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Which of these is most correct, and why?

  1. Our team kept in constant communication over email.
  2. Our team kept in constant communication by email.
  3. Our team kept in constant communication through email.
  4. Our team kept in constant communication via email.
  5. Our team kept in constant communication with email.
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"by texting, instead of" –  JeffSahol Apr 29 '11 at 14:43
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closed as not constructive by Kris, Kristina Lopez, tchrist, MετάEd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 24 '13 at 3:33

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

When dealing with email, it's important to remember that it is short for "electronic mail". When trying to find the right word to use with email, drop the "e" and just consider "mail". If you do this, then "Our team kept in constant communication by mail" is the only appropriate choice. Thus, by should also be used with email.

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The word that is usually used with "mail" is COMPLETELY AND ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT to the question of what word to use with "email". Email has long ago acquired its own independent existence; just like every other word in the dictionary, its etymology does not and cannot govern its usage. –  Marthaª Dec 6 '10 at 14:29
    
@Marthaª Very strongly disagree. I cannot use email in any way I could not use mail, and vice versa. –  tchrist Feb 23 '13 at 0:52
    
@tchrist: try substituting "mail" into "Nobody ever emails me" and then tell me that "mail" and "email" are used identically. –  Marthaª Dec 13 '13 at 16:42
    
@Marthaª Um, that’s the normal way to say it though. “Nobody ever mails me” means that my inbox is empty. –  tchrist Dec 13 '13 at 16:48
    
@tchrist: is this an across-the-pond thing? I would never in my life say something as preposterous-sounding as "nobody ever mails me" unless it was followed by, say, "cookies". –  Marthaª Dec 13 '13 at 16:52
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A couple more distinct alternatives for you to think about:

  • Our team constantly communicated by email.

  • Our team kept in constant communication using email.

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I like the suggestion of using. (Note that by is one of the options Ricket asked about.) –  Marthaª Dec 4 '10 at 6:31
    
@Martha: my 'by' sentence has a different structure around the 'by'. –  Jonathan Leffler Dec 4 '10 at 16:03
    
ah, sorry, didn't notice that. –  Marthaª Dec 6 '10 at 23:04
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I'd go with "via". It wins the "Google war" by a large margin, although as we know that's not always indicative of anything.

  • communication over email - this could be interpreted as, the subject of the communication is email.

  • communication by email - I first wanted to parse this as the email is the thing doing the communicating.

  • communication through email - this could work; I think the only reason it sounds more awkward than "via" is that we're not used to it.

  • communication via email - this says exactly what you want, i.e. email is the method used for communication.

  • communication with email - this sounds like you're talking to the email.

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-1. I'm not sure where you get that connotation with the word "by". By often implies a means. "I came by car." "How did you talk to him? By phone." "The letter came by post." –  Eric Dec 6 '10 at 10:13
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@Eric: obviously it doesn't mean the email is doing the communicating, but there is an initial disconnect that causes my brain, at least, to try to force the sentence into the more usual meaning of "by". I know we say "by phone" and "by post" all the time, but we don't say "by email", at least in my corner of the world. –  Marthaª Dec 6 '10 at 14:27
    
Does "via" really indicate a method? I thought it indicated an intermediary location, as in "I travelled from London to Rome via Paris." –  RedGrittyBrick Dec 9 '10 at 23:47
    
@RedGrittyBrick is correct; "via" is a preposition that describes routing through places. "By" is the correct preposition for describing a method used; the odious phrase "via email" is an example of the MBA-speak that has infested the English-speaking world in recent years, nearly as bad as the use of "resource" to mean "person". –  Jonathan Tomer May 4 '11 at 18:11
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protected by RegDwigнt Feb 22 '13 at 15:22

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