Comparison Between E-mail and Voice Mail

Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant

Chart of comparisons


Voice mail

For less urgent messages*
Appears to request attention.
For more urgent messages*
Appears to demand attention.
The reader may read the message many times to be sure he or she understands it. Vanilla layout gives few clues about differences in importance. The language alone, must convey relative importance or urgency. The listener generally tries to understand and remember the message the first time through but may rewind the tape and repeat it as many times as necessary. Tone of voice and language yield clues about relative importance or urgency.
Written, may be read quickly or slowly, as the receiver desires Oral, must be listened to at the speed it was delivered
May be stored on disk for future reference. Easy to access specific stored messages. May be stored on tape for future reference. Hard to locate specific stored messages.
Provides a record of message sent and message received, which reassures the sender and saves the reader an acknowledgment step. Provides a short-term record of the message. Many voice-mail systems provide no record for the sender that the message has been received.
The receiver accesses the message at his or her convenience, perhaps long after the usefulness of the message has passed. The flashing signal that indicates a voice-mail message is waiting is potentially irritating to the receiver, especially if he or she is feeling pressured by other events.
The writer organizes and edits the message for the reader on screen. If the message contains typos and other errors, the writer may appear careless, inconsiderate, or illiterate. The speaker is responsible for organizing the message. If the message contains pauses, repetitions, or backtracking, the speaker may sound inarticulate or poorly organized.
Preferred by visual learners Preferred by auditory learners

* Nona Mason, Director, MBC program, University of St.Thomas, personal communication, February 1995.

Also see
Email Writing, Management and Policies

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