Perhaps one of
the biggest problems with email (besides the spam issue) is the fact that
not many people know how to properly format their email messages.
writing your email is generally known as "email netiquette".
The rules of
email Netiquette are not "rules" that are written or
governed by any authority, but are considered to be general guidelines
that help avoid mistakes (like offending someone when you don't mean to)
and misunderstandings (like being offended when you're not meant to).
These core rules of email Netiquette help us communicate better via email.
I will try to
comment on the top rules
of email netiquette in the following article.
Use email the way you can want everybody
to use it
think: Do you like having these huge attachments being sent to you without
asking for them? Do you like reading other people's email that is written
on flashing html background with an almost invisible font face? Did you
like that huge and childish signature you read on that last email you got
humans like you'd like to be treated yourself.
Prefer sending TXT instead of HTML
is no good argument for sending e-mail in HTML format! See why:
The 7 sins
e-mail is dangerous - Nearly all viruses are transmitted by email.
Both plain text and HTML mail may carry malware attachments but with
HTML there is a significantly greater risk since some malware can
exploit vulnerabilities in the HTML parser to automatically execute
code as soon as the message is viewed in the preview pane (i.e.
without the attachment having to be 'opened'.)
e-mail wastes bandwidth - Look at the source code of any HTML
message and after the headers you'll see the message body is
duplicated, once in plain text and once in HTML. So most HTML messages
are at least twice as big as plain text only, and they can be many
e-mail doesn't always work - Some popular e-mail readers (e.g.
Pegasus) simply don't read HTML mail, others (Pocomail and even AOL)
have difficulties displaying it properly
e-mail can connect to the internet by itself - If you're off-line,
opening an HTML email containing images may (by default) open a
connection to the internet.
e-mail renders slowly - Some mail apps (e.g. Outlook) can slow
down considerably when rendering HTML. The need for an HTML parser has
also led to code-bloat in email apps generally.
e-mail is not always reader-friendly - HTML allows the sender to
use unreadable small or non-standard fonts, clashing colors, badly
formatted images and sometimes there is no quick or easy way for the
reader to adjust the appearance to THEIR choice.
lists hate HTML mail - Subscriber lists, particularly those with a
digest, discourage and sometimes block HTML (since it appears in the
digest as a mess of code).
So, when in
doubt whether a recipient appreciates email communication using HTML
formatting, send plain text emails by default, especially if you have not
previously talked to the recipient.
A note for
Hebrew users: Writing in Hebrew may be one exception in which I do
recommend using HTML. This is because of the fact that Hebrew fonts,
written from right to left unlike English or other European languages,
suffer greatly from the TXT formatted emails, and will always be justified
to the left causing problems for the message recipient.
Ask before sending attachments
idiotic 2MB pictures, Flash greeting cards, movie clips or other large
content may be quite frustrating. Consider the fact that a lot of people
may have just wanted to quickly check their email and ended up waiting 20
minutes for a stupid attachment to download from their mail server.
BTW, if you
must, use the most efficient compression tool available to you (besides
the common WinZip, WinRAR,
WinAce and others - I
use 7-Zip which I find
to be the best archiving tool available - and it's all for free).
Also, on most
servers that use strict quota limits, if a mailbox is not constantly
emptied, overly large attachments can clog it and prevent the owner from
This is why
you should always ask before if it's okay to send a larger file via email.
Never send .DOC attachments unless you
HTML-formatted email, Word .doc files are unnecessarily large for the
message they contain and they can also carry viruses of all sorts. In 90%
of cases the contents of a Word .doc could be put in a plain text file.
In 90% of the
remaining 10%, where the layout of a document is important, the file
should be (more safely) formatted as a Rich Text File (.rtf) which will
not only be considerably smaller, but can be read by more programs on more
platforms. RTF documents are also cross-version compatible, thus the
recipient will not be required to run the same version of MS Word as
convert the document to Adobe .PDF format and thus preserve it's
formatting while generally reducing it's security risks.
