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Energize Your E-Mail

Kim Komando, Host
America's Top-Rated Computer/Internet Talk Show

Kim Komando Show

While the Web gets most of the headlines, billions of electronic mail messages are sent each day. Even though it's quick and easy to send an e-mail doesn't mean that you should neglect basic e-mail etiquette.

For starters, there's no excuse for poor "penmanship." When you type your message, take an extra moment to include a salutation and closing. These need not be too formal, and a simple "Hello," "Dear Jane," "Thank you" or "Sincerely" will work in most instances.

Invest a few extra seconds to make sure your spelling and punctuation is correct, too. Most e-mail programs have a built-in spell checker that makes this easy. Also, if you've been tempted to write a message in ALL CAPS thinking it would save time, don't do it! It might save you a second or two, but the person who has to try to read your e-mail will spend twice as long trying to decipher it. More important, ALL CAPS in an e-mail is the equivalent of SHOUTING your message. You don't want to deafen your friends, do you?

One of the most basic elements of sending e-mail is the address, and this is a common source of confusion. Some people might tell you their address is all caps, all lowercase or some combination like MyAddress@Domain.Com. In fact, Internet e-mail addresses aren't case sensitive. You can enter any combination of upper and lower case letters and your mail will still arrive at the right place (standard convention is all lower case, however).

When addressing e-mail, or even just sending a reply or forwarding a message, another courtesy to practice is using the "Blind Carbon Copy" (BCC) feature. BCC allows you to send to any number of people without disclosing the recipient list. In other words, if you send a message via BCC to Bob, Bill and Mary, all three will receive the message, but none of them will know that the other two received the same message.

Using BCC will not only prevent your e-mail from opening with a long list of recipients, but by protecting the e-mail address of all the people you send to, you're also helping to cut down on spam. If your mail should get posted on a public forum or forwarded to a junk e-mailer with the list intact, you've just handed over perhaps dozens of prime addresses that are then very likely to be targeted for spam--not a good way to make Internet friends.

Should you reply to mail that happens to have a long "To" list, in most instances you won't need to hit "Reply To All," unless you really do want your answer copied to everyone on the original distribution list. Simply using the "Reply" button will help keep your personal messages private, and cut down on unnecessary nternet traffic.

Another way to cut down extra traffic is by eliminating the "Return Receipt," a feature that sends you a reply message when your e-mail has been opened. Please, save this option for times when you really must know that your mail has reached its destination. Otherwise, assume it made it safely, and only check up on the delivery if you don't get a response when one is expected.

If you get tired of always typing your name, title, contact information or favorite saying at the end of every message, you can use the Auto Signature feature to include this information automatically. This saves time, and also ensures that your signature is consistent. You can also use multiple signatures, creating one signature for business and another for personal correspondence. One extra tip on signatures: You don't need to put your entire life story in them, just a couple of brief lines of contact information will do--if someone wants more, they'll probably ask!

Once you really get into using e-mail, you may find that you're receiving a lot of mail, and that can be unwieldy to work with. An easy way to handle the crush is by using "filters" or "rules." Filters allow you to set up mini-programs that automatically handle your e-mail in various ways.

For example, suppose you've already set up a separate mailbox to house to organize messages from the "Garden Club Group" mailing list. That's a good first step, but wouldn't it be even easier if those messages got dropped into that mailbox automatically as they came in? That's easy work with a filter. Just create one that looks at the e-mail address of the sender and drops any message from the specified list server into the correct mailbox. Setup of filters is usually a snap - just search the program's help file.

Also on the subject of getting lots of e-mail, keep in mind that there are any number of nasty viruses working their way around the Internet. Your best defense is to never open an attachment that you don't expect, and even then it's a good idea to confirm from the sender that they did indeed intend to send you the attachment. It's also smart computing to always scan your incoming e-mail with an anti-virus program like Norton Antivirus (www.Symantec.com) or McAfee VirusScan ((www.McAfee.com).

There is one final thought I would like to leave you with - don't get duped into forwarding hoax messages. There are hundreds of these floating about cyberspace. All it takes is a moment of research and you can verify whether that offer that sounds too good IS really too good to be true. Before you forward that e-mail warning, do us all a favor: Check it's validity at Truth or Hoax or www.VMyths.com.

Copyright © - WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. Kim Komando is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, Computer Editor Popular Mechanics and author. You can subscribe to Kim's free weekly newsletter by sending an e-mail to: subscribe@komando.com.

Read, "Kim Komando's 10 Commandments for Kids Online" and Stop "Friendly" Spam.

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