From business letters to email and mobile communication

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Definitions and statistics
  • 3. Genre analysis
  • 4. Orality vs. literacy
  • 5. Degree of formality
  • 6. Linguistic accuracy
  • 7. Pros and cons of using email in business
  • 8. Technological advances in business communication
  • 9. Conclusion


The last few decades have seen a massive shift from paper-based communication to electronic mail and various related forms of communication. As a result, a sizable body of linguistic research on the peculiarities of such electronic communication has developed (Gains 1999; Gimenez 2005b; Frehner 2008; Gimenez 2009, among others), much of which focuses on the differences compared to written communication in its pure form (for the purpose of this article, business letters).

This article will first look at facts and figures with regard to (business) communication by letter and email in order to lay the groundwork for a more detailed investigation of the characteristics of these forms of communication, such as genre, formality and relevance. Next, the various advantages and disadvantages of the forms and the consequent choice of medium will be highlighted, with special consideration given to the pitfalls inherent to electronic communication, some of which have become especially apparent in recent years. Following a brief examination of new forms of communication, an attempt will be made to offer an outlook into what the future may hold in terms of channels of communication, and to suggest whether particular media (or genres) are destined to prevail or wither in the face of increasing competition. Given the American provenance of the internet and the fact that most electronic communication is arguably effected in English, this article will place a strong focus on the (Anglo-)American aspects of the issues at hand.

DOI 10.1515/9781614514862-008

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