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Archive for April, 2013


Effective email Writing – Part 5 – Intonation

Effective email Writing is a series of old articles defining how-to and best practices of using email, we will publish all the 11 articles here each in a single post.

Part 5:


The most difficult thing to convey in email is emotion. People frequently get in trouble for typing exactly what they would say out loud. Unfortunately, without the tone of voice as a to signal their emotion, it is easy to misinterpret their intent.

While you cannot make your voice higher or lower, louder or softer to denote emphasis, there are games you can play with text to convey vocal inflection and emotion.

Light Emphasis

If you want to give something mild emphasis, you should enclose it in asterisks. This is the moral equivalent of italics in a paper document.

Instead of:

??????? I said that I was going to go last Thursday.


??????? I *said* that I was going to go last Thursday.


??????? I said that I was going to to go last *Thursday*.

Which of the above two you choose depends upon whether you are adamant about the commitment you made or adamant that you didn’t mean Wednesday. (Restructuring the sentence to remove the ambiguity would be an even better idea.)

You can also capitalize the first letter only of words to give light emphasis:

??????? While Bob may say that you should never turn it past
??????? nine, this is not Cast In Stone.? It will explode
??????? if you turn it up to eleven, but anything under ten
??????? should work just fine.

I tend to use first-capitals to refer to things that are somehow dogmatic or reverential. This is probably a cultural holdover from all the capital letters that are used in the English Bible. It might not translate to other languages or cultures.

Strong Emphasis

If you want to indicate stronger emphasis, use all capital letters and toss in some extra exclamation marks. Instead of:

??????? > Should I just boost the power on the thrombo?

??????? No, if you turn it up to eleven, you'll overheat
??????? the motors and it might explode.


??????? > Should I just boost the power on the thrombo?

??????? NO!!!!? If you turn it up to eleven, you'll overheat
??????? the motors and IT MIGHT EXPLODE!!

Note that you should use capital letters sparingly. Just as loss of sight can lead to improved hearing, the relative lack of cues to emotion in email makes people hyper-sensitive to any cues that might be there. Thus, capital letters will convey the message that you are shouting.

It is totally inappropriate to use all capital letters in a situation where you are calm. Don’t do this:


People will wince when they read that email.

>>EXTREME!!<< Emphasis

If you really want to emphasize something, you can go wild:

??????? If you are late this time, I swear upon my mother's
??????? grave that I will never, *never*, *NEVER*,
??????? >>!!**NEVER**!!<< talk to you again.

Use this sparingly.

Mutter Equivalents

In person, there are a number of ways that you can indicate that a communication is private and not to be repeated. You can lower your voice, you can look to your right and to your left either with your eyes or with your whole head, and you can lean closer to the other person. While these obviously make it more difficult for someone to overhear, these signals are so ingrained that we might use them even if there is nobody around for miles. Unfortunately, lowering your voice and moving your body is hard to do in email.

I sometimes write what I really think and then write down the sanitized version:

??????? My boss got fired I mean resigned today, which
??????? *totally* sucks err.. will lead to enhanced
??????? relations between Engineering and Test.

A friend of mine uses double parentheses to denote “inner voice”, what in the theatre world is called an “aside”:

??????? My boss resigned ((got fired)) today
??????? which is going to lead to enhanced
??????? relations between Engineering and Test ((in
??????? their dreams))

Something else that I will do sometimes to denote the “lowering of voice” is to type without any capital letters:

??????? psssst!
??????? hey wendy!
??????? guess what?

??????? I GOT THE JOB!!!! :-D :-D !!

I should warn you that there is a minority that doesn’t like the shortcuts I showed you. They argue that if Mark Twain could convey emotion without resorting to such artifice, then we should too. Well, I’m not as skilled a writer as Mark Twain, and usually don’t have as many words to make my tone clear as he did. I believe that there is a greater danger of angering or offending someone by not using these shortcuts than there is of annoying someone by using them.


It is difficult for most people to express emotion well in a short message. Fortunately, you can use a number of textual tricks to help convey the emotion:

  • Asterisks (for emphasis)
  • Capital letters
  • Punctuation
  • Whitespace
  • Lower-case letters



Pairing Digital with Event Marketing is a Thing of Beauty

BareMinerals drives brand awareness and customer engagement with a nation-wide tour and digital campaign.



MIT Sloan’s new track: Enterprise Management

For nearly a decade, MarketLab, a subgroup of the MIT Sloan Marketing Club, offered students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working on semester-long marketing projects for companies like Fidelity, Google and Mercedes-Benz. Until now, students did not receive credit for this valuable work. But now that has changed with the evolution of MarketLab into the integrative project-based course, Enterprise Management (EM) Lab, and the Proseminar for the newly launched Enterprise Management Track. As part of EM Lab, students now receive academic credit while obtaining invaluable action-learning experience.

