Is email dead?

According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg back in June 2010, “email – I can’t imagine life without it – is probably going away.” Was she right? Here are my thoughts, and I look forward to reading yours…

It seems that by Sandberg’s calculations only about 11 percent of teenagers were using email at that time – significantly less than their parents did. Maybe it was wishful thinking on Facebook’s part, but they seem to think the next generation will dump email in favor of texting/SMS plus messages and live chats on social networks.

Having grown up back in the dark ages of telephones, typewriters, faxes and snailmail, I’m not complaining. Typewriters were a pain in the ass and broke more of my fingernails than housework, horses, and children ever did.

My fax machines would spew forth from their rolls of shiny toilet paper, dropping pages all over the floor for the cats to play with and the dogs to chew. The only upside was our charming Mr Mailman who helped old ladies cross the village streets and expected us to turn a blind eye to his voracious, noisy affair with the baker’s wife.

But then we got the internet. And we got EMAIL!

Email in its early days was a very expensive luxury

In the late 1980s I was told by a conference production company for whom I had worked for several years that should I wish to continue doing freelance work for them, I would need to invest somewhere around £2,000-£3,000 (USD $3,200-$4,900) in an email system which would allow them to tell me whether or not my bid for whatever scriptwriting services had been accepted or rejected.

That was a lot of money then and needless to say I didn’t do it. (Amusingly enough neither did most of their other suppliers so they had to eat humble pie and abandon the idea.)

But it does make me smile to think that in just over 20 years we’ve gone from email being an expensive posh luxury, to its current status as a free commodity that’s nearly obsolete, if you listen to the Sheryl Sandbergs of this world.

So could we do without email?

I think the people who rant on about email being snuffed out by the messages you can send on these dinky clever phones and from person to person on the online social platforms, are missing one rather important point.

Until the dinky phones and the social media inflate themselves by somewhat more than 140 characters, email – as far as I know – is the only way for ordinary mortals to communicate larger amounts of information electronically.

Speaking as a professional writer and author, I’d love to know how Sheryl Sandberg’s teenagers, once a bit older, would send a 50,000 word book manuscript to a publisher via text/SMS, Twitter or Facebook.

(And I’d love to know how the thousands of organisations using email for marketing purposes would shoehorn themselves entirely into the bijou platforms, despite maybe running complementary campaigns on text/SMS, Google Ads and the like.)

Still an important part of our writing and communication toolbox

I have to admit that these days I tend to set up meetings and do other simple communication jobs using text/SMS or Facebook, as an alternative to exchanging emails. And the live chat facilities somehow seem less of a palaver to use than that ancient artefact called a telephone.

But I would hate to see email disappear. It may be replaced in part by the bijou online media but for the heavyweight stuff, I reckon it’s here to stay.

Do you agree?

And if you agree, here’s some help with your email writing:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. Ir’s here to stay in my house Suze. You can’t send a confirmation by twitter yet for something! does agreement to something by text stand up in court? 😉

    • Good point there Sarah – calling all lawyers: what is the current position regarding emails as capable of being considered “legal documents?”

      Are there any differences in that between countries?

  2. I think emails can be considered legal documents, although not with the status of a deed. Service of notices by email for example is accepted as good service by the Court Rules.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading about marketing over the past few years and they all say that email marketing is one of the best. So I don’t think we are going to lose it any time soon.

    • What you say about email being considered as legal documents is very interesting, Tessa. Is this a fairly new pronouncement? I know my lawyer is still a bit twitchy about emails in that regard, but then he is even older than I am!!

      People often cite the fact that email can be tampered with as a reason why it should not be considered as seriously as printed paper, but Heaven only knows printed paper is just as easily tampered with.

      It will be interesting to see how that progresses in the future.

      Thanks for commenting!



  1. […] makes me smile when I look back at this statement which was made about 4 years ago, captured in an article I wrote some 9 months later […]

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