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Overcome Email Overload with Eudora 5


Excerpted from Overcome Email Overload with Eudora 5
Copyright © 2001 Kaitlin Duck Sherwood

When I started working on this book, I thought it would be a guide to writing more effective email. After all, A Beginner's Guide to Effective Email , my Web-based guide to writing better email, gets 600,000 hits per year. Hundreds of people per year send me fan email.

Much to my surprise, I found that almost nobody was interested in a book on writing email well.

The people I talked to were so overwhelmed by incoming messages that they had stopped caring about writing email well. They felt that writing well was something that helped their readers , not themselves. With forty, sixty, one hundred, or even three hundred messages per day, they felt unable to help themselves, let alone their readers.

I believe in giving customers what they want, so I refocused the book on how to deal with email overload. Because I have gotten a lot of email myself over the past twenty-five years, I knew something about that, too.

I was surprised, however, at how much I learned about dealing with email in the course of writing this book. I could not have done it without the help of many people.


I now understand why the Academy Awards are so long and boring. While my name might have ended up on the cover, there is no way that I could have done this without the help of numerous people.

When reading acknowledgments in the past, I had always thought that spouses were shortchanged. I'd see authors heap praise after praise upon their agents, their publishers, their editors, their advisors, their neighbor's dog, their pizza delivery person, and on and on. Then, at the very end, seemingly as an afterthought, they'd thank their spouse "for everything." Apparently, the tradition is to thank people in reverse order of importance, but I didn't know that.

So to make sure that it is very clear to everybody just how important my spouse has been, I want to call attention first to my husband, Jim DeLaHunt. This book would not have come into being without his support. In addition to providing financial support, reviewing the book dozens of times, helping to design the cover, co-authoring the poem and giving me ideas when I got stuck, he provided emotional support.

Writing is emotionally difficult for me. Especially in the early days, I could find problems in my writing all too easily. Instead of facing the problems that I had to fix in the prose, it was very easy to become distracted by the nice day outside, a magazine, a book, or even cleaning the house. Jim kept reminding me that my main priority was the book, not keeping a clean house, not reading good books, and not taking long walks. But most importantly, every time I had a crisis of confidence, he would look me in the eye and say with absolute confidence, "It's going to be a great book."

Many other people helped in many ways. For starters, this book wouldn't have happened if Steve Dorner hadn't developed Eudora while working at the Computing Services Office at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The libraries of Stanford University, San Jose State University, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Saratoga, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, and Cupertino provided useful and fascinating background information.

I regret that I can't individually list the hundreds of people who sent me questions about email since I put A Beginner's Guide to Effective Email on the Web. While I might have grumbled to myself about all the work it took to answer them, the questions showed me what people cared about and frequently made me scratch my head and think. This book is better because of their questions.

Katrina Knight answered some obscure questions about Eudora for Windows.

I had some valuable help with my examples. I had some questions about skydiving terminology and practices that Beth Siegel answered quickly and completely. Jeff Powell and Mia Cheong Walkowski gave examples of good and bad email usage.

Jeff Ehlers and Dave Perry gave some advice on the cover design.

I learned a number of tips from various Web sources. The Eudora-Win mailing list and the Eudora Usenet newsgroups ( comp.mail.eudora.ms-windows and comp.mail.eudora.mac) answered a lot of questions. Pete Beim's Unofficial Eudora FAQs & Links page has an out-of-date but still extremely useful and comprehensive set of links. Finally, Adam Engst, author of Eudora for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide , moderates a very useful discussion at TidBITS.

While this isn't an academic book, I learned a lot from academic researchers. Jean Fox Tree's work illuminated the role of speech disfluencies; Bonnie Nardi's book A Small Matter of Programming prompted me to provide a template rules file. Francis Heylighen and Jean-Marc Dewaele's paper Formality of Language corroborated some of my ideas about formality and context. (Thanks to Julia Schult for finding their paper.) Long and Short Routes to Success in Electronically-Mediated Negotiations by Don Moore, Terri Kurtzberg, LeighThompson, and Michael Morris indirectly made me realize that email is more about negotiation than persuasion.

