More Cardinal Rules of E-Mail

By  |  Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 8:12 am

Steve Bass's TechBiteIn last week’s installment of TechBite, I showed you how to stop sending e-mail that no one is going to bother to read. This week I have a bunch more tips that you can use–pay attention now–the very next time you send me a message.

* You like forwarding stuff, I know, but you’ve gotta remove all those annoying remnants–the angled brackets, for instance–from the last 300 people who forwarded the message.

* While stripping the junk from forwarded e-mails is a good idea, removing the millions of e-mail addresses is a necessary, no, essential security requirement. If you dare send an e-mail to me and I see the e-mail addresses of those same 300 people I’ll be at your front door, hollering like hell. Really. Copying everyone, and not hiding the addresses using blind copy, is a royal invasion of privacy and a terrible security breach.

* Don’t know how to scrub your e-mail clean before forwarding? No problemo. Read “How To Forward E-Mail Appropriately.” [Thanks to John Braun for this lead.]

Tip: Here’s How to Blind Copy. In Outlook Express, create a new message, select View, and check All Headers. In Outlook, choose View and check the Bcc Field; in Outlook 2007, choose the icon in the Quick Access toolbar located in the upper left of the email you are forwarding. Mozilla’s Thunderbird has a free add-on “Contacts: Add BCC button” that puts a Bcc button at the bottom of your address book column.

In Netscape, click the To field and scroll to Bcc. In Yahoo Mail and Gmail, click BCC. In AOL, Eudora, and MSN Hotmail, just fill the “bcc” field. The classic AOL online service is more work: In the Copy To box, enter each recipient’s e-mail address in parentheses. If you have another email program, use the program’s help to figure out how to do it.

* Please get rid of IncrediMail, the annoying program that sticks oh-too-cute animations at the bottom of e-mails. Or if you insist on using it, send all your e-mail to your Aunt Sadie who I’m sure appreciates it. Make sure, though, not to send any to me

* im going to the HR mtg, RU? Yes, I’m going. But if you’re going to IM me, use Meebo or text me by cell. If you’re doing e-mail, take a couple of nanoseconds and use English, okay? And do me a favor and adhere to some basic writing standards — capitalizing proper nouns, for instance, and using periods, for Pete’s sake.

* Do your best to check your spelling. It makes for a more pleasant read. I’m a terrible speller (how do you spell embarrassed? I always get it wrong the first time around). Every e-mail program has a method to check the spelling before you send a message; I encourage you to use it. I cheat, however, and use Asutype, an automatic spell checker. It checks me in every program, including dialogs, browsers, whatever. At $40, Asutype isn’t cheap, but it’s very handy for writers; it’s also loaded with useful features, such as a decent macro tool and a clipboard manager. There’s a 30-day free trial.

* I hate writing to Phil& It confuses the dickens out of me when you and your lover, spouse, esposa, or partner use the same e-mail address. I just don’t know whom I’m writing to–or who wrote to me. Most ISPs give out a half-dozen e-mail addresses as part of the fee; Web-based e-mail is free. If nothing else, sign the e-mail so I know who it’s from.

* If you use a signature line, include your e-mail address. That way, if I have to forward your message, I don’t have to cut and paste your address from the From line. And listen, I don’t need to know your life history in the sig file, so keep it to 2 or 3 lines.

* Add a line at the end of the e-mail with your real first and last name. There’s nothing sillier than having to reply to “Dear” And please, if you can help it, don’t use initials. If I used “S. Bass” as a signature, it would force you to write back to “Mr. Bass” and make me think you’re writing to my father.

* If you forward an e-mail that has lots of uppercase text, scroll over to SpellCheck and use the handy text manipulation tool. In a flash you can convert text to lower- or sentence case. [Funny! SpellCheck misspells uppercase and lowercase in its interface. –Editor]

You have something I missed? Send it to me (I want it in a perfectly formatted e-mail, y’hear?) and I’ll save it for a future story.

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it, head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Pat Barringer Says:

    This is all true. Great post. I wish I could figure out a better way to start out an email. I really hate starting out a message (in a work email) as “Dear So and So…” I would never call anyone “dear” in real life. There must be some other verbage I could use. And why does Firefox say that “verbage” is not a word. I thought it was!

  2. IM G Says:

    If you would bother to check you find that IncrediMail has exactly
    what you are looking for: “Forward Attachments Only” which in one click create a clean copy with the Attachments and Subject only ready for Forward.
    I use IncrediMail for the last 5 years and It is truely a great Email program.

  3. Laurianne McLaughlin Says:

    Steve, you are still the best at tips.

  4. Markus Says:

    Don’t include images in your signature, especially if you use corporate email. As your sent items build up, you’ll be taking up way more space than necessary.

  5. Dave Says:

    Another one: If you are going to forward me the email that warns me that I am going to get mugged in Wal-Mart’s parking lot, my cell phone number is going to start receiving telemarketing calls, or that Coke is made of arsenic, please check with Snopes before sending it to me and 1000 other people in your address book. I don’t want to have to embarrass you by hitting “Reply All” with a link that tells everyone that you just emailed out a hoax, further perpetuating the idiocracy of America.

  6. Steve Bass Says:

    @Pat Barringer: If I don’t know someone, I usually start with “Hiya Pat…”

    @Markus: I agree about images in sig lines. I also wish people would leave off VCF (vCard) files.

    @Dave: You mean that arsenic in Coke is a hoax? Gosh, guess I can start drinking it gain…

    @Laurianne: And you are still the best at compliments.

  7. Ruth Says:

    I enjoyed this piece very much. Thanks.

    To Pat Barringer: the word is spelled verbiage, not verbage.

  8. Clipboard Says:

    I need not only spell checker but also orthography checker.

  9. Pat Barringer Says:

    Ruth: No wonder it’s been flagging “verbage”! And all this time I thought I was spelling it right. A simple right-click over the word would have shown me that. Thanks!

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