"The Fine Art of Electronic Mail"

I received an email today which made me chuckle (the RL equivalent of "ROFL"):

Hello All,
The last mail was a mistake...
I pressed tab and then space...message sent!!!!! :(
Such gaffes can easily be avoided by applying a few simple rules. They're common sense, really. But still, some things don't become obvious until they're on the Internet (Internet rule #183: If it exists, it is on the Internet). So here are hexium's Rules for Excelling at the Fine Art of Electronic Mail*:

(* Again, these are mostly common sense. Similar guides are bound to exist elsewhere on the Internet (Internet rule #184: If it exists on the Internet, it exists elsewhere on the Internet). I didn't plagiarize them! Honest!)

1) Body First

Compose the body of the message first. Say what you want to say. Say it clearly and concisely. Don't beat around the bush; get to the point. Proof-read.

2) Subject Next

Sum up the content of the body in one line. Avoid generic subjects like "hi". If the mail is important, indicate it in the subject line.

Put yourself in the receiver's shoes and ask yourself this question -- would sheet be likely to read a mail with a subject line "heyy check dis out" among tens (or hundreds) more? Let the answer guide you in your quest for a worthy subject line!

3) CC and BCC

Be very clear about when to use CC (carbon copy) and BCC (blind carbon copy). Use CC when you think someone should be "in the loop" on something, but when it does not require any action to be taken on their part (if someone is required to take an action based on your mail, put them in the TO list). A side effect of a CC is that everyone in the TO, CC and BCC lists knows who is on the CC list. Keep that in mind.

Use BCC when someone has to be discretely copied in a mail. Maybe you don't want others to know who else is on the "list". Maybe you're forwarding crap and don't want to leak email addresses or lists (good!). Be careful though, people in the TO and CC lists may not look too kindly upon knowing you've been sneakily adding others into the conversations. Another thing to keep in mind is that when someone in the TO or CC lists does a "reply to all", the people you put in the BCC list will not be included.

4) Reply To All

When doing a reply-to-all, use some common sense. Don't unnecessarily flood the mailboxes of people who probably don't care about what smart ass-comment you have about someone else's mail. At least remove the names of people you don't know. (Note that this problem wouldn't have arisen if the sender had used BCC properly.)

Equally, don't reply only to the sender when everyone else needs to be replied to too.

5) TO

Back to my original source of laughter -- Incomplete mails. See, you can't accidentally send a mail to a blank TO list! (Assuming no CCs or BCCs, mm'kay?)

Make sure the TO field is the last field you enter before pressing the Send button.

6) Attachments

Don't send LARGE, unsolicited attachments. Even though Gmail etc. have made storage space a non-concern, there are a few unfortunate souls who have to make do with as little as 25 MiB of Exchange-Server-provided storage space. Have mercy.

7) Reply

See here it gets a little tricky. It's kinda difficult to follow rule #5 when replying to a mail, so use rule #8.

8) When in doubt, use common sense.

So there we are. There may be more, which may be appended to this list (or may be left as an exercise to the reader). Follow these rules, and you'll be fine!

Happy Emailing!


"Perfect Match"

There's no such thing as a perfect match.

But Home lites come close.


"Rules of Engagement"

In military operations, Rules of Engagement are those policies that determine when, where, and how force shall be used. One such list, supposedly developed by the CIA during the Cold War to be used by spies working in Moscow, is called The Moscow Rules.

Some of the points allegedly a part of the list are:

  • Assume nothing.
  • Murphy is right.
  • Never go against your gut; it is your operational antenna.
  • Don't look back - you are never completely alone.
  • If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
  • Maintain a natural pace.
  • Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly.
  • Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
  • Don't harass the opposition.
  • There is no limit to a human being's ability to rationalize the truth.
  • Technology will always let you down.
While Rules of Engagements are generally for war or espionage, a surprising number of them seem to be applicable to the "I-will-marry-you-I-promise" engagements as well, don't you think? ;)



In a chat room a few weeks ago...

user1: What's that thing called where... when one hasn't thought of something for a long time, and then one day thinks about it, and suddenly that thing seems to be everywhere?
user2: synchronicity?

Since that one conversation I witnessed, synchronicity seems to be everywhere!

