Generation Z's Big Lesson: How to Email

Hello, Generation Z. Now that we’ve seen how Millennials turned out, guess what? Our future is in your hands. When it comes to using technology, you have some distinct advantages over the rest of us. You probably learned to use a computer before you could walk, can text faster than you can talk and multitask like a pro juggler.

But if you’re under 21, there’s a good chance you have one gaping hole in that impressive arsenal that will sink your business career before you can say, “Hi, I’m the next Steve Jobs”: You’ve never sent an email. Also you believe in zombies and vampires, but that’s neither here nor there.

It seems that some of you are actually in college, which means you’ll soon be graduating and out begging for a job. And since your parents will eventually change the locks and turn your room into a yoga studio, here’s everything you need to know about how we communicate in the business world.

What is email?

Since caveman figured out that he wasn’t alone, humans have been searching for ways to avoid each other. First we built houses, but people would just come to the door and peer through the window. Telephones were great until some loser built the first answering machine. Then, in 1971, a computer geek named Ray Tomlinson invented email.

Email is just like texting except way more complicated, a thousand times slower and nobody ever responds. Most of it ends up in something called a junk folder and eventually gets dumped in the trash bin. That’s why when you ask, “Didn’t you get my email?” the answer will inevitably be, “That’s weird; I never got it.”

In other words, email is a pointless waste of time … except under certain conditions that will soon become clear as mud.

Where is email?

It’s the only built-in app on your smartphone that you’ve never used. The graphic looks like an envelope. If you’ve never seen an envelope, it looks like a hand puppet made of paper. If you don’t know what paper is, I give up.

You can email from your phone or tablet (just like a phone but bigger) using the virtual keypad. It goes a lot faster on a physical keyboard that looks just like the one on your phone except you push the plastic buttons down with your fingers, not just your thumbs. Don’t ask why; it’s a long story.

Who do you email?

People you don’t know from Adam but want something from. First, you have to find their email addresses (like a phone number but with letters instead). Most companies have a standard (,,, etc.) and you can learn it pretty easily using a handy little app called Email Hunter.

Why email?

It’s how old people (over 30) communicate at work. You can also email coworkers under 30, but better text them this column first so they know how to read it, just to be safe.

It’s also great for sending messages detailing ever little thing you’re doing and anything on your mind to everyone in the company.

When should you email?

When you know that whomever you’re emailing would rather drink from a toilet bowl than hear from you. That’s called direct mail or spam. It ends up in the junk folder we talked about earlier.

When you have bad news you don’t want anyone to know but have to cover your behind and say you sent it.

Late at night so your boss thinks you’re working hard when you’re not. Just take a break from gaming every so often and send him an update.

When someone sends you an email asking you to do something, forward it to someone else and say something like, “Thanks in advance, I appreciate it.”

When you’re drunk, neurotic or in a fit of rage. (Nah, JK.)

How do you email?

Here’s where things get sort of bizarre. After opening the app, click the pen and paper icon, type your message and fill in the “To” field. What’s “Cc” mean? You’re not going to believe this, but it means “carbon copy,” referring to the way copies were made by hand 50 years ago, before electronics. No, I’m not kidding. “To” and “Cc” function exactly the same. Why have both? Nobody knows.

That brings us to the fun part. Come up with a creative “Subject” that will trick people into either reading it or not, as the case may be. Attach files using the paper clip icon (looks like a folded up wire in the shape of a capsule you take for ADHD) and click on the paper airplane to send it. Yes, I know that sounds dumb, but that’s how it works.

Troubleshooting tips

This is going to sting a little, so brace yourself: you can’t use tons of cryptic acronyms or shorthand and everything has to be spelled right, grammatically correct and composed, more or less. You can use emoticons, but not exclusively. Actually, no more than one per email. Sorry, those are the rules, NK.

Never use “Reply all.” Don’t ask. Just don’t.

Always reread everything before sending. Seriously. The one time you don’t and send something you shouldn’t to your boss’s boss, you can bet that will be the one time he’ll actually read it. Then your boss will get an email from his boss to fire your sorry butt. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.