Why Email is Better Than the Telephone

By Deane Barker • Posted on February 23, 2004

I hate it when people call me on the phone. I’d much rather they use email. I got to wondering why this was so the other day, and here goes:

  1. Email is quicker. I’m at my computer anyway, so I don’t have to turn away and pick up the phone, look up a number, dial, etc. Ctrl-M gives me a new message in Thunderbird, and I’m on my way.

  2. Email addresses are easier to remember. Phone numbers are an arbitrary collection of digits. Email addresses are usually some form of “person@company.” I can remember hundreds of email addresses off the top of my head, but perhaps only two or three dozen phone numbers. Plus, most email clients will auto-complete email address as I start to input them – my phone won’t do that.

  3. The phone can be inconvenient. People may call when they don’t need something right now. But whether or not their need is right now, I have to turn and answer the phone right now.

  4. A lot of interactions are, by nature, segmented. In a lot of conversions with someone, you need to check with someone else about something, research something, wait for something to happen, etc. A lot of phone calls are ended because someone “offline” has to occur before they continue. This fits in perfectly with email.

  5. Email keeps track of itself. Email is a historical record of what happened. I have no “Previous Phone Calls” folder where I can go to figure out what was the last interaction I had with so-and-so. I can save an email message, forward it, turn it into an Outlook task, etc.

  6. Email is as fast as I can read. I don’t have to wait for a ponderously slow talker to get around to his or her point.

  7. You can skip niceties with email. Phone calls always start out with “Hello,” “How is the wife,” “Do you enjoy your new job,” “Did you bury the body deep enough,” etc. These are rather insulting little tidbits of speech because of one simple fact – no one much cares about the answers. But on the phone, you’re expected to make time-wasting small talk or else you sound rude.

  8. People will say things in email that they won’t say on the phone. Although this can be both a blessing and a curse, sometimes I just want people to shoot straight with me. Things they may feel uncomfortable saying on the phone, they have no problem dashing off in an email. This has been much more of a benefit than a curse for me.

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