E-Mail Do's and Don'ts

Electronic mail, or e-mail, is becoming very popular as a form of communication that uses the Internet.  By the year 2003, it is projected that the number of Americans who communicate via e-mail will be 135 million (half the population!).  This new way of communicating includes unwritten rules and a language style that the new user might not know.  The following are hints on what to do and what not to do when using e-mail.

Log Off or Log On

Logging off is especially important when using a public lab.  If you do not log off, the person on the computer after you may use your account to send e-mail.  The recipient will assume that you sent the e-mail.  When using e-mail from home, remember to log off and disconnect from the Internet if you pay for your Internet connection by the hour.

Protect Your Password

Never let anyone know your password.  Do not use common names or numbers for your password (such as your dog's name, your birthday, or your telephone number).  These are too easy for someone to guess.

Be Concise

E-mail is meant to be one of the quickest ways to communicate.  It is much more information than a letter or even a phone call.  Some people receive hundreds of e-mails a day, so keep e-mail short and to the point.  But be aware - rushed messages can lead to bad grammar and miscommunication.

Avoid Flames

A "flame" is an inflammatory or critical message.  Avoid sending junk e-mails, e-mails with insufficient information, or any other e-mail that might trigger an upsetting response from the recipient.  Also, remember that anyone can forward your message to someone else.  Be careful what you say!

Sign Your E-Mail

The sender of an e-mail message is not always apparent to the recipient simply by looking at the sender's address.  It is good practice to sign your e-mail with your name and what company you are with, if applicable.  You may want to include your e-mail address as well.  Most e-mail services allow you to write a signature that will automatically be attached to each message you send.

Do Not Use All Caps

This is the online equivalent of SHOUTING!  Don't use a string of capital letters in your correspondence unless absolutely necessary.

Clean Your E-Mail

Try to keep the number of messages in your inbox at a minimum by deleting unneeded e-mails from your inbox and folders frequently.  You can also set up unique folders and move messages to these folders, thus freeing up space in the inbox area and ultimately speeding up e-mailing productivity.

Do Not Repeat Messages

Sending the same message to the same recipient more than once can be perceived as pestering a person.  It is courteous to give recipients a chance to respond to a previous message before re-sending the original message.  Many people send and receive e-mail at regularly scheduled times of the day only.

Use Threads

Threads are a series of responses to an original message.  When responding to a message, pursue the thread by replying to the messages instead of starting an entirely new message.  Keeping the thread information together makes it easier for the participants to follow the chain of information that has been exchanged.  This is most appreciated when responding to a newsgroup or a list serv, which may have multiple discussions occurring simultaneously.

Avoid Spamming

Spam, when used in reference to e-mail, denotes electronic junk mail.  Sending junk e-mail (such as advertisement) using a newsgroup or a mailing list, or to anyone you don't know, is considered "spamming."  Avoid this annoying practice.  Many people will retaliate by sending you a flame.

Shorten Lists

To minimize the appearance of long distribution lists, send your intended e-mail message to yourself (To:yourname@yourcompany.com) and blind courtesy copy (BCC:recipientsname@theircompany.com) to all other recipients of your e-mail message.  Each recipient of your e-mail message will see only his or her name at the top of the e-mail message.

Don't Overuse Distribution Lists

When you're sending a message to many people, a long delivery list may appear at the top of the message.  This can annoy readers.  It also can make your message seem like junk mail.

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