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Email Do's and Do NOT's

by Nick Anis

  • Set aside blocks of time for reading and replying to your email.
  • Organize your email by creating topic folders and don't discard messages if there any chance you might need to refer back to them.  In most cases, you should setup IN, OUT, and TRASH folders.  You may wish to sort incoming email by subject, key word, or author so you can process related mail together.  After you process your mail you will probably want move your "sent" and "read" mail to topical folders.  For example all the personal mail should be moved to "Personal," all the mail about the trip to St. Louis should be moved to the "St. Louis Trip" folder, and so on.
  • While it's a good idea to save important mail to your local disk, you should delete all unnecessary mail on your service provider's mail server to avoid having your mailbox overfill and your email being suspended.
  • Quote the message you are replying to.
  • Make sure when you reply that the "send to" and "CC" or addresses are set the way you want and that you are replying ONLY to the person(s) you want. Be ESPECIALLY careful NOT to accidentally reply to a listserve, an email address that actually points to a group of recipients, (unless you want dozens, hundreds, even thousands of others to receive your reply.  You might think you are replying to a spammer and instead you are replying to thousands of the spammer's victims only exacerbating the situation.
  • Spell checks your email before sending it.
  • Consider carefully what you write; it's a permanent record and can be easily forwarded to others, and cause you problems.  Avoid being too harsh, rude, or vulgar.  If the message is "questionable" sleep on it before you actually send it off.  Be careful about what you are saying so you don't end up embarrassing yourself, or being charged with harassment, a hate crime, or entered into a "watch" list from acting too implosively.  Specifically, avoid sarcasm, making accusations about people, calling people names, threatening people, questioning people's intelligence, or criticize their spelling.  Frequently, what happens is your message is dissected in a reply and you turn out to be a worse speller and editor then they are anyway.  You can be assertive with spammers but do so politely. 
  • Never answer an important message when rushed or before you have read all your email.  Scan to see if there are other messages about the same topic before you start your reply.
  • Don't type your message ALL IN CAPS, because in chatting and email ALL CAPS means you are shouting.
  • Read your reply outloud to yourself, writing too quickly or not reading it outloud frequently results in embarrassing grammar errors.  You can get yourself into a lot of trouble using "gay" men you meant guy, "man" when you meant woman,  ?uck when you meant luck, and so on.
  • Avoid copying text from another program like a Word Processor to your email client program.  Frequently special characters such apostrophes, dashes, and quotes, can show up as gibberish, and special formatting will also mess up.  If you know the recipient it's probably okay to send a file attachment, which is the best way to retain document formatting.  If the person you are sending the message doesn't know you too well, or that they do not have the software or expertise to download and access the file attachment, then you can open Microsoft Notepad, and paste the text into a notepad file, and then copy the text (which will be unformatted) and paste it into your email software message editor.
  • Use the edit, copy, and paste commands as much as possible to save time and reduce errors. 
  • Remove yourself from mailing lists you are not interested in.  Most times this is done by replying with the phrase "unsubscribe" or "remove" in the subject line or in the body of the message.  Be careful, sometimes spammers use your "remove" or "unsubscribe" reply to verify your email address is valid.  Only use this procedure when you can tell you are on a listserve type mailing list.
  • If possible use an advanced email client like Eudora 4.3 (Win or Mac); it has "filters" that can be setup on the fly to filter out SPAM.  You can download a fully functional copy of Eudora at
  • Do not download a message attachment from a stranger especially an executable one or even a MS Word Document that could have a malicious macro in it.  If in doubt, send a note back to the person asking who they are and what is inside the attachment before proceeding.
  • If you are replying to a lengthy message you can quote the whole message at the end of your reply and well as interspece your reply with key points in the original message you are responding to.  But do put several screenfulls of quoting in the front of your message before you say anything, as it will probably confuse, and definitely bore the person you are replying to.
  • Don't send long messages or include large file attachments with the recipient's permission.  Many email systems have limits on message size and attachment size and you will cause the recipient problems.
  • Delete messages with attachments sent to you after you have saved them to your hard drive because they take up a lot of space on the server.
  • Do not attach an exotic file type to a message unless you make it clear to the recipient what the file type is and how to deal with it.  If you use a Macintosh always use PC-Compatible file and file type name extensions ".doc" for MS Word, ".jpg" for jpeg images, etc.
  • In most causes you will always want to include a subject line and make it descriptive, creative, and captivating so the recipient will be motivated to read your messages.
  • If you "forward" a message, preface it with your comments and/or an explanation.
  • Consider if "redirecting" a message is more appropriate (assuming your email client supports that function).  Redirected messages take you out of the loop in cases were the matter doesn't concern you.  Also, if you redirect the message instead of you being the reply to, the original sender and reply to will be listed.
  • Get accustomed to using an address book to save email addresses and other contact information.  When using an address book you can automatically addresses a message you are composing and you can easily send messages to groups of recipients.
  • AOL allows special message formatting - only use this feature for emailing other AOL members.  Eudora allows special message formatting for users with advanced email client software - if you want to send a formatted message with Eudora make sure the recipients can view it correctly or use Eudora's special option to send formatted and unformatted.
  • If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers it (AOL doesn't), take advantage of autoresponders.  Also prepare pre-written responses form subjects that frequently come up. 
  • In most cases you will want to include a "signature file", which is a text listing with your name and contact information at the end of your message.  Most email client programs have a facility for inserting a file into the body of a message or you can cut and past this information.
  • Be careful with punctuation. A lot of periods can separate thoughts..... but use a lot of exclamation marks and it looks like you're angry!!!!!!!!!! How does a line of question marks look ??????? You might not intend strong emotion, but the other person might think you do.
  • Use the blind carbon copy (bcc) feature for your own mailing lists. You can send out periodic announcements to a list of people. By using the bcc feature, recipients won't be able to copy other people's names and addresses and they won't have to read through a long list of recipients at the top of the message.
  • Do not forward personal email to a discussion group without the author's permission.  Also when someone sends you a message, use care before forwarding or quoting from it in messages to others.  In general an email message exchanged between type people should be kept private.
  • Don't attach files when posting to discussion groups, instead include a link in your message where the file is so the participants can access the information on their own if they want to.
  • Don't blatantly promote your business or interests by posting advertisements in discussion groups, unless it is clearly an accepted use and you have cleared it with the moderator (if there is one) first. Otherwise, you are "spamming." Offering information of value, rather than simply inviting people to your web site.
  • Avoid using cyber-speak because some recipients may not be familiar with the cute acronyms used in Email correspondence, such as IMHO (in my humble opinion), FWIW (for what it's worth), MOTL (more on this later), and so on. Even if the recipient is somewhat familiar, having them do a mental translation each time they read messages from you can be annoying.  Also shorthand cyber acronyms are really intended for chatting, not for email.
  • If you are having an email change with another person who is typing everything in lower cases and using short phrases instead of full sentences - you can also use email shorthand if you wish. 
  • Do not email unauthorized or objectionable copyrighted material as text inside a message or file attachment or link if there is a possibility any of the recipients will take exception to it.