Olle Bälter's article Keystroke Level Analysis of Email Message Organization showed me that having more than around twenty folders and selectively deleting old messages are time-inefficient strategies. Steve Whittaker and Candace Sidner's paper Email Overload: Exploring Personal Information Management of Email made me understand that people use email as a "to-do" list, an idea which has permeated my book. (Thanks to Bill Walker for pushing me into reading Whittaker and Sidner's paper and for showing me his unpublished paper on some information management software that he wrote.) Bälter and Sidner's article on Bifrost Inbox Organizer confirmed that prioritizing with categories was the right thing to do.

I inflicted lousy drafts upon many people, and their feedback shaped this book into what it is now. For a while it seemed like every single reviewer found one thing that would improve the book enormously--and each person found a different thing! It was frustrating to do so many rewrites, but it has made the book far, far better.

  • Brendan Kehoe, Michael Brundage, Kevin Johnson of Motorola, David Strom, Geoff Mulligan, and Linda G. Brigman reviewed the book for Addison Wesley Longman. Addison Wesley Longman didn't take the book, but they provided good feedback and treated me well.
  • A number of friends and relatives reviewed my manuscript. These include (in chronological order) Miriam Blatt, Martha Grant, Diana Peterson, Scott Meyers, Nancy Capulet, Georges Harik, Chris Beekhuis, Tom Lehman, Anne Powell, Charles Bry, Marda Buchholz, Chrissy Foley Lopez, Raul Lopez, Roxanne Guilhamet Maloney, David Blitz, Neil Shapiro, Joe Shakes, Lisa Egart, Barbara Leeds, Lakiba Pittman, Wendy Phillips, Ed Krol, Betsy DeLaHunt, Greg Lassonde, Day DeLaHunt, Russell Bridges, John Ciccarelli, Jennie Savage, Mike Gobbi, Heinz Tschabitscher, Mary Houten-Kemp, Mary Wisnewski, Hyung Cheong, Tony Huff, Tom Henderson, and Barbara Noparstak.
  • Frank Ritter's Introduction to Information Sciences and Technology class at Pennsylvania State University gave me numerous points to think about.
  • Some complete strangers generously gave me their comments. Dan Coutts, Don Hoffman of the U.S. Navy, Arta Szathmary of Bucks County Community College, Charles Sha'ban of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh & Co. in Jordan, Marcel Damseaux from Uruguay, Linda Beal of Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates, Rob Kelley from Australia, John M. Gancz of the Quebec Learner's Network (Canada), Mike Swift from ISG (New York), Andrew Starr of eMailman, Adam Engst (the author), and John W. Noerenberg II of Qualcomm gave me outstanding feedback. I appreciated getting viewpoints from far outside Silicon Valley.

A few authors gave me important advice and (even more important) encouragement. Nancy Capulet (Putting Your Heart Online), Scott Meyers (Effective C++ and More Effective C++) and Ken Lunde (CJKV Information Processing ) helped me believe that I could make the book real.

Georges Harik provided essential support.

I want to give special thanks to my mother. In addition to being an accomplished technical writer and eagle-eyed critic, she hates Eudora. (She much prefers the old Unix mailer.) As I love Eudora, her comments were an especially useful counterpoint.

Again, I couldn't have done this without my beautiful and talented husband. I hope that someday I can support him in his pursuits half as well as he supported me in mine. Thanks, Jim--for everything.

Characters and Places

Most of the examples revolve around a character named Mabel Garcia. Mabel Garcia is entirely a creation of my imagination. Her bosses, coworkers, family, friends, company, and organizations are equally fictitious.

The only exceptions are a few friends and relatives who thought it would be fun to see their names in print. While the names might exist in the real world, the characters are entirely fictitious. The "real" Martha Boise is not a lawyer and Charlie Yzaguirre isn't an electric bagpipe repair technician. Claire Beekman is a dog. (And if Georges Harik made electric bagpipes, they would not explode!)

Similarly, there is a town called Hoopston in east central Illinois, USA. However, there are no universities, floss recycling companies, or electric bagpipe repair shops located there that I know of. Hoopston is a perfectly charming town, but it bears no relationship to the Hoopston in this book. I just liked the name.

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