www.ethanwiner.com - since 1997

Email Etiquette

Original author unknown, revised by John Roy, points 8 - 13 added by Ethan Winer.

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It is estimated that over fifty percent of email users do not know how to forward emails properly. Do you wonder why you get junk mail or even viruses? Email messages get forwarded countless times, without concern for the privacy or security of the previous senders.

When you forward an email there is often information left over from the people who got the message before you, namely their email addresses and names. As the messages get forwarded, the list of addresses builds and builds creating a huge resource for spammers. All it takes is for one person to get a virus, and their infected computer can send that virus to every email address they have received. Even if the address collection doesn't result in a virus, it surely will be harvested by spammers looking for valid email addresses. How do you stop or at least minimize the propagation of email addresses? There are several easy steps that we should all practice.

(1) Before you send out a forwarded email, delete all of the other addresses that appear in the body of the message (at the top). That's right, delete them. Highlight them and delete them, backspace them, cut them, whatever it is you know how to do. It only takes a second. Once you click the Forward button you can edit the body and headers of the message.

(2) Many people do not want their email address shared with strangers. Whenever you send an email to more than one person, do not use the To or Cc fields for their email addresses. Send the email to yourself and put the recipients in the Bcc (blind carbon copy) field. This way the people you send to will see only their own email address. If you don't see the Bcc option, click where it says To: and your address list will appear. Highlight the addresses and choose Bcc.

(3) Remove any "Fw" (Forward) in the subject line. You can re-name the subject if you wish or even fix spelling.

(4) Always hit the Forward button from the actual email you are reading. Ever get emails where you have to open ten pages to read the one page of interest? By forwarding from the actual page you wish someone to view, your friends won't have to open many emails just to see what you sent.

(5) Have you ever gotten an email that is a petition? It states a position and asks you to add your name and address and forward it to 10 or 15 people or your entire address book. The email can be forwarded on and on, and might collect thousands of names and email addresses. FACT: The completed petition is worth money to a professional spammer because of the wealth of valid names and email addresses it contains. If you want to support the petition, send it as your own personal letter to the intended recipient. Your position will carry more weight as a personal letter than part of a long list of names. (If you think about it, who's supposed to send the final petition? And don't believe the ones that say that the email is being traced, it just isn't so.)

(6) One of the email forwards I hate says something like, "Send this email to 10 people and you'll see something great run across your screen." Or, sometimes they'll just tease you by saying something really cute will happen. Not! And don't let the bad luck ones scare you either.

(7) Before you forward an Amber Alert, or a Virus Alert, or some of the other warnings floating around, verify them first. Most are junk mail that's been circling the 'net for years! Just about everything you receive in an email that is in question can be verified at Snopes, the urban myths site. The search feature at Snopes is excellent, so it's easy to find out if a story is real or not. If it's not, please don't pass it on.

(8) If you read a story online, or see a video you'd like to share, please don't use the web site's "Email this to a friend" feature. Instead, copy the address from your browser's address bar and create a new email manually. When you email through a web site, you have just given away your friend's personal information - their email address - to whoever owns that site.

(9) Likewise, if you are active in public forums, never post anyone's email address. If you want to recommend or praise a company you've done business with, post the address of the company's home page or Contact page if they have one.

(10) I love hi-res cameras as much as anyone, but the downside is the photo files are very large. Please don't clutter up your friend's Inbox with half a dozen photos 3 MB or larger. Most cameras come with photo editing software. If you learn only one feature, at least learn how to reduce photos to a size appropriate for emailing. You can reduce most photos to less than 100 KB with no noticeable loss of quality. And before you forward a huge video file, see if it's already on YouTube and forward the link instead.

(11) When replying to emails that contain photos or other attachments, some email programs re-send all the attachments with your reply. Please delete those before clicking Send, especially if the attachments are large.

(12) It's rude not to confirm emails the sender considers important. As a professional writer I often email magazine editors with an article idea or letter to the editor. When someone doesn't acknowledge receiving my email, I can't tell if they're not interested or if they just never got it. Even a simple "Thanks, this is to confirm we received your email" makes all the difference.

(12a) Related to 12 above, set up your email program to return Read Receipts when they are requested. In Outlook Express go to the Tools menu, then Options, then Receipts tab. Select "Notify me for each read receipt request." Then select Yes when prompted, unless the email looks like spam.

(13) When replying to an email sent to others including you, use Reply All so everyone in the list will see your email.

So please, in the future, let's stop or at least minimize the junk mail, viruses, rudeness, and wasted bandwidth by following these simple steps.

Also see THIS very funny series of cartoons expressing many of the same sentiments.

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