Once called the “largest free consulting service in Cambridge” by Justin Cook MBA ’05, MarketLab worked with dozens of companies over the years including Apple,, the Boston Red Sox, Body Glove, Estee Lauder, GE Energy, HBO and Microsoft. The scope of the projects ranged from assignments in mobile marketing strategy to online marketing strategy, social marketing and lead arbitrage management.

Students delivered so successfully to clients that many companies returned to the Marketing Club for help on more than one occasion. As word spread about the students’ widely respected work, more companies contacted MarketLab for assistance.

In 2008-2009, MarketLab had more than 80 students enlisted with projects, and the following year there were more than 100 students interested. With the growing popularity, marketing club leaders Indrajit “Indy” Sen and Shimrit Ben-Yair, both members of the MBA Class of 2009, sought the advice of then-Visiting Professor Sharmila C. Chatterjee.

“Students signed up for MarketLab because they wanted to work on real-life projects before they started recruiting for summer internships,” Chatterjee notes. “Students have a huge amount of work to do in the Core [the first semester of mandatory classes for MBAs], and then they were taking on these marketing projects with little guidance. They wanted to do a good job, but some had no marketing or content knowledge. That’s when Indy and Shimrit approached me to work as a partner and a faculty mentor.”

Chatterjee advised students on research methods, creating a good database for research, and gave instructions on conducting in-depth interviews with clients and customers. She also advised students to take a holistic approach and develop strong relationships with the leaders of the companies they were working with.

Chatterjee, with support from the Dean’s Office, the Marketing Group, Student Affairs (now Student Life Office) and the MBA Program Office, then created a new Sloan Innovation Period (SIP) seminar, Marketing Boot Camp, to aid students. SIP occurs halfway through each semester and provides students with a week of experiential leadership learning, panels and presentations by corporate leaders, skill development and exposure to faculty research. The workshop provided MBAs with marketing and research skills they may have not otherwise obtained. The SIP workshop became a mandatory requirement for any student interested in working for MarketLab. And students received SIP credit for their work.

“With the SIP workshop, students were able to address real business problems,” Chatterjee says. “We kept talking about ways to get students more academic credit for all the work they were doing. There were on-going discussions about the possible launch of a third track that would complement the Finance and Entrepreneurship and Innovation tracks. That’s when it all came together with the realization that MarketLab could evolve into an excellent component for the new track in Enterprise Management.”

MBA students in the new track are now assigned a real-world project in the third week of their first semester, providing them with more time to work on the project. Students work in cross-functional teams to apply their learning in the Core semester. They also now work with a faculty mentor to apply their knowledge in marketing, strategy, operations, finance and quantitative analysis to the projects.

Last fall, Enterprise Management students worked on 11 projects with several companies. Beginning with database research to in-depth interviews and surveys to the final PowerPoint and poster deliverables, students worked with Professors Chatterjee and Retsef Levi and faculty mentors Michael Braun, Jason Davis and Trond Undheim throughout the duration of the project. Chatterjee says the projects are now part of EM Lab, in which academic credit is awarded to students.

“Students can now talk about the projects they have worked on in greater detail during their summer internship and job interviews. With faculty mentoring now available, we have been able to preserve the pedagogical goal. Each faculty member works with four student teams and the scope of the projects vary,” Chatterjee notes. “We still have many companies who would like to have MIT Sloan students work for them. In the future, we would also like to expand the track’s offering to non-profits such as the Red Cross or UNICEF.”

Chatterjee says the ultimate goal is to provide students with experience that will lead them to internship and job offers. And it’s working. Ken Yau Joong Young MBA ’14 landed a summer internship with Nike after working with the company this past fall. He will work in the company’s Supply Chain Innovation Group this summer and further the work from his team’s EM project.


Google acquires news stream Wavii

Google acquires Wavii, a service that offer customised news streams to users, for roughly $30m (£18m) in cash.


All Nippon Airways Takes Dreamliner With Improved Battery on Test Flight

A 787 carrying top executives from Boeing and All Nippon took off from Haneda Airport on Tokyo’s waterfront Sunday morning, without incident.



Should Facebook Allow Businesses To Give Away Guns?

Pennsylvania gun store Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms was running a giveaway for an AR-15 on Facebook, when the social network shut it down without warning.

Should gun sellers be able to run promotions for guns on Facebook? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Few things are causing more arguments these days than guns, and major Internet companies have made it more difficult for gun sellers than for most types of businesses to get their products in customers’ hands. Facebook is no exception.

In this case, Facebook shut down the store’s entire page, though as pictured above, the store has another one that is currently running. That one, however, is focused on survival courses.

According to The Blaze, the contest had been running for a couple months before Facebook shut down the page, along with another page the store had tried to replace it with. The Blaze interviewed the store’s Erik Lowry:

“I still don’t know what’s going on,” Lowry told The Blaze in a phone interview.

Lowry said three days ago he awoke to calls and emails from fans asking where his Facebook page had gone. Lowry used the page to keep Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm’s more than 27,000 followers updated on store and stock information and Second Amendment news.

