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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.
1
  • "by texting, instead of"
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 14:43

3 Answers 3

5

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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  • 6
    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
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 14:29
  • @Marthaª Very strongly disagree. I cannot use email in any way I could not use mail, and vice versa.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 0:52
  • @tchrist: try substituting "mail" into "Nobody ever emails me" and then tell me that "mail" and "email" are used identically.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 16:42
  • 1
    @Marthaª Um, that’s the normal way to say it though. “Nobody ever mails me” means that my inbox is empty.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 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
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 16:52
16

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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  • 2
    -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
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 10:13
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 14:27
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    Does "via" really indicate a method? I thought it indicated an intermediary location, as in "I travelled from London to Rome via Paris." Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 23:47
  • 1
    @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". Commented May 4, 2011 at 18:11
5

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
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 6:31
  • @Martha: my 'by' sentence has a different structure around the 'by'. Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 16:03
  • ah, sorry, didn't notice that.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 23:04

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