Writing emails, the polite way

Last updated 22:00 20/05/2008
Be sensible: when sending emails with photos keep the sizes small and easily downloadable.

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A few weeks ago I did a piece on courteous email practices. I received a boatload of emails from alert and disgruntled readers praising and damning the issues I raised.

I warned you ages ago I was opinionated and I stand by what I wrote.

I don't like wallpaper backgrounds, big red ugly fonts and animated smileys blinking out at me from the page. Get over it.

But hey, if you want to use them, who am I to stop you?

Just think of the people on the other end of your email -- what do you think they think? How great it looks?

Anyway, I want to thank the many people who wrote and passed on their own tips.

I promised I would include them one day, so here they are.

First, PLEASE DON'T SHOUT WHEN YOU SEND EMAILS.

Writing in capital letters is considered shouting and should only be used in extra-special circumstances, like writing to a vacuum cleaner company demanding your $4000 back because you were forced at salesman-point to sink your retirement money into a grossly overpriced lux; or to your local MP in an effort to get them to actually do something other than swanning around town in their new beamer.

When sending images of any description, please be sensible and keep the file size as small as possible.

Many modern printers, scanners and cameras have an email setting and this usually prepares images pretty well for sending.

Keep in mind that not everyone has a 10-megabit internet pipe. Many people still use dial-up and downloading a dozen snaps of the new grandkid could take hours.

Some ISP's still regulate the upload and download speed of email network traffic, so sometimes it doesn't matter if you have a nice fat internet connection, your email will still plod through at a paltry 28k or less.

They do this in an effort to save bandwidth, their theory being that since emails are mostly plain text or, at worst, light-weight mark-up language, they don't take much to download and even dial-up speeds see them depart and arrive smartly.

Many ISP's put ridiculous size limits on mailboxes as well, which can have disastrous results for a company relying on email.

One of my providers, who, for the sake of anonymity I'll call "Wish", have imposed a five-megabyte cap on my inbox (about four floppy disks worth).

This means that every time I get more than a few hundred spam messages (about every couple of hours) I start getting quota warnings.

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OK, in the days of 20-gigabyte hard drives, I can understand having a five megabyte limit, but come on, we can buy one terabyte drives now (1000 gigabytes) which, at 20 megabytes per mailbox, would be enough for, um, hang on, that's um, carry the one, er, well, a whole lot of mailboxes.

If someone sends me one of those gag emails with funny images, it fills my inbox (so don't please!). That means important messages such as notifications of a big lottery win, an online pharmacy special or some poor chap who has $37 million stuck in a Nigerian bank and needs my help, can't get through.

Keep those image file sizes small is what I am saying.

Always put a meaningful subject with your email.

Many spam filters (though, not my ISP's by all accounts) check the subject of an email and use that, in part, to determine whether the email is junk or not.

If you send an email with a subject like, "Check out my pics of my eCard Viagra Rolex P|3n15" most ISP's (except mine) would filter it out as junk.

Using any one of several keywords is almost sure to get your message flagged as spam. Worse still is leaving the subject blank. This is plain bad manners.

Those of us who get a lot of email use the subject line to prioritise which mails we read first, a kind of email triage. A short, clear subject is the best thing you can do for your recipients.

When forwarding or replying, clean up the subject line so you don't end up with something like: Re:re:re:re:re:re:re: forwarded message:re:re:re -- you get the idea.

Another reported annoyance is the use of text-message language in emails. This annoys the bejingers out of me, because it shows a complete lack of education -- mine.

I can't understand a word of it. It seems to be a generational thing, and anyway, who am I to question the literacy value of txt-spk if you are allowed to use it in school exams?

So there we are, the last of my guides to netiquette.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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