Given the huge volume of e-mail that clutters inboxes these days, it’s not surprising how many people view forwards as just more spam (junk e-mail). Deciding what to forward to friends, relatives, and business associates deserves thought, so use common sense to judge whether a forward is going to be seen as more than just irritation. E-mail chain letters? Just as annoying to most people as the “old-fashioned” snail mail chain letters.
If you’re inclined to forward iffy material, be sure your recipients are receptive. Check with them before you make it a habit. Be especially wary of chain letters and virus warnings. Chain letters are usually little more than time wasters while virus warnings are legitimate about a tenth of the time, so check the validity of the warning first. A Google search for “virus hoaxes” will help you determine a real warning from a hoax. The Internet can be a hotbed of misinformation. Unsubstantiated and irresponsible rumors spread like wildfire on the Internet so don’t propagate them with forwards.
Two examples of iffy forwards spring to mind:
- After September 11, 2001 I received a forward several times that declared the terrorist attacks of that day were foretold in the Qur’an. I’ve seen two versions of this, both referencing the nine chapter, eleventh verse: one says something about two towers being destroyed and one talks about a “fearsome eagle being awakened against the lands of Allah.” I may be a librarian and “expert” at locating information, but this required no work to prove false. A simple search of an online version of the Qur’an proved was all it took. Yet this e-mail circled the globe for years. For all I know it’s still out there!
- A second example is e-mails of Amber Alerts that make the rounds. I’ve received two of these in the past year, and a quick check showed both to be true.
To stem the flow of forwards from friends or relatives, send an e-mail saying that you appreciate their thinking of you, but that you have time to open essential documents. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for me to read anything but business messages and a few personal ones, so I’d appreciate it if you would take my name off your jokes list. But I enjoy hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate to write!”
Automatic signatures. Many e-mail programs automatically sign your message off with your name, address, e-mail address, and phone number. When I was teaching, my signature included all of my school contact information a quote ("What can I say? Librarians rule." -Regis Philbin). For personal e-mails, this not such a necessity, but still acceptable.
Attachments. Don’t send attached files unless you know that the recipient has compatible software. When you’re on the receiving end, don’t open an attachment when you don’t know who sent it or why.
Return receipts. Return receipts are the equivalent of certified snail mail—a notification that the recipient has opened your e-mail. Some people may feel the return receipt is insulting, suggesting that the recipient can’t be bothered to read hi mail, or is clumsy enough to accidentally delete it. Others see it as a way of ensuring that an e-mail is received when the recipient’s e-mail system is prone to problems. Use the feature for a good reason, and be careful not to imply that the recipient isn’t reliable.
Responding to E-mails
Junk mail, commercial spam, and forwards can be ignored, but you should always respond to a real message. If you check your e-mail only once a week, be sure to let people know, lest they take offense at not received a timely reply. If you receive a lot of e-mails, your life will be easier if you set aside a few times during the day to read your messages and respond in an orderly fashion.
How fast should your respond? Within one or two days for personal messages and within twenty-four hours for business e-mails, depending on how urgent the matter.
If you’ll be away from your computer for a few days or longer, use the “vacation” feature, which tells the sender you received the message but are unable to reply until a designated date./ Once you return, respond promptly.
Top Ten E-mail Transgressions
- Forwarding an off-color joke
- Detailing a personal mishap
- Writing a message in capital letters
- Spreading gossip
- Discussing personally sensitive issues
- Criticizing another person
- Complaining about work or one’s boss
- Using e-mail to dodge discussing difficult issues face-to-face
- Going into detail about your own or another person’s health problems
- Arguing with friends or family