Glossary of Email Terms

autoresponder - an automated, predefined email reply

BCC - Blind Carbon Copy field in email programs, used to send a message to a large number of recipients without them being able to see each other's addresses.

bounces - distributed email message returned because of an error of some kind (such as the address no longer exists

catch all - an email server function that forwards all email sent to a given domain ( to a single account. Useful for catching misdirected mail, or for creating email aliases on the fly. emoticon - A short sequence of keyboard letters and symbols used to convey emotion, gestures, or expressions which could not otherwise be derived from mere text; a "smiley" (see

filter - an email function used to sort email messages automatically.

flame - an email message, either public (to a list) or private, meant to offend, usually in response to something the flamer doesn't agree with.

footer - information at the bottom of list messages containing copyright, subscription/removal information, etc. Sometimes added automatically by the list software.

header - 1. Information at the beginning of list messages containing things such as nameplate, masthead, copyright info, table of contents, and so on, sometimes inserted automatically by the list server. 2. E-mail headers. What an email message uses to communicate with mail servers, usually invisible to most email programs.

list address - the address used to distribute a message to a list (

lurker - someone subscribed to a discussion list who reads but does not post to the list.

mailto: - used in HTML link tags to create a clickable email link. Also used by email publishers to make email addresses clickable in some email programs.

moderated - A discussion list in which a human being (the moderator) must approve messages before they are distributed to the list. This is usually to prevent spam or off-topic posts.

moderator - the person who moderates a moderated discussion list

netiquette - Internet behavior which is considered friendly and non-offensive

post - A message sent to an email list

signature - a promotional device used at the bottom of email posts submitted by members to a discussion list, usually containing a website URL, etc.

subscribe - to join an email list, either via a Web form or email commands sent to a list server.

Chatting Shorthand

AAMOF:AA Matter Of Fact

BBFN:Bye Bye For Now

BFN: Bye For Now

BTW: By The Way

BYKT: But You Knew That

CMIIW: Correct Me If I'm Wrong

EOL: End Of Lecture

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

FITB: Fill In The Blank

FWIW: For What It's Worth

FYI: For Your Information

HTH: Hope This Helps

IAC: In Any Case

IAE :In Any Event

ICL: In Christian Love

IMCO: In My Considered Opinion

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion

IMNSHO: In My Not So Humble Opinion

IMO:In My Opinion

IOW: In Other Words

LOL: Lots Of Laughter

MGB: May God Bless

MHOTY: My Hat's Off To You

NRN: No Reply Necessary

OIC: Oh, I See

OTOH: On The Other Hand

ROF: Rolling On the Floor

ROFL: Rolling On the Floor Laughing

ROTFL: Rolling On The Floor Laughing

RSN: Real Soon Now

:( = Sad

:) = happy

:=D = Laughter

#  #  # 

Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.  His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment, family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.  He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram.  Nick is an accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines, horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels, donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls, mechanical bulls, and buffalo.  Nick is a member (A Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.  You can reach Nick at

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