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Guide to good and bad practice on

This GUIDE to good and bad practice in e-mail isn't so much a matter of setting rules and saying "don't do this because it's totally crass", but more a matter of increasing awareness about what's good and bad, so it would be more "you can do things that are deliberately totally crass, but don't do them inadvertently, without realising it!"

Firstly, spam. It's annoying. It causes a lot of bad feeling. If you're going to send spam, make sure you give a proper return-address. See SPAM guidelines ( INCOMING / OUTGOING ). Whilst having a proper return-address won't appease ALL recipients, it will cut out 80% of the evil, bad karma, and wicked witchcraft directed at you because of spam. It'll also avoid people like me sending your headers to ISP Abuse lines!

ActiveX controls in e-mails are BAD NEWS. They're almost always viruses. See Anti-Virus measures and ActiveX. Therefore if you send ActiveX in an e-mail, any people accepting it will also accept viruses. This damages immunity, in the same sort of way that false-alarms on car alarms mean that real break-ins get ignored.

The use of ".doc" (Microsoft Word) files as e-mail attachments is one way viruses can travel about, but more notably there is an assumption that the recipient runs Microsoft systems and has paid money to buy software from Microsoft to allow them to use ".doc" files. This is bad because it makes Microsoft the default assumption and allows Microsoft to take over the world, in effect waving a white flag of surrender to them. If you love and worship Microsoft, wave that white flag with pride, but if you are more staunchly against Microsoft taking over the world, don't use ".doc" - use ".txt" or ".htm" where you can. Besides ".doc" is BLOATWARE, the size of the files being much fatter than it needs to be, a fact which matters when sending stuff on e-mail. See more about .DOC

Inconsiderate use of large files. This is another problem in e-mail. It's OK to send large files (more than 200Kb (2002)), provided you know the recipient doesn't mind and has a fast connection and isn't having to pay/wait for the download. It can also be quite upsetting seeing a large file arriving as it might be something very nasty. So, best to send a quick note saying something like "It's your friend here, and I'm about to send you this big file". Another way to get around the problem, if you can do this, is to upload the big files by FTP to a private area of webspace and then send a note saying where it is. This is better as web download speed is often faster than e-mail speed, but also the other person has a choice as to whether they decide to download it!

It's always good to include a SUBJECT LINE. This helps reassure the recipient that it's not spam and helps give a clue about the message. Also it helps to avoid the sending of a message with the subject line "Re: " (nothing after it), which is what you can get if someone replies to a message with no subject line. (Messages with "Re:" (nothing) are often assumed to be viruses).

When sending an email message to many people at the same time, it's best to BCC it rather than having all of the people in the "TO" field. It's best done this way, with BCC, so there is less risk of all the email addresses being harvested or otherwise compromised. Also, when sending a message to many people, it's important to understand they will each receive it, and each has their own feelings to be considered.

E-mails which contain JUST a link URL, whether it be a text http: link or a clickable image, are not good. It encourages people to fall for a sucker type of joke, which can have dangerous and unpredictable consequences.

Another thing to be aware of is the sending of automated messages which look as if they are personalised. In the post, p-mail, this started with printing the address in a style to look like it's handwritten. In e-mail, it's worth knowing that a machine can substitute your name and e-mail address in context and make it look quite convincing. However, if you reply and start conversing with the other end you can soon spot clues to tell you whether it's a real person you are talking to.

A good start versus personalised spam messages is to avoid using your own name in the first part of the email address, which is too easy for spam bots to get harvested. Also see how to choose email address

As soon as you are sure you're talking to the human, it's best to show consideration and respect, as they are most likely someone like you, who has their own life and their own feelings which matter. Yes, well that's obvious, but the reason it needs mentioning is because there is a tendency for some people to forget, as you can't see or hear the other person and they're probably a long way away.

MORE TO BE ADDED. You can e-mail this site if you like.