The same evening as the chat, a friend and I were talking about good vacation spots, and an obscure island came to mind. I remembered I had acquaintance there, who I had not been in touch with for a long time. 30 minutes later, guess who called me up! And today, as I was thinking about composing this post, the same acquaintance called again!

Another friend of mine called me up twice in the past week -- once when I was about to call sheet (I was a second away from pressing 'dial'), and once when I was typing out a text message to sheet. 'Twas creepy.

I blogged about studies abroad, and between then and now, at least 3 people have asked me for advice on 'giving the GRE' (and they were definitely unaware of the blog post).

I mentioned Russell Peters in my previous blog post, and while that post was still in drafts, a friend pinged me about Peters coming to India.

There were a lot more such incidents, which I can't remember right now.

And for complete meta-ness, the word "synchronicity" keeps coming up in sites or articles I read! It's like The Number 23 -- first it takes hold of your mind... then it takes hold of your life. (And, um, coincidentally, I watched that movie recently too.)


"Elephant in the Room"

The Elephant in the Room

Shit happens. Just because you wish it didn't happen doesn't mean that it didn't happen. Just because you pretend it never happened doesn't mean it'll go away if you don't bring it up.

Just like an elephant in a living room. It's large, it's gray, and it's just standing in the middle of the room. Everyone just pretends it doesn't exist, and just walks around it. No one talks about it. No one acknowledges its presence.

But that doesn't make the elephant un-exist. It is very much there. It is real.

Shit happens. Admit it. Accept it. Face it. Deal with it.

As the great philosopher Russell Peters always says, "be a man*!"

* or woman, as the case may be.


"Application Season"

Ah. It's that time of the year again, when everyone and their dog gets bitten by the 'study abroad' bug. Having been through the ordeal myself, I thought to myself, why not help the thousands of confused souls out there? These tips have been painstakingly compiled from mine (and others') experiences. Follow them to the letter, and you should have no problem getting into that dream university of yours!

How To Get Into Your Dream University

1. Apply As Late As Possible

One of the best kept secrets of the admissions process is that the admissions are based not on a ‘queue’ system, but rather on a ‘stack’ system – First In Last Out (FILO). Imagine a stack of papers (applications) on the admission officer’s desk. The later your application reaches them, the higher up in the stack it is. Now imagine how the committee would evaluate the admissions – the ones on the top of the stack get evaluated first! So, don’t listen to the so-called pundits who tell you to apply ‘as early as possible’. Get your application in as close to the due date as you dare.

2. Prepare a Generalized Statement of Purpose

It is not worth the time and effort to rewrite or tailor your SOP for every university you apply to. Have general statements like “I will be greatful [sic] if offered a chance to study at your esteemed institution” and “I am ideally suited for this course”. Send the same SOP to all universities.

3. Don’t go with ‘safe bets’

Safe bets are for sissies. Aim high and fly, or die.

4. Don’t Look Up The College Rankings

They’re just a money-making ploy by USNews. And the NRC is just pure evil. They haven't (as of this publication) released their rankings to the public!

5. Alphabet Soup Recommenders

For your letters of recommendation, don’t approach the professors whom you have worked with the most, and/or those who are very familiar with your work. Instead choose the ones who have the highest number of degrees on their nameplate. The unis love it when the letters contain more about your professors' qualifications than yours.

6. Give The GRE Before All Else.

Give the GRE first, and then decide what you want to do (and where) based on your score. Do NOT do the following: do your researches in advance, decide where you want to be, learn what GRE score is necessary to get you there, and go out and get that score. Start on your university list only after you get your GRE score. You may have to spend a couple hundred dollars to send them your scores through ETS, but that’s okay.

7. Do Your Own Thing

Don’t visit sites like Edulix.com. Don’t share experiences with others who have gone through (or are currently going through) similar experiences. Don’t ask the seniors currently in your target colleges about the course and facilities there. You don’t want to be biased now, do you?

Glad I could be of help. Please let me know through the comments if you found this article helpful (and/or send money). Cheers.

Statutory disclaimer: If you obey this advice, you're a moron. <-- apparently this wasn't clear enough. People seemed to be taking the article at face value.