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JoAnne Yates' "The Memo as a Management Genre" traces the origins of business writing, including the emergence of standard fields -- "From", "To", "Subject", "Date", and "In reply to", which actually predates the other four -- go Mutt and threaded discussion! The influences on subsequent communications formats, particularly Email and Usenet, aren't mentioned, but are obvious.

Letter-writing itself, as a widespread practice, is fairly new, it relying on post offices, stamps, and paper, and above all, literacy. The forms of letters written in the 19th century were very much defined by guidebooks and conventions.

Business writing itself is also highly formulaic, though it dropped much of the verbosity (and social grace) of earlier forms, discussed in this essay.

Messaging-as-technology, the protocols, conventions, forms, usage, and economics, are all mentioned, in particularly the induced demand created by easier communications, storage, and retrieval (or reversal as practices were limited or discontinued).


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