MacMost Now 675: Email and Forum Etiquette

Here's a look at some of the common email etiquette mistakes that people make, like typing in capital letters, including unnecessarily large attachments, quoting all of the previous message and forwarding unwanted emails. Many of the same mistakes are made in forums and message boards.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode, I want to talk a bit about e-mail and forum etiquette.
So, whether you're corresponding with somebody via e-mail or you are leaving a comment or a post on a forum, there are certain etiquette rules on the Internet, and it's handy to know them.
For instance, one of the most common mistakes people make – unknowingly a lot of times – is to type in all uppercase. Perhaps they have the Caps Lock down, perhaps they find it easier to read things in uppercase, so they want to type that way. But in messages, having everything in uppercase – it's considered yelling. So, if you reply to a comment or reply to somebody in e-mail, and you use all uppercase, it's like you're yelling at them. So unless you really are yelling at them, you want to avoid that.
Now one thing you want to do is, when you're replying to somebody, be mindful of what you include in the reply. So for instance, if I hit reply to this message here, you can see it quotes the entire message in there. But sometimes those messages can be long, and if it's part of a thread where a lot of people are replying to a lot of other people, it can get extremely long. It's very easy to only quote exactly what you need. For instance, in this message, I just want to reply to that one question. I'm going to highlight it, hit reply, and notice that it only quotes that one line. This makes it handy for the person receiving it to know exactly what question you're answering, and it doesn't, include all of the other stuff, including your own signature, other things that other people have posted in the thread, all sorts of stuff like that. So whether it's e-mail or a forum, you only want to quote what's absolutely necessary.
In fact, it's very common on a message board, on a mailing list, or in a forum, that everybody sees all the previous messages. So you don't have to actually quote anything when replying.
Just include your new text.
Now, you also want to be very mindful of bandwidth. Don't try to send large files to people unless you know they have the bandwidth to handle it. So for instance, when I attach a photo – going to do it right here, I'm going to select a photo and choose it, and mail makes this very easy, by – every time you put a large photo – this only happens when you put a large photo – you get a little image size chooser, here. It'll automatically set it to small. It'll compress the image when you're sending it to a person. But you can choose another size as well. But keep in mind, if you choose to send it actual size it's going to be large. It even tells me here the message size is going to be 686K. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, I mean with high-speed DSL and cable modems, no big deal, but what if the person's traveling at the moment, or maybe they have a slower connection than you really think – there could be all sorts of things. They could be on their mobile phone, for instance. Getting a large image or a large attachment could be a problem. Also, when sending large attachments of other kinds, say, documents and such, it's great to be able to use something like Drop Box, upload the file there and then simply send them a link, rather than attaching a large file to a message.
Another piece of good advice is to always consider your subject line. You may not get much e-mail, maybe just a few pieces a day. So, every piece you may read. But somebody you send it to may get tons of e-mail, maybe from work, from other friends, from things they're involved with. So including a good subject line about exactly what your e-mail's about allows them to prioritize. If it's just a friendly hello, they can read it later in the evening. If it's something extremely urgent, they know to get to it right away. So make sure in the subject line you describe what it is you're corresponding about. The same thing with message boards and forums. Make sure that your subject line really identifies what it is – the question you're asking, or the comment you're making. Otherwise people may miss it or not respond to it, simply because all they had time for was to look at the subject line to determine whether or not they should read the rest of the message.
Now, a very sensitive etiquette subject is forwarding – forwarding messages like jokes or commentary to your friends. Make sure that the friends you forward these things to really want to get them. It's worthwhile if you decide, for instance, that you enjoy forwarding jokes to all your friends, to maybe ask each of your friends 'Do you want to get these? If you do, I will enjoy sharing them with you, and if not, it's okay, I just won't share those particular e-mails with you.' Make sure that you know everybody you're forwarding these to really wants to get them, and also you may be annoying them and they may just be too polite to tell you to stop.
Also, it's very important when you get e-mails – say e-mails warning you about dangers on the Internet or various news items or things that you find to be kind of interesting – to check for accuracy. There are some websites out there, like for instance Snopes and others, where you can actually check to see whether or not the e-mail is real. Most of these actually aren't. A lot of the sensational e-mails that go around that you may want to forward to your friends actually are false. So you may want to check before you forward.
Now here's a big one: you want to make sure that your reply-to e-mail address is correct. If you're using an advanced service like gmail or iCloud, it's going to be automatic. Just sending it with that account will make sure that somebody can reply to you. But older e-mail services, like pop email, allow you to specify your own e-mail address. So you can actually send an e-mail, put in the reply-to an e-mail address that's mistyped, and then nobody can reply to you. Then you get mad because nobody's responding to your questions. Now, this happens a lot in message boards and forums where you have to type your e-mail address, because you're not using your e-mail client. I get this all the time. People ask me questions at MacMost, and they either mistype or decide not to include their e-mail address, which is really frustrating for me when I try to reply to them with an answer.
So there's a look at some of the most common e-mail and forum etiquette mistakes. Hope you found this useful! Til next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 10 Responses to “MacMost Now 675: Email and Forum Etiquette”

    2/24/12 @ 10:48 am

    Gary, that was really terrific info but may I suggest that you also include some rules about using BCC and about those annoying and incessant forwarders who have line after line after line of email addresses and garbage that really should be cut away before forwarding.


    2/24/12 @ 7:29 pm

    Oh I see Robbll beat me to the punch :)

    Great info as always… but yes my pet peeve is having my email address shared around with dozens of people I don’t even know. I am surprised at the number of people who don’t even know there is a BCC option.

    2/27/12 @ 1:38 am

    Dear Gary, Thanks for the interesting lesson :)
    But how you enable this option in Mail – when you highlight the text in email and then you click reply? I tried to do so but it does not work … It always include the whole text from previous email.

    I work on Lion 10.7.3, Mail 5.2.
    Many thanks and best regards,

      2/27/12 @ 8:12 am

      Should be on by default. But the setting is in Mail, Preferences, Composing.

        3/1/12 @ 1:26 pm

        I can’t find “Mail” to make this change in my settings. I work in Leopard. Thanks

          3/1/12 @ 1:38 pm

          If you are not using Mail for email, then you’ll need to adjust to whatever you are using for email to see if you can do this.

    3/1/12 @ 1:45 pm

    I am using Safari, so maybe I can’t ???

      3/1/12 @ 1:54 pm

      Well, Safari is a web browser. So you wouldn’t use Safari for email. Unless, of course, you are using Safari to visit an email web site (like Gmail, Yahoo. etc). But then it would depend on how that site works as to whether you can easily quote the message in a reply.

    3/1/12 @ 11:04 pm

    Oops- I meant I use hotmail for my email.

      3/2/12 @ 5:51 am

      Well, Hotmail would be your service. If you are accessing it via the web, then you are using’ Hotmail’s web interface and you’d have to examine that interface to see if you can do this somehow.

Comments Closed.