Don't shoot!

What it means (and what it doesn't mean) to "shoot an email"

January 6, 2015
Jonathan Libov

For as much I protest about misuses and jargon in business and personal communication, I'm also a grevious offender. Case in point: At a networking event last evening, as I was on my way out, I ran into someone I had met earlier and told him that I'd "shoot" him an email.

"Shoot" may just be a one word replacement for "Send" that doesn't cost any syllables, but it's a silly exchange. Much as "hopping in a cab" does not get one into a cab any faster than "taking a cab", "shooting an email" does not make an email arrive any faster than it would if you merely planned to "Send" it. The litmus test for a jargon-y phrase is when it sounds silly in other tenses — "No worries, you shot me the email yesterday!" or "Yes, I will shoot you the email" — and by that measure it certainly qualifies as jargon-y.

Shoot an email

I am not aware of any Gmail extension that enables shooting, nor any technology that would power it. I suppose sending an email over HTTP instead of HTTPS would do the trick, as would sending it through a wormhole, but of course none of us mean that when we say that we will "shoot an email".

Despite falling off the jargon wagon last night, I take solace that I did not commit the even more egregious error of asking someone to "shoot me an email". I hear that quite often, quite unfortunately. One does not ask a spouse or roommate, for example, to "run to the store"; that would be presumptuous. Asking someone else to "shoot an email" should follow the same etiquette, which is why I try especially hard to avoid that phrase when asking for something.

After all, who am I to ask someone to shoot something?