If you're like most Internet users, you spend more time sending and receiving email than any other online activity. Because your email represents you, it's important that it represent you well. For that reason, it's imperative to sharpen your email skills, policies and practices. Picking up where we left off in Part 3, we'll conclude this gripping, compelling series now with more computer troubleshooting tips in Part 4 of "Everything You Need to Know about Using Email: The New Netiquette."
31. Do not forward chain letters. Phony virus alerts and hoaxes of all kinds are everyday occurrences on the Internet. Any time you receive an email that encourages you to forward it to as many people as possible, don't do it. Instead, just delete it. For more information about recognizing and confirming email hoaxes, read the article entitled "Hoaxes" in this same library on Mr. Modem's Web site. Obtain legitimate virus warnings and information from your virus-checking software Web site or if you're not sure about something you receive via email, and you're a subscriber to my weekly computer-help newsletter (you can subscribe on the Web site), you are cordially invited to check with me first.
32. Don't use a "guilt" closing to encourage recipients to forward your email to others in chain-letter fashion. Here's one I recently received: "You can either pretend this email didn't touch your heart or you can share the love by sending this to 10 others you care about." Talk about testing one's gag reflex.
33. Avoid delivery and read receipts. These types of "return receipts" will generally annoy the recipient before your email is even read. In addition, receipts of this type rarely work because the recipient has to acknowledge receipt by clicking an "Acknowledge Receipt" button or link, and most people won't do that. Remember, too, that your intended recipient, depending which email software is being used, could have the return-receipt function blocked or their software might not support it.
Some third-party services such as Read Notify can report when an email was received, when it was opened, how long it remained opened, what the recipient was wearing at the time - well, not quite yet. The bottom line is this: If you really want to know whether an email was received, ask the recipient to let you know when he or she receives it. It's just that simple.
34. Assume anything you send will be read by others. Good email netiquette includes using discretion when discussing confidential information or sending provocative material. Sending an email is like sending a postcard: It is not a secure environment. Never make libelous, sexist or racial comments in email -- a highly recommended practice online or offline, for that matter. When sending email to individuals, be aware that children may have access to the family computer and may open email intended for Mom or Dad. If you're ever in doubt about the propriety of sending anything, just ask yourself, "Is this something I'd be comfortable sending to my mother?" 'Nuf said?
35. Email becomes the property of the recipient. Recipients have the ability to copy, forward, print and/or distribute your email. If you don't want others to see your message, don't send it in the first place. In the work environment, if you're sending email on company time or using a company computer, your employer may have access to your email, as well.
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36. In business email, try to use an active instead of a passive voice. For example, "We will process your order today," sounds less formal and more personal than, "Your order will be processed today." Membership organizations should avoid the use of language that creates a subliminal barrier between the organization and its members or suggests a "we" (superior organization) and "you" (inferior member) standing.
37. Use disposable email addresses when registering on Web sites or for other online services if you don't want to be contacted in the future. Create a free, Web-based email account with sites such as Yahoo! Mail, Bigfoot, or use a service such as Sneakemail or SpamEx. After registering, some Web sites will send a confirmation email that will require a reply in order to validate your registration, so be sure to check your disposable email account for a day or two after registering.
38. Consider using a brief signature "block." A signature block (sometimes referred to as a signature line), much like a letterhead, can provide your name and contact information (including company name, email address, mailing address, phone number, fax, Web site, etc.) Most email programs permit the creation of multiple signature blocks so you can have one for business, one each for personal, recreational, and other uses. Keep your signature block short -- five or six lines is plenty. Your signature block should not be used to present your biography or life story, and it's best to avoid including philosophical, religious or "Thought-for-the-Day" type messages. ASCII "drawings" or business card attachments that require opening by a recipient should also be avoided. Just send your email and get on with your life.
39. Spam (unsolicited commercial or "junk" email) is universally reviled. Don't spam. Ever. Email is not an excuse to solicit strangers. If you are a spammer and engage in the practice of sending out unsolicited commercial messages to others, be aware that there are spam boycott lists that profile products and services of known spammers that are avoided by Internet users. Though lists of this type are illegal, they nevertheless do exist, usually making the rounds via email. Oh, the irony. Once your company or business is on a list of this type, there is no way to remove it.
40. Never reply to spam, and for heaven's sake, don't purchase anything from spam. While I'm on the subject, don't fall victim to the "Reply-to-be-removed-from-this-mailing-list" ploy. Doing so only confirms the validity of your email address and the result is even more spam. As annoying as it is, spam is simply part of the Internet experience. It doesn't kill trees, though it may inconvenience a few electrons along the way. Creating filters or rules and using programs on my list of best Web sites such as SpamKiller, SpamNet and others can help, but for the ultimate, 100 percent effective spam eliminator, use your Delete key. It works like a charm. For more information about creating spam filters, including step-by-step instructions, read the "Filtering Email" article in this same library on Mr. Modem's Web site.