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Email is a generic term for messages composed transmitted on a computer network. It can be accessed through a personal computer program or through one the many online email services such as Gmail.
While email programs for businesses such as those related to medical education and management may look like they have a private email system, many of them are actually based on common services like Gmail. No matter what program or service your child uses for email, they all share these common features:
- A field for the body of the message.
- A field for the subject line.
- A “From” field that indicates the email address of the sender of a message.
- Addressing options that allow up to three different kinds of recipients.
- An option to have a customized signature block for every outgoing email.
- The option of attaching one or more files to be sent along with a text message.
There are three areas or fields where your child can place a recipient’s address: the “To” field, the “Cc” field (carbon copy), or the “Bcc” (blind carbon copy) field. The best option to use depends on the kind of email your child is sending and the number of recipients:
- Use the “To” field: Use this option for a single recipient or for multiple recipients if everyone already knows one another’s email address.
- Use the “To” field and the “Cc” field:: Use this combination for multiple recipients. The people in the “To” field should need to either to take some action or use the information in the message. The people in the “Cc” field need to be aware of the information, but do not need to take any action.
- Use the “Bcc” field: Use this option if there are multiple recipients, and the recipients do not need to know the addresses of at least some of the other recipients. All the recipients in the “Bcc” field will be able to see the addresses in the “To” or the “Cc” field, and no recipient will be able to see any of the addresses in the “Bcc” field.
One of the most important parts of an email message is the subject line. Upon opening most email programs, the sender’s email address and the subject line are the only parts of the email a recipient sees. Most recipients decide whether to read the email based on what the subject line says. The best kind of subject line is like the headline of a newspaper-it is clear, concise, and encourages the reader to check out the rest of the story. Encourage your child to always use the subject line, and to follow these general rules:
- Clearly describe what the email is about.
- Keep it short, using no more than about ten words (about 50 characters, including spaces).
- Use acronyms, words, or phrases that would be familiar to the recipient.
- Use appropriate language.
Bad Ideas for Subject Lines
A good subject line encourages the recipient to read an email, and a bad one encourages the recipient to delete it. Any email that looks like it is unsolicited, unwanted, or inappropriate will likely not get opened.
While younger users may not mind, older people have different needs and standards when it comes to written communication, and may not even open an email with a poor subject line. Make sure your child does not get into any of the following habits:
- Sending email with blank subject lines.
- Using multiple exclamation points!!!, question marks??? or special %$@* characters.
- Using obscene or sexually oriented language.
- Using threatening language.
- Using language that is not appropriate for an educational or professional environment.
- USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
- Using words or phrases associated with fraudulent schemes, chain letters, or other common types of unsolicited email.
The Email Body
Your child’s email program should be set up to only create and send plain text messages so that the message can be read by any email program.
The typical body of an email is relatively short, from one sentence to about one page of text or other material. Longer messages or ones containing something other than plain text should be sent as an email attachment.
While there are no formal rules on what kind of information should be in the body of an email, the following are common informal rules are followed in plain text emails:
- Double spacing is used to separate paragraphs.
- Paragraphs are not indented.
- The message is written using standard rules of capitalization and grammar.
- Words written in bold type in a regular letter (such as headlines) are written in CAPITAL LETTERS.
Why go through all the trouble of learning how to write a proper email? The Internet may change, but email will likely remain a key tool for communication, whether you are doing it to talk to friends, to pursue an online college degree, or to run a business.
If you learn to write a decent email, you can use that skill anywhere.
Other Tips for Effective Email
- Top 10 Email Realities
- Top 10 Email Tips
- Advice for Using Email Attachments
- How to Recognize Unsolicited and Unwanted Email
- Top 10 Tips for Avoiding Unsolicited Commercial Email
Dr. Todd Curtis is the director of the AirSafe.com Foundation and an expert on the role using the Internet to educate the public about risk. This article was taken from his new book, Parenting and the Internet (Speedbrake Publishing, 2007).
http://speedbrake.com/email/grammar.htm — Revised: 22 March 2013