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Some Helpful E-Mail Hints
by:   Mark S. Deion
Deion Associates & Strategies, Inc.

As the use of E-Mail becomes more accepted as one of the primary modes of communication, there are some issues which should be addressed to establish protocols, policies and procedures for both individuals and companies. The following list of topics should provide you with some helpful insights.

These typographical characters might be "cute" in personal messages, but they really do not belong in business communications. Inserting a happy face     :)     or, a sad face     :(     might be appropriate in personal communications, but these devices should be excluded from business communications

If youíre just sending a personal message, spelling isnít necessarily of specific concern. This is also true for communications with close business associates. But, many E-Mail softwares now have spell-checker programs, and if your message is intended to reflect the quality of service provided by your company/organization, it might be advisable to spend the few extra few seconds to spell check your message.

Mail sig files:
A basic mail signature file which is automatically attached to each E-Mail message is an option you should use. It is merely a small text file which is automatically attached to each E-Mail message you send. This signature should include your name and/or company name, and it is helpful to have your telephone and fax number included as well. This provides for ease of use if the recipient is required to do anything with the message other than sending an instant response to the message. If someone is referred to a hard copy of the document at a later time, your basic contact information is available at the end of the message and this will facilitate ease of use. Some people opt to include their URL and E-Mail address in the mail sig file as well.

Having a mail sig file also prevents you from having to re-type specific contact information every time you send an E-mail message!

Internal links:
If you are including a reference to a web site, type the URL in proper syntax so the URL becomes a hyperlink in the recipientís E-Mail message. Many recent versions of browsers will allow the recipient to click on the hyperlink from their E-Mail message and go directly to the site being referenced. These browsers will convert a referenced URL beginning with "http:" and convert the URL to a hyperlink within the E-Mail message, thus allowing the recipient to merely click on the link to go to the site, rather than having to "re-type" the URL, or copying and pasting the URL in the location box.

File Attachments (file format):
Attaching files to an E-Mail message is a great way to transmit data. Individual E-Mail softwares deal with file attachments in different ways. Some will allow you to automatically open up the file, whereas others will only allow you to download the file. In some instances, it is difficult to know what the file format is. So, when sending a file attachment, it is helpful if you identify the file type in the text of your E-Mail message. Example: "Corel WordPerfect v. 8.0". Due to the many types of programs in use, letting the recipient know what the file type is just makes accessing the file a little bit easier for them.

Also, attaching executable files (files with an .exe extension) can be very risky. If the executable file is not one which you can verify is free of any viruses, you will be forwarding potential viruses to the recipientís computer system. People often forward executable files with jokes and cartoons on them which they have received. Theyíll forward these files to friends, thinking that theyíll enjoy the humor. But if they donít know who created the file, or whether itís free from viruses, then theyíre participating in the distribution of potentially damaging software. Know where the file came from and verify the fileís integrity before you "open" it. Know where the file came from and verify the fileís integrity before you distribute it. Anything is better than having to repair a crashed hard drive!

Try to be considerate of what it is you forward to another. If you receive a message which had been forwarded to you from someone else, and you merely forward it to another person, the entire forwarding history of the message gets forwarded as well. Sometimes, the original message is only one sentence long, but it has been forwarded so many times, that the last person to receive the forwarded message receives 10 pages of forwarding history along with the actual message.

This problem becomes compounded when the message is sent to multiple recipients, because each time the message is forwarded, the list of multiple recipients for each forwarding is listed as well.

Cutting and pasting the message is one way of avoiding this problem. Using the "BCC" option is another way to prevent the multiple recipient list from showing up as well.

When you respond to a message by clicking on the "Reply" button, you usually cause your email program to copy the original email message into your response. Reposting the entire initial message is appropriate if the entire message is required for your response. But, if you only require a few lines of text from the original message in your response, try editing out the rest of the original message. If you do not edit the message, and the response process between you and another requires 4-5 communications, the resulting final email message could very easily be pages long!

When you receive a written letter in the mail (snailmail: the stuff the Post Office delivers) you donít necessarily have to return the original letter with your response, and most often you donít. E-Mail allows you to insert the pertinent portions of text from the original message in your response, so why not utilize this option to make your response clear and concise.

Using "To:" "CC:" and "BCC:"
When you send a message using the "To:" option, (to an individual or a group) all E-Mail addresses listed in the "To:" section of your E-Mail message will be listed on the E-Mail message of all recipients. So, if you send one message to 100 people simultaneously, each recipient will see all 100 E-Mail addresses listed at the top of the message.

When you send a message using the "CC:" (carbon copy) option, all E-Mail addresses listed in the "CC:" section will be listed on the E-Mail message of all recipients. This process is similar to sending the message to 100 people via the "To:" option.