Lowry has reportedly been sending Facebook message after message without response, though Voativ recently ran an article about gun giveaways on the social network, which shared a statement from a company spokesperson, saying, “Our Ad Guidelines prohibit promotion of the sale of weapons and the Ad Guidelines apply to pages with commercial content on them. Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.”

Lowry thinks the article is what led Facebook to take notice.

In an update, Vocativ shared another quote from Facebook: “Facebook strives to create a safe and trusted environment for everyone that uses our service.”

Facebook’s guidelines in this area haven’t always been the same. In fact, an update in 2011 lifted blanket prohibition of promotions (including give-aways) for tobacco, dairy, gambling, prescription drugs, gasoline, and yes, firearms, as reported by InsideFacebook.

As Josh Constine wrote in that article, “This does not make these kinds of promotions or sweepstakes legal — it merely means Facebook will differ to local laws rather than enforce its own.”

And in some places, such giveaways are legal.

Somewhere along the way, Facebook began taking a different approach. Facebook’s Ad Guidelines can be found here. The relevant section simply states, “Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.” The Pages Guidelines also clearly say, “Ads and commercial content (including Page post content) are subject to the Advertising Guidelines.”

Facebook is far from the only Internet company to have gun-related restrictions in its terms. Earlier this year, for example, Groupon decided to pull all gun-related deals. This caused a significant amount of controversy.

Michael Cargill, a gun rights activist, concealed handgun instructor, and owner of Central Texas Gun Works, called for a nationwide boycott of Groupon, saying his contract with the company had been “abruptly terminated”, after then Groupon CEO Andrew Mason “decided the company would no longer associate with any business related to firearms,” according to shooting sports news site Ammoland.

Last year, Google stirred up some similar controversy when it removed guns from shopping results. Additionally, Google has strict terms prohibiting guns and gun-related products in AdWords.

Are these companies making the right call when it comes to guns? Share your thoughts in the comments.


I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back. …

I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back. Henny Youngman US (English-born) comedian (1906 – 1998)


Effective email Writing – Part 4 – Page Layout

Effective email Writing is a series of old articles defining how-to and best practices of using email, we will publish all the 11 articles here each in a single post.

Part 4:

Page Layout

Words on a computer screen look different than on paper, and usually people find it harder to read things on a screen than on paper. (I know several people who even print out their email to read it.) The screen’s resolution is not as good as paper’s, there is sometimes flicker, the font may be smaller, and/or the font may be ugly. Your recipient’s email reader may also impose some constraints upon the formatting of the mail, and may not have the same capabilities as your email software. This means that good email page layout is different from good paper document page layout.

Shorter Paragraphs

Frequently email messages will be read in a document window with scrollbars. While scrollbars are nice, it makes it harder to visually track long paragraphs. Consider breaking up your paragraphs to only a few sentences apiece.

Line Length

Some software to read mail does not automatically wrap (adjust what words go on what line). This means that if there is a mismatch between your software’s and your correspondent’s in how they wrap lines, your correspondent may end up with a message that looks like this:




I've got the price quote for the Cobra subassembly ready; as soon as I get a decision on the thromblemeister selection, I'll be ready to go.  Have you talked to the thermo guys about whether they are ready to go with the left-handed thrombo or do they want to wait and check out the right-handed one first?



Furthermore, the “quoted-printable” encoding also contributes to the line-length problems. If a line is longer than 76 characters, it is split after the 75th character and the line ends with an equals sign. People whose email reading software can understand quoted-printable encoding will probably have the lines automatically reconstructed, but others will see ugly messages, like the following:

        I've got the price quote for the Cobra subassemby ready; as soon as I get a=
         decision on the thromblemeister selection, I'll be ready to go.  Have you=
         talked to the thermo guys about whether they are ready to go with the=
         left-handed thrombo or do they want to wait and check out the right-handed=
         one first?

There are even a few email readers that truncate everything past the eightieth character. This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

You should try to keep your lines under seventy characters long. Why seventy and not, say, seventy-six? Because you should leave a little room for the indentation or quote marks your correspondents may want if they need to quote pieces of your message in their replies.

Terser Prose

How many times when you were in school were you told to write a 20-page paper? Probably a lot, and you got penalized for being terse. This training is not appropriate for email. Keep it short. If they want more information, they can ask for it. (Also note that some of your correspondents may be charged by the kilobyte and/or have limits on how much disk space their email can use!)

If you are sending a report to many people, then you may need to put more detail into the email so that you aren’t flooded with questions from everyone on the recipient list. (You should also ask yourself carefully if all the people really need to be on the list.)

The fewer the people there are on the recipient list, the shorter the message should be. Books to thousands of people are tens of thousands of words long. Speeches in front of large groups are thousands of words long. But you’d tune out someone at a party who said more than a hundred words at a time.

I try to keep everything on one “page”. In most cases, this means twenty-five lines of text. (And yes, that means that this document is way, WAY too long for email!)


In summary, keep everything short. Keep your lines short, keep your paragraphs short, and keep the message short.