Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Netiquette, please נימוסים אלקטרוניים, בבקשה

E-mail having been around since 1996, and most literate folks having gotten on the bandwagon by 2000, a decade should be sufficient time for us all to’ve gotten used to it, and for the novelty to’ve worn off. Why, then, am I still getting mail with “Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd…” in the Subject line? Why are people still sending me mass mailings in 24 boldface font, three words to a line, and with a lifetime supply of exclamation points?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why is the message preceded and followed by a meter-long list of recipients’ addresses? And why am I instructed to “Hit forward and send this to everyone you know”? If you’re under eight or over 80 years of age, you get a pass from me. The rest of you, please heed:

1. A To or cc field with inches of addresses says, “Not serious; not businesslike”. When you send these out, you’re failing to protect your friends’ and others’ privacy. Learn to bcc.

2. Subject lines containing “Fwd” are spam magnets. Delete “Fwd” both in the Subject line and in the body of the mail.

3. Learn to compose a decent Subject line. Examples of the lame and the annoying: “Important! Please forward!”; “Hi”; “ " (that’s an empty Subject line; the first two examples might as well be empty, as they give no useful information whatsoever).

4. Trim off all excess “froms”. We don’t need to read them, and it’s annoying to have to scroll all the way down to Antarctica to read a mail.

5. Read through what you’re about to send. Ask yourself what impression it gives. Oversize lettering and multiple colors screams, “Written by a fourth grader!” Consider selecting the entire letter (Ctrl + A), going to your Format menu, selecting Rich Text, and adjusting the font(s) and color(s) (Format menu > Font). If you’re really ambitious and have the time, fix the double spaces and dial back those exclamation points. Correct spelling wouldn’t hurt either. And finally…

6. I don’t need to be told to forward mail any more than I need to be told to tell people my opinion on an issue or my impression of a product; it’s implicit. And can we lose the expression “Hit Forward” and “Hit Reply”? First of all, none of us should be hitting anything. We press keys on our keyboards, i.e., “Press Enter”; “Press Escape”. We click buttons using our mouses, i.e., “Click OK”; “Click this link”. And we simply forward mail…after performing all of the above steps.


  1. I have been using email since 1984.

    In the past 26 years I have not yet received even *ONE* forwarded message with information that was worthwhile. Not one.

    Some forwards were funny. Others tried to take something from me (mostly, my attention) or push something onto me (mostly, a political opinion). Actual value? None.

    I'd cut to the chase and say: "don't forward anything. Ever. No matter what. If it's important enough to talk about, pick up the phone and talk about it. If not, don't waste people's time with it."

    Time wasted on handling things forwarded cannot be recovered.

  2. Hi Dena! Well put. I actually dislike talking on the phone qua chit-chat. So perhaps I should turn it around to: "If I wouldn't pick up the phone to tell someone this clever joke or quip, then perhaps I should refrain from both calling _and_ mailing them, as either one would waste their time." Still, I do receive forwards that I like, and it's hard to resist passing them around...having followed the above six steps, of course!

  3. Yeah Yam! (one exclamation mark, the absolute maximum). Some of the most aggravating aspects of internet life, beautifully summed up.
    Another thing that drives me bananas is the command "Loudspeakers" (followed by seven exclamation marks). If I want to listen, I will, if not, not. Anyway my loudspeakers are on the day round...

  4. So are mine. Haven't run into that one though.

  5. Yam
    Neil would be proud of you. Although I also totally overuse exclamation points. Note that I have not used even one here...

  6. Thanks, Abby. However, I can't resist: "totally overuse"? Superfluism (is that a word? Should be) alert!

  7. gee - is being a 4th grader such a bad thing? While in general I might agree that one should avoid blindly forwarding junk, who are you to tell me how to write my emails? What if I think color is nice? Or that I can get someone's attention with large fonts and actually make it easier for all my friends with reading glasses to read? Your exclamation points come through loud and strong with out you ever PRESSING the key. This blog reads as if you think everyone should do what you say. Is your way the only right way?

  8. ToleranceHelps,

    1. Being a fourth grader is fine if that's what you actually are; but if you hope to come off as an adult, well, sorry, then you have to write like an adult. That's why not many fourth graders are published writers, in case you hadn't noticed.

    2. Who am I to tell you how to write e-mails? Well, I'm...me, the recipient. If you were to call me and blow a horn into the phone to get my attention, I'd promptly hang up. So your message wouldn't get very far, would it? So sure, it's your right to send any e-mails you please; my tips are for those who want their mails 1) read and 2) taken seriously.

    3. If you think color is nice, go ahead and use it. I do, for instance, when I send out my blog "ticklers". But I try to use it sparingly and tastefully, not garishly.

    4. I accept that the nearsighted among us may appreciate fonts 12 or 14, say, but any larger than that and you can only fit a few words to a line; it becomes its own annoyance.

    5. As for this blog reading as if everyone should do what I say, well, isn't that usually why people blog? In order to publish their opinions and be heard? And don't we normally hold opinions we believe to be correct? Otherwise, they're not our opinions. Right? And it's my blog, ergo, my opinions. You have other opinions? You're welcome to comment on my blog, or start your own. I can only claim to publish my own opinions.

  9. Oops, I'm guilty of the multiple exclamation marks. I'm going to stop doing that right now!!!!!!!!!! No, seriously.

    What I detest more than the "forward to everyone you know" is the "forward to everyone you know and something good will happen to you in 15 hours."