I just got another of those emails from “Ramon,” which I deleted without opening it and with no qualms at all. Y’see, I don’t know one…single…person named Ramon.
That got me to thinking about smart emailing, so I thought I’d mention a few things that certainly apply as far as I’m concerned, and might make your own email experience a bit more productive and pleasant.
This refers to the remarks above. Every email program I know of, whether webmail (Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) or desktop (Eudora, Thunderbird, Outlook, and so forth) has a way to enter a default name for a sender. Put in a name or screenname that your correspondents will recognize! There is nothing more annoying than looking at a bulging inbox with a bunch of more-or-less anonymous emails. When you’re in a hurry, or just feeling bitchy, by the time you’ve opened, looked at and deleted the first dozen or so of those suckers, you’re not in the frame of mind to answer anyone’s mail politely.
I solve this problem quite simply. I go down the line and check every one with the name of a strange sender — especially those from Mkumbe O’Reilly and his friends — and just delete them without opening. The same is true of Bill, Ted, Sam and Ramon. They’re history without even a look, so if you haven’t been getting responses to emails you’ve sent to me, that could be the reason. The exceptions are blog comment notifications, which always get at least a cursory glance, even if I don’t respond.
Then there’s the matter of subject lines. Subject lines are there so that people can glance at them and see what the email is about. They are not there for critical comment or little come-ons. A surefire way to get me to ignore mailings is to put non-specific things like “funny,” “so true,” “long but interesting,” “LMAO” and similar junk in the subject line. Those things tell me nothing — give me no reason to look further. The same is true of anything preceded by “FWD:.” If I have nothing to do I might open one of those, but since I get dozens of emails every day on a broad variety of subjects (not to mention the listservs, newsletters and online billing) it’s rare for me to have nothing to do. Much easier to check them off and delete.
When you just hit “Forward” and send mail along to a long list of your correspondents, you accomplish three things. For one, you send all the email addresses of everyone who received it along with you to all the folks on your mailing list, most of whom are likely to forward it to theirs, and on, and on. For another, you append your own mailing list, so that the collection of names and email addresses passed down the line becomes even longer. Finally, you announce to every one of your people “downstream” that you have no interest in their privacy.
This may not matter in the case of family and close friends — to you — but even in those cases it might matter to them. I’ve gotten all sorts of addresses that folks might or might not have wanted me to have by just reading over the lists of addresses that people mindlessly forwarded to me — and spammers love it! Whenever one of those lists crosses their desk, either forwarded to them or harvested from someone’s email client by a trojan, they gleefully add them to the list of “live” addresses and get to spammin’.
You avoid this ridiculously egregious lapse by doing two things.
- You copy the material you want to send and paste it into a fresh email, leaving out the addresses.
- You click the “BCC” (blind copy) button, open the BCC window, and enter or paste the addresses you’re sending to into the box. That way, when you send it out, no one sees anyone else’s addresses.
Of course, that’s a lot of trouble, and you want to be sure that whatever you’re sending is worth the effort. That has a tendency to weed out all those dumb pictures of cute kittens and all the stupid little animated characters that some of those free email programs send along with their adware and malware. That’s all to the good, too.
‘Cause, y’see, if you don’t care about my convenience and comfort, I don’t care about your email. Capiche?
Go now, and sin no more.