"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!


superash said...

Solution to *NOT* accidentally send mail before it is complete -> Enable "Mail Goggles" in Gmail :)

superash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hexium said...

So what about the solution to *NOT* accidentally make the same comment TWICE ;)

Pranesh said...