Email Etiquette

There are accepted rules or standards of behaviour in most things that we do in life. Sometimes these conventional requirements are formalised by the requirement to have a license as in driving a motor vehicle on the roads, but more often they are just standards that we have learnt from our parents, from school or even just through frequent involvement in appropriate social interactions. In school most of us learnt the correct way of writing business, and other letters …, even the correct way of answering the telephone. These standards, or etiquette, apply to our other behaviours such as eating in restaurants, dancing in public dance halls, procedures at meetings and/or concerts, and even with regard to turn taking in conversations.

The Internet, or World Wide Web (WWW) is a relatively recent phenomenon that has had tremendous effects on all of us. In the 1970’s, web sites and the WWW did not exist.

In 1998 there were about 3 million web sites world wide.

In the early part of 2007 there were around 65 million web sites. Before the end of 2007, there were well over 100 million web sites registered with the International Registering body ICANN.

I don’t have access to any accurate figures, but I believe it would be a fairly to assume that for every one of these web sites there would probably be 100+ email users. Each web site for example generally has at least one, but usually many more email addresses attached to the particular domain name. And, then there are all the other email addresses that are held by people who don’t have web sites. These email addresses may be with their Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), on people can have one or more of the many free accounts with Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and so on.

So, world wide there would be hundreds of hundreds of millions of email account holders.

How did most of these email account holders learn to use email?

I believe the simplistic answer is that they didn’t. The WWW is certainly well past my days of formal school education, just as it probably is for many readers of this article. As with other aspects of the Internet, many of us have learned by doing …, by trial and error in effect.

That may be an OK way of learning, but personally I don’t have time to learn just from my mistakes. Life is far too short. I like to learn from others’ mistakes also. If you feel the same way, please read on, so that if your level of “email etiquette” is not up to scratch, you will learn to become an Email Etiquette Exemplar.

Email has opened up channels of communication that would have been in the realms of science fiction not too many years ago. Files, photos, videos and much more can be emailed anywhere in the world to any number of recipients, much more quickly that it takes to call into your neighbour for a chat and a cuppa.

Not only is it super fast, but it is also inexpensive. In fact it costs practically nothing to send out heaps of emails. And, herein lies a problem. A problem which is indeed getting bigger and bigger as each day passes.

Not everyone in this world has high ethical and moral standards like you and I have. There are some, actually there are many, unscrupulous marketers who have learnt to “harvest” email addresses and to send to those addresses unsolicited email. If some of these unscrupulous people don’t have the skills to “harvest” email addresses themselves, it doesn’t matter, they can buy them. And what’s more, the price is right for quantity buys. You can by 10,000, 100,000 or even ten million if you wish.

Now, what these guys are doing is illegal. These emails are referred to as SPAM. And, SPAM is simply unsolicited commercial email. Unfortunately however, most of these SPAMMERS are very hard to catch. I have even seen advertisements for email addresses located in Russia and elsewhere which cannot be traced!

I have quite a few email accounts. A dilemma for any email account holder is, do you let people know about your account details, or do you keep these details private?

Most of my accounts are to do with my business dealings, and I have chosen to make these email addresses public so that people can easily contact me.

The SPAMMERS love me!

Every day I receive hundreds of emails advising me that some widow in Nigeria has 100 million US $’s in a bank account that she wants me to invest for her, and in return I can keep 20%, or that I have been the lucky winner of a lottery with a prize of several million dollars, or advise on how I can add an extra 3 inches to my penis, or medication that will enable me to put more vigour in my jigger.

How to deal with SPAM
Personally, I open all of my email in web mail before downloading any onto my own computer. My email client recognises most of the SPAM and marks it accordingly. But, some still gets through. I scan my emails 25 per page at a time, and hit the “select all” button. I then uncheck any that look genuine and hit the delete button. I continue this procedure until all emails have been processed, and I am left only with the emails which look genuine. I then make sure I hit the “Clear Cache” button before logging off and downloading the remaining emails on to my computer. There are other methods, but this one works fine for me. Occasionally I do delete an email that I shouldn’t have, but that is the price I have chosen to pay.

There certainly is a cost involved with cost. Or more correctly there is a cost involved with low costs.

Email is a perfect example of this. It is a great communication tool for us to use, but having such a low cost it is a very desirable product for unscrupulous marketers.

Unfortunately or fortunately from which ever point of view you have, the telephone is quickly getting into the same category as Email. Telephone calls with the modern technology that we have are much cheaper than they were in days gone by. In fact with VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), they can cost practically nothing. It is for that reason that daily I get telephone calls from some call centre in India offering me a free mobile phone if…, or a free holiday …, or whatever.

Unwanted, unsolicited telephone calls are becoming about as common as unwanted, unsolicited Emails.

Email Etiquette

Ian McKenzie

Jimboomba, Australia

  • Artist
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