Email Conventions

  • ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING
  • many people consider all lower case mumbling
  • _Underscored Text_ indicates underline or italic
  • In place of bold text, *asterisks* are used
  • Put a meaningful Subject on your email. This helps those who are reading the mail you send. "IMPORTANT!!!!" or "Please read" aren't useful -- they just look like spam.
  • Don't reply to a message if you're not addressing its content. Start a new thread by sending an email with a different Subject.
  • Don't forward jokes, virus warnings, petitions for "good causes", or other similar material to public email lists.
  • Don't send personal email to public email lists without asking the original sender's permission.
  • Avoid using attachments. Try putting the stuff you want to send on the Web instead and include a link to it.
  • Watch out for flaming, email rage, or other wise making aggressive angry emails. Wait an hour or a day before sending it if you must.
  • When replying to an email, do not just reply with "No, that's wrong", "I agree", or the like because it may not be clear what you are referring to and (esp. in message boards) it may not be clear who you are responding to.
  • Reply to long messages by excerpting the specific parts you are replying to. EG:
    > relevant excerpt 1
    response to excerpt 1
    > relevant excerpt 2
    response to excerpt 2
    > relevant excerpt 3
    response to excerpt 3
    
  • Save time and bytes by not using a signature except for official stuff or for folks who won't recognize your email address.

Here are guidelines for efficient email and phone usage while working as a programmer. [Ref The Tyranny of Email [2003-03-08]]

  • Major
    • It takes three hours to get anything done.
    • Turn off your email client, put your phone in "do not disturb".
    • Isolate yourself. Get good headphones. Warn colleagues when you're "in the zone", to minimize their interrupts.
    • Minimize meetings and schedule them to avoid three-hour windows.
    • Become self-aware about warping off and try to un-stuck yourself.
  • Minor
    • Avoid IM.
    • Turn off your email client, not just notification.
    • Don't get into prolonged technical debates in email: meet with people instead.

"I had some fascinating correspondence from several people about why email exacerbates negative emotions. Did you know 90% of face-to-face communication is non-verbal? Apparently 60% is body language, 30% is tone of voice, and only 10% is actual verbal content. I find that amazing. It certainly explains why phone calls are better than email for touchy subjects (40% v 10%) and why face-to-face is best (100% v 40%). And it explains the evolution of emoticons and other cues like boldface, colors, italics, and punctuation. Anyway, email is terrific, but everyone agrees it does not work for criticism."

Inbox Zero [http://www.43folders.com/izero] has good ideas on how to use (and not use) email.

Here's just the headings from "Top Ten Mistakes Managers Make With Email" [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704259304575043491348109012.html?mod=rss_Today's_Most_Popular]:

  1. Using vague subject lines.
  2. Burying the news.
  3. Hiding Behind the "BCC" field.
  4. Failing to clean up the mess of earlier replies/forwards.
  5. Ignoring grammar and mechanics.
  6. Avoiding necessarily long emails.
  7. Mashing everything together into bulky, imposing, inaccessible paragraphs.
  8. Neglecting the human beings at the other end.
  9. Thinking email works best.
  10. Forgetting that email lasts forever.

"If you do this in email, I hate you" [http://theoatmeal.com/comics/email].

Avoiding Spam

Spam is unnecessary or unwanted email, i.e., junk mail.

There are several methods to avoid spam.

  • Limit exposure of your email address.
    • When you must post your email somewhere, encode it. EGs:
      • add extra characters or spaces: john 4 at 4 hotmail 4 com.
      • Use a graphic image of your email.
      • Use JavaScript to write your email. EG: document.write("<a href="+ "mail"+ "to:"+ email1+ "@"+ email2+ ">"+ mail+ "</a>").
    • Avoid having your email on any web pages, esp. with a maito: link. Use contact forms if necessary.
    • Avoid having your email in any message boards, newsgroups, etc.
    • Avoid having your email included in any mailing lists.
    • Don't interact with to spam.
      • Do not tell them to not contact you.
      • Do not unsubscribe.
      • Do not click on anything in their email.
      • Do not view, open, or download their attachments
    • To use services that require a real email for immediate confirmation, and you don't care to receive additional email from said service, then provide them with a different email account that you use just for those purposes.
    • Avoid having a common name as part of your email. EG: johnB@1234234.com is bad because spammer will take take domain name and try prefixing it with variations of common names.
  • Have your email client program filter out spam. The danger is that sometime the filter will work against non-spam email.
  • Some mail servers allow you to filter spam on the server.

While bulk mail is not illegal, bulk email that is spam can be illegal if does not conform to the following:

  • The sender identifies themselves with name, address, and phone number.
  • The sender uses a valid email address in the FROM field.
  • The sender removes anyone who requests to be remove from the sender's list.
  • The sender does not obfuscates the origin of the email.


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