Writing in ALL CAPS IS LIKE SHOUTING!
When you write
in all capital letters, this looks (and maybe sounds) to the recipient as
if you were shouting. Keep your CAPS writing to the required minimum.
Trust me, avoid using the caps lock key on your keyboard, or suffer the
wrath of the annoyed recipient! If you send me a message that is all in
caps you can be 100% sure it's going right into my trash without being
Never forward a message asking you to do
The net is
choked with traffic as it is. Much of it is unwanted spam. But there's
also the net version of the chain letter - "send a copy of this to
everyone you know" - usually with some sob story attached and an
implausible (or more likely impossible) promise that the message is
somehow being tracked and that every time it is forwarded a child will be
saved of dying from cancer and the world will be made a better place.
These are all bogus. At best they are benign wastes of bandwidth. At worst
they may carry a virus.
See my Virus
Warnings and Hoaxes page for more info on how to identify hoaxes and
Keep forwarded emails clean
received our share of great email-jokes or other stuff we wanted to share
with our coworkers, family or friends. However, sharing these email in the
form of forwarding them can cause the email itself to grow beyond normal
proportions, with many > characters and broken lines.
forwarded email before you pass it on.
Quote original messages properly in
more wasteful than to reply to an e-mail by including a complete copy of
the original with the words "I agree" , "Okay" or
"Ditto" at the bottom.
method is to use quoting. When you reply to an email message, you should
include that message, but only as much as is necessary to establish the
context. As a proper measure, your reply should always be below the quoted
text, not above it. That way people will be able to keep track of the
Do NOT quote
back the entire email message as sent to you. This wastes bandwidth and
download time. Once you hit your reply command, select the non-essential
parts of the original message and delete them.
When sending email to many people - use
the Bcc: field
to many people at once is a cool thing we all like (especially spammers...).
However, if you use the To: field or even the Cc: field you will send an
email that has all it's recipients packed up nicely in that field, all
ready for the pruning of spammers and other low-life creatures.
Using the Bcc:
(Blind Carbon Copy) field is a good way to send your email to many people
without having the recipient's email addresses visible to human eyes, and
thus preventing regular email software from being able to reply to all
Avoid "Me Too" messages
I don't care,
I don't want to know, so don't bother writing back only to tell me that.
If you feel you must share your feelings, the least you can do is come up
with more content than these 2 words which in fact only waste our time and
Add a descriptive message subject
subject line of your email descriptive of the contents. If you have
something you need help with, make sure the recipient will know what
you're talking about by reading the subject line.
descriptive subject lines are also good for later archiving and text
messages with blank subject lines, as these will mean nothing to the
recipient. You can be 100% sure that any email that does not contain a
subject line will automatically be sent to my deleted items folder!
Add a signature to your email but don't
make if flashy
People want to
know who it is they're talking to, and trying to decipher an email address
such as email@example.com
isn't very helpful, isn't it? If your email software supports it,
have an auto signature added to every post from you. Be sure to include
your first and last name with your email address. If it is business, add
your title and/or company name and maybe a phone number with area code.
Do NOT add
pictures, logos, animation or any other large attachment to your email
unless your company requires them to be present.
Spell check your email
the wrong message like poor spelling. Get a spell checker for your email
software if you do not already have one.
Reread and reconsider the whole message
before you send it
have other perspectives, cultural backgrounds, religious believes and even
different gestures - all based upon their country of origin and education.
Don't take your joke for granted.
remember that you are sending a text-based communication to possible
strangers. They may not know your sarcasm or witty sense of humor like
your family and close friends do.
reconsider the whole message when you return to it, possibly from the
recipient's perspective. Remember that that can be misunderstood in an
email message will in fact be misunderstood, no matter how many winking
smileys you add.
netiquette rules, remember to treat your fellow humans they way you want
to be treated yourself, and keep an open mind.