What’s happening to business communication in the email environment?

Author: Jane Holst-Larkin

Abstract: Email messaging today replaces to a large extent other forms of business communication. Analysts are identifying a new use of language brought about by email and other forms of computer-mediated communication, and researchers debate whether the new form is closer to speech or to writing. This study examines the linguistic features of eighty email messages from one organisation in New Zealand and compares these with reports from overseas research. The evidence points to at least a blurring of genres (spoken and written), if not to the beginnings of a new genre of language in email messaging in the New Zealand business context. While this new use of language inherits many of the advantages of both spoken and written language, there is no doubt that each genre also contributes a legacy of disadvantages which may complicate or impede the communication process when email is used. Recommendations are made to counter some of these adverse effects. However, the study points to a mostly positive and productive use of email messaging in New Zealand.