192 Technical Writing: A Practical Guide for Engineers and Scientists
• Lower cost to include color content and high-delity graphics
• Capability to embed dynamic content
• Environmentally friendly
There are disadvantages to publishing content on e-media too. These include
• Increased vulnerability to theft of intellectual property (e.g., plagia-
rism, unauthorized copying and distribution of published material)
• Unwanted wide-scale exposure of proprietary or secret information
• Wide-scale exposure to potentially embarrassing mistakes
• Low barrier to entry for competition (i.e., anyone can publish to
But despite these potentially game-stopping disadvantages, use of the Web
has exploded due to the dramatic increase in content coming from publish-
ers, companies, and individuals.
In this chapter I want to focus on writing for electronic publications as a
special form of writing and also share my experiences in writing for various
forms of e-media, including e-mail.
9.2 E-Mail Can Be Dangerous
An electronic mail (e-mail) message is a very desirable form of business
and technical communication. E-mails can have the same informality as
an in-person or telephone conversation, or the formality of a legal con-
tract. Unlike a conversation or phone call, however, e-mails are persistent;
they can be saved and produced as evidence that you said something
that you claim you did not say. Therefore, you must write e-mails care-
fully, and it is a very good idea to “incubate” them before sending them
Do not use e-mails as a substitute for in-person communications, however.
Firing or breaking a relationship with someone via e-mail (unless time and
distance necessitate) will be perceived as somewhat cowardly. If a written
conrmation of some interaction is required, but in-person communication
is preferred, I suggest you use both. That is, have the face-to-face conversa-
tion and then follow up with a written conrmation of the meeting, either
via e-mail or in a formal paper document.
Some e-mail software does not support equations, and therefore e-mail is
not always the preferred mechanism for technical communications.