If you need to identify the E-Mail distribution list for all recipients, the "To" and "CC" options are excellent tools. If you donít need to identify the E-Mail distribution list, or, if you donít want the recipients to know who the message is being sent to, using the "BCC:" is preferred. If youíre sending an E-Mail message to 200 people, having all of the their E-Mail addresses listed at the top of the message might tend to make the message cumbersome. It is helpful in this instance to send the message "To:" yourself, and send it "BCC:" to everyone else. This way, each recipient only sees their E-Mail address at the top of the message, and they donít have to scroll through hundreds of E-Mail addresses to read the message.

Use of messages:
Once you send an E-Mail message to someone else, you are providing them with the opportunity to use the information conveyed in the message. The legality of ownership of the information conveyed in an E-Mail message is something which will continue to be debated in the courtroom. Various legal disclaimers attached to the E-Mail message might not provide you with the level of security necessary to prevent improper copying or dissemination of the original E-Mail message. Although these disclaimers might provide you with various forms of legal recourse, in ceratin instances the damage caused by improper use of the information might exceed all legal remedies. By sending an E-Mail message to someone, you have in fact allowed them to use the message however they want to. You no longer have any control over the message.

What you write in an E-Mail message is important. Written words can sometimes be misinterpreted. What you might think is a "quick" comment or response might be interpreted by the recipient as "curt," "angry," "flippant," or a form of criticism. Be sure to chose your words well. If you are writing a message to someone who isnít familiar with your style of writing, write a message which canít be misinterpreted. Be polite and courteous. Very few people have ever been criticized for being polite. Once you have developed a level of familiarity with the person youíre communicating with, the shorter, quicker messages will develop as a natural progression. Even then, polite and courteous messages should be established as E-Mail protocol.

What you write in an E-Mail message is important. But once you write it and send it, the recipient can do whatever they want with it. They might forward the message to someone whom youíd prefer did not see the message, but you no longer have control over the original E-Mail message. Once your message is sent, it now belongs to someone else. If they forward it to another person, it then belongs to them,.... and so on, and so on. The potential negative impact of having proprietary information, personal derogatory remarks, slanderous remarks, inappropriate remarks, forwarded in an uncontrollable fashion via the internet is astronomical. Remember, if the message is forwarded, it will most likely continue to have "YOUR" E-Mail address listed as the original sender. This seriously restricts the concept of "plausible deniability!!!" If you canít control the use of your message, and it contains something you donít want distributed, "DONíT SEND THE MESSAGE!!!"

As an alternative, although not recommended, if you really need to say something "nasty" or "inappropriate", say it to the personís face. E-Mail has not eliminated all of the benefits of verbal communication. This also illustrates certain security issues about controlling who is able to send an E-Mail message using your E-Mail address. If people have access to your computer and internet account, they might send inappropriate E-Mail messages. Remember, the message will have your E-Mail address listed as the sender. You will find it difficult to deny that you sent the inappropriate E-Mail message.

Response Time:
When you send an E-Mail message, youíre probably looking for a timely response to your message. The same holds true for anyone sending a message to you. If E-Mail is intended to be an important mode of communication for you and those you communicate with, attempt to develop timely response protocols. Do not only check your E-Mail once a day, or a few times a week. Your delayed response to an E-Mail message can be easily interpreted as a lack of interest on your part by the original sender.

If the original sender is requesting information about your business, your products or your services, and it takes you days to respond to the original message,....they might have already communicated with one of your competitors by the time you actually respond.

If the original sender is requesting information via an E-Mail link which you have provided on your web site, they most likely expect a timely response from you. Your failure to respond in a timely fashion could reflect negatively on any future relationship you might have with the original sender.

Try to respond to all messages received as soon as possible, as close to "real time" as possible. After all, the internet allows us to do things "quickly". Donít slow down the process!

Auto Responders:
In some instances, you might not be able to respond to E-Mail message in a timely fashion. You might be away from your computer for a day or two, might be on a trip where you canít access your E-mail account. In instances such as these, utilizing an auto responder might be a way for you to respond to E-mail messages received in an automatic fashion which will inform the original sender that their message has been received. The auto response message can inform the sender that:

Their message has been received.
You are unable to respond at this time.
You will respond by a specific time/data.
Here is alternative contact information if your need is urgent.

We hope these hints are helpful.
For additional information, access our web site at: http://www.deionassociates.com

Mark S. Deion is the President and owner of DEION ASSOCIATES & STRATEGIES, INC. a consulting firm which provides numerous services related to business development, internet development, and business representation in the US and in the Former Soviet Union. He has written numerous articles on business, and has presented business seminars to various companies, colleges and universities both in the US and in the Former Soviet Union.

Copyright © 1999 Deion Associates & Strategies, Inc.

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Deion Associates & Strategies, Inc.
Mark S.Deion

15 Sackett Street
Warwick, RI 02886-2333 USA
Tel: (401) 732-0457 • Fax: (401) 732-8767
E-mail: marks@deionassociates.com
URL: http://www.deionassociates.com

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