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E-Mail Hints and Tips

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Written on July 29, 1997 by Robert & Karen Vanderzweerde

Appeared in Greenmaster Magazine on December 1997/January 1998

In our last column, we presented a primer on using electronic mail.   In this column, we offer additional hints and tips on using e-mail that will help you with your electronic correspondance.

Check Frequently:

There is nothing more annoying than sending out e-mail and having your message ignored.  Check for new mail frequently!  Business mail should be checked daily.

Don't Send Confidential Information:

Unless you use encryption, your e-mail message will be sent over the Internet as plain text.  It is possible for someone to intercept and read your message.  Be careful about what you send (e.g. your credit card number) and what you say (e.g. confidential information).

Check for Viruses:

A mail message cannot contain a virus because the message is simply text.   However, viruses can be transmitted in attachments, including macro viruses in documents.  Unless you know the source of the message and can be absolutely sure the sender does not have a virus, do not double click on the attachment to see what's in it.   Instead, save the attachment to your disk drive, scan the file with your virus checker, and then read the attachment.

Keep the Format Simple:

You never know what mail client software is being used by the reader of your message.  Your beautifully formatted message may look terrible when it is received and automatically re-formatted.  Avoid indentations, leave blank lines between paragraphs, and don't use fancy formatting.  Plain and simple is best.

Check Your Messages:

We dont know about yuo but wee finde it frustratting to recieve maill messages that arr mispeled, full of abbrs, and have poor gramer.  Re-read your mail message before you send it and use a spell checker if you have one.

Use Proper Etiquette:

Although e-mail messages are less formal than letters, you should resist the temptation to be sloppy.  A message devoid of capital letters and filled with improper punctuation reflects badly on you.  Treat an e-mail like a memo or conversation.  A formal greeting is not usually required but the body of an e-mail is like the body of a letter with an introduction, detail, and closing.  Adding a "Thanks" along with your first name to the end of a message gives it a personal touch.  There are no hard and fast rules here - use your common sense.  Remember that your message can easily be forwarded to others.

Add Some Pizzazz:

Yes, yes - this is contrary to what we said about keeping it simple and proper but there are some ways to add zip to your message.  For example, here are some ways to express emotions or actions in your e-mail message:

:-) I'm happy, pleased, or smiling
:-( I'm unhappy, displeased, or frowning
:-| I'm uncertain
:-o I'm surprised
:-O I'm shocked
;-) I'm winking
:'-( I'm crying and sad

Using lowercase text means that your are communicating normally.   UPPERCASE TEXT INDICATES THAT YOU ARE SHOUTING AND ANGRY.  IT SHOULD BE USED SPARINGLY.

Be Wary of Unsolicited Mail:

E-Mail also has its junk mail.  Exercise caution and make sure to check any attachments for viruses.  If you're unsure, it is better to delete the message entirely.

Avoid Flames:

No, we're not talking about fire from a match or candle.  A flame is a "red hot" mail message that expresses extreme displeasure or anger (e.g. responding to junk mail).  It is forceful and aggressive and can often be rude and insulting.  You should act the same as if you were sending a memo or letter.   Write it to get it out of your system (but don't send it), cool off for a day or so, then re-read it before you delete it.  If you decide to send it anyway, make sure it does not contain threats, as this is illegal in Canada.

Finally ...

Once you've used e-mail, you'll never want to use snail mail again (i.e. the postal service).

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