I’m knee-deep into a complicated, fascinating book called The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Danish science writer Tor Nørretranders. In it, he describes what he calls “the shortest correspondence in history.” It took place in 1862.
Celebrated French author Victor Hugo went on holiday after his great novel Les Misérables was published. The author was on tenterhooks, despite being on holiday, about how the book was doing. He wrote to his publisher (I quote the entire text):
His publisher, not to be outdone, replied (this too is the entire text):
The author’s point is that context is everything.
It got me thinking about email, and the function known as Save As Draft. Email, bless it, is a fast and dirty form of communication. We resort to it for all sorts of reasons: speed, ease, avoidance, simplicity, elegance, reasons upon reasons.
But haven’t you ever hit Reply All by mistake? And sent what you didn’t want winging through the email ethers? I’m sure most of us have.
When I was an AOL customer, an email noob, as the common e-parlance would say, one of the features I liked was that I could grab an email back from another AOL customer if I didn’t like what I’d said.
Enter Save As Draft.
Everything goes so fast these days, I think Save As Draft was made for our information age. So, you get an email that requires an answer which in its own turn requires some thought. Write it, by all means, as fast as you want, then save it as a draft and step away from the screen!
Then sit with your reply, think on it, think on the context in which it will be read or received or answered. Wait an hour—yes, Virginia, a WHOLE HOUR! Open your drafts file and read it again. I can almost guarantee that you’ll change something before you send it.
Context means a lot. It matters. Save As Draft gives us, as emailers, time to consider the consequences and contexts of our written words. Something I think we would all be wise to take advantage of.
P.S. If you are intrigued by the Victor Hugo story, consider looking at another post in this blog: ?!, from Friday, January 25, 2008.