Email has become such a standard part of everyday life that it has started to replace the entire concept of physical mail. However, just because you rarely run to the mailbox doesn’t mean you can use these two terms interchangeably. Does it matter whether you say email or mail? Can you use the word “mail” for “email”? Learn why that “e” makes a big difference and why you should use the right terms in your business.
Can We Say Mail for Email?
In short, you should never use the word “mail” to refer to email. You definitely wouldn’t say email when you meant real mail: the kind your postman delivers. So, why would you say mail when you mean electronic mail, or email?
Lately, email has become so common that some people have started to drop the E entirely. You might have heard a coworker say “I sent you a mail.” Nevertheless, this use is not correct.
Use mail when you refer to physical mail that you need to put stamps on. Use email when you want to refer to electronic mail sent through programs like Outlook or Gmail.
The Cause of Confusion
Why is there even a debate about whether to use the words mail or email? Some blame rests on the fact that many people just don’t use traditional postal services anymore. Mail is antiquated. However, the use of the term mail to include email has been driven largely by people who use English as a second language. In many other languages and cultures, it’s quite normal to use the word mail in lieu of email.
This phenomenon is especially prevalent in Spanish-speaking cultures but can also be seen in many others. With today’s global workforce communicating in English, these patterns tend to spread. However, using the right term is especially important when it comes to business.
An Important Legal Distinction
Businesses have a duty to communicate information to their customers and suppliers. Contracts include clauses that establish what the official means of communication are. This distinction becomes increasingly important when physical items are involved. If you have to send a prototype to a manufacturer or need proofs of printed materials, you need them through physical mail. Imagine expecting a package only to receive an image attachment in your inbox. You wouldn’t be happy, and neither would your clients.
The same legal rules apply to dealing with the government. In fact, although the IRS accepts e-filed tax returns, your mailed-in tax returns are considered legally valid once they’ve been postmarked at a post office, shortly after you drop off your mail. In certain situations, there can be a major difference between doing something by mail, or doing it by email. There are numerous other situations in the business, medical, and legal worlds where email is still unacceptable for “official” communication.
Email or Mail as a Noun
Both email and mail can be used as nouns. Email can be used as both a singular or plural noun, meaning it’s countable. It’s acceptable to say, “I’ll send you an email.” Likewise, you could say, “My inbox has 100 unread emails right now.”
On the other hand, mail cannot be used in either singular or plural forms. Mail is an uncountable noun in English. You can give general estimates of quantity, for instance, “I got a lot of mail today.” However, you wouldn’t say “I got three mails!” As an uncountable noun, we have to add a measuring word before it to quantify it: “I received three pieces of mail today.”
Email or Mail as a Verb
You can use both terms as a transitive verb, which means they must include an object. When you use the verb email, the object will be the recipient. When you use the verb mail, your object should be the thing you are sending in the mail. Consider a few examples:
- I sent you an email this morning.
- I sent an email to my lawyer about the situation.
- I’ll mail the package to you today.
- Have you mailed the marketing materials?
Using Email as an Adjective
It’s also possible to use the word email as an adjective to describe something else. Your company could create an email marketing campaign, for example. Email attachments, email services, email apps, and email newsletters are all examples of using the word email to describe something else. However, this is not normally done with the word mail. Instead, we typically say that something is done “via mail” or “in the mail”.
Whether you’re writing a contract or just talking to a client, it’s important that your staff use the right terms. Miscommunications can lead to serious issues. If you need quality email services, though, there’s no need for confusion. Visit AgencyHub to learn more about how we can help you prepare a great email campaign for your company.