight. The first email sent was in 1965 in the MIT, or Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the USA. But the technology is still evolving day after day. And to make sense of how emails came about, we need to learn a little bit of history about the different ways of communication that allowed the revolution of emails.
So how did people communicate in the past?
In the very far past, in order to send messages to others who lived far away, people had to send them with messengers. Those are real messengers in the form of people who were heading to the same place. Messengers used to take a very long time to deliver the message. Such duration mainly depended on the form of transportation they were using.
That continued for thousands and thousands of years until finally, miraculously, the first post office was established in Sanquhar, Scotland in 1720. This is when people started to write letters and drop them in mailboxes. Then these letters were collected by a postman who traveled to deliver the letters all at once. The faster the transportation became, the quicker the letters were sent.
However, this still took time. Thankfully, telegraphs were invented. That was in the year 1837 by an American inventor named Samuel F. B. Morse. Telegraphs are small devices that are able to send and receive short messages a lot faster. Instead of a person traveling, it was electrical signals that traveled this time.
How telegraphs work is pretty easy. To send a message between two cities, they should be connected through power lines named telegraph lines. These lines are also connected through electrical wires to the telegraph device in the telegraph office.
A telegraph device has two parts, a transmitter, and a receiver. Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a different electric signal. The transmitter in one city sends the message in the form of electric signals. These signals are transmitted to the other city through the telegraph line.
On the other side, the different electric signals are received and then translated into their corresponding letters to write the message. Telegraphs allowed messages to be sent in minutes.
Though telegraphs were fast, they were not that fast to send emergency messages and other vital information that had to be sent immediately. Luckily, 40 years later in 1876, a Scottish inventor named Alexander Graham Bell came up with the telephone.
Telephones were/are revolutionary. All you had/have to do is pick up the handset, dial the number, wait a few seconds until the other person replies, and then here you go. You are sending and receiving messages instantly. And not even written messages, but voice ones.
That being said, telephones were a kind of luxury, limited only to those who could afford them. That is why many people still depended on letters to send and receive messages. And maybe because they were more used to them. Another good side of letters is that it is easier to say things on paper other face-to-face.
The development of telephones, however, did not stop the development of other forms of communication. In 1965, at MIT, researchers wanted to find a way to communicate within the institute, send messages, and share files. And because necessity is the mother of invention, they invented the email.
An email is just like a letter, but electronic. No wonder it is preceded by an e which stands for electronic. Instead of a paper, you write on a screen. Instead of a pen, you write on a keyboard. And instead of enveloping your letter and dropping it in a mailbox, you only click ‘Send’. Ta Daaa!
Since then, emails have been evolving. Every day, new features are added to facilitate communication and file-sharing among users. You can send emails to one person only or many at the same time. You can attach files to the email or link them if your attachment is bigger in size than what the email can carry. You can copy and resend emails to other people. And the list of functions goes on and on.
So emails have become so important. Every email is either asking for information or giving information. To get the information you are asking for, you need to make sure you make your point as clear as day. This means you have to write emails properly.
To write a good email, you first need to decide who you are sending the email to. This is important because you have to write in a tone suitable for each recipient. Writing emails to friends and cousins is not like emailing your teacher. That is why we have informal emails and formal ones.
How to write informal emails
Before you write an email, you must have an email address of yours as well as the email address of your recipient. This is exactly like their home address at which you are sending them the electronic letter.
Any email address looks like this: [email protected] What comes after @ is the email service provider. This is the virtual post office that will deliver your email to your friend’s virtual mailbox or inbox. Once you have the email address of your friend, you can start writing your informal email using the following steps.
(1) Go to your email page and click Compose, New, or New Message. A box will open in which you can write your email.
(2) Write your friend’s email address in the ‘To’ bar. If you are sending the email to more than one person, write their email addresses there too. Leave a space between them.
(3) Write the title of your email in the ‘Subject’ bar. The title should tell your friend what the email is about before they open it.
(4) Start your email with a salutation or greeting to your friend. Dear Pete or Hi Pete is pretty fine. You also need to add a comma after the name. This is good email punctuation.
(5) Write your message. This is what you want to ask or tell your friend about. It is called the email body. As mentioned earlier, make sure your message or question is direct and short. This makes it easy for your friend to understand and reply to it.
(6) Close your email by saying Thank you, Goodbye, or Regards. Then add a comma after it. Write your name in the next line.
(7) Then send your email.
(8) Instead of sending your email instantly, you can choose to send it later. Just click on ‘Schedule send’ and then choose the time. The email will be sent automatically even if your laptop is turned off.
Informal emails are usually sent to friends and beloved ones who we get on with really well. That means we can use casual language in our emails. Additionally, we can use informal expressions and slang that we use in everyday conversations as well as contractions. The following is another informal email to a friend.
How to write a formal email
We sure do not talk to our teachers or adults in general the same way we talk to our friends. It is the same case with writing emails. We should choose a more formal language to address adults.
Here are the differences between friendly emails and formal ones.
- Write a clear and formal email subject. For example: Request to join science club.
- Always use ‘Dear’ to greet your recipient.
- Address them by their last name.
- Write in full sentences.
- Avoid using contractions. Write (you are) instead of (you’re).
- Avoid the use of any informal expressions. For example, if you use (what’s up, buddy?) with your friend, you must use (how are you, Sir?) with your teacher.
- Use expressions such as (Yours sincerely) or (Best regards) as a greeting at the end of your formal email.
Here is an example of a formal email written to a teacher.
Writing an email is essential to ask for and receive important information. And learning the best way to write an email based on who you are sending it to is necessary to receive a proper reply to your email.
Today, we learned some interesting information about the different ways of communication people used before emails. Whether it was regular letters, telegraphs, or telephone calls, they all helped get messages delivered.
When writing to friends or cousins, we usually write an informal or friendly email. We use easy language and casual expressions and we call our friends by their first names.
But if we are emailing the school principal for instance, we have to use a whole different tone. In this case, we must address the recipient by their last name and use proper greetings. Besides, we must write in full sentences, avoid using contractions, and never forget to end the email with a formal salutation.