Minding your manners on the World Wide Web

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2007

 Manners: good ones have always been stressed here in the south. Saying &#8220please” and &#8220thank you,” &#8220yes, Ma'am” and &#8220no, Ma'am” and generally minding your Ps and Qs is considered important.

However, the etiquette books of old may cover which fork to use for your dessert and how to properly introduce yourself at a party, but they don't cover a very important part of modern life for most of us: computers.

Some of us may have been dragged kicking and screaming into the computer age; nonetheless, computers and e-mail are part and parcel of many people's daily life.

What we are talking about here can be called &#8220netiquette” - e-mail etiquette.

Just as there are good, common-sense rules that guide us in writing letters and making telephone calls, so are there words to the wise for Web surfers.

If you truly want to be a considerate and thoughtful 21st century individual, keep the following guidelines from A to Z of Manners and Etiquette.com in mind when handling e-mails, particularly forwarding e-mails:

n Rule 1. Trim it down. When forwarding an e-mail, please delete all the &#8220goobly-gook” first. We are referring to all the e-mail addresses, headers, comments by other forwarders and other extraneous info. Time is valuable; people don't want or need to look through all that extra print to find out what you think is worth forwarding to them. If you must forward, just forward the &#8220guts” of the e-mail.

n Rule 2. Get personal.  If you cannot find the time to add a personal comment at the top of your forwarded e-mail to the person (s) you are sending it to, then don't send it at all.

n Rule 3. Think before you send. Will the forwarded e-mail be of value (make sure it is accurate info at sites like Snopes.com)? Will it be appreciated (something the recipient is interested in or needs to know)? If it's humorous, consider whether they have the same sense of humor that you do.  If you can't think of a good reason why the person you are forwarding it to would like to receive of the e-mail, don't forward it.

n Rule 4. Chain mail = garbage and treat it as such. E-mail is only e-mail; it does not have magical powers to change your luck. Curses will not befall you nor will fame and fortune automatically come your way because you &#8220broke the chain.” Even if the topic seems noble and good; even if you're told to &#8220forward to everyone you know,” accept the fact most of it is plain old garbage.

n Rule 5. Protect addresses. When forwarding an e-mail to more than one person, put your e-mail address in the To: field and all the others you are sending in the Bcc: field to protect their e-mail address from being published to those they do not know. Also remove any e-mail addresses in the body of the e-mail that have been forwarded by those disregarding the privacy of their friends and associates.

n Rule 6. Get permission. Did you know e-mails are copyright protected by their authors? That means you need to get the O.K. from the sender of any private e-mail to you before you forward it to others or post it publicly. Common courtesy also dictates you should ask the author first before forwarding the contents to others.

n Rule 7.  Be concise. Use the subject field to enter a clear, concise indicator of what the e-mail is about. Make it informative.

n Rule 8. Avoid shouting. Type in capitals only if you want to SHOUT. Yelling at people is not good manners. Type in lower case; remember your punctuation, and for heaven's sake, break things into paragraphs to make it readable. Don't give the impression of sloppiness or illiteracy.

n Rule 9. Use color. When interspersing replies to a number of questions sent by e-mail, be sure to reply in a different colored text so your replies will stand out. It would be helpful to start the reply with the customary greeting and then refer to recipient to the answers written below each question.

n Rule 10.  Keep it short. Don't attempt to write &#8220War and Peace” when sending an e-mail. Keep your attachments to less than 1 KB. It will transmit faster and avoid time-outs. Also, be considerate of those in your address book who do not have high-speed Internet. Large files can truly clog up their in-boxes.

n Rule 11. Consider a phone call. Sometimes it's just more friendly, personal and enjoyable to give them a call instead!

Remember, if you aren't willing to make these extra efforts, don't be upset when someone asks you to stop sending unwanted e-mails.

If you are asked to stop forwarding, don't get mad.

Recognize in this age of rampant spam in our inboxes, the person on the other side has every right to make that request.

They are either not interested or just too busy to have to cope with tons of unwanted e-mails.

If you are the recipient of these unwanted e-mails, and happen to be a kind, genteel southern soul who doesn't want to hurt the sender's feelings (after all, they meant well, they were just trying to make a point), then smile and hit the &#8220delete” button.

Also, consider clicking on &#8220block sender” if a certain individual is really clogging up your e-mail's inbox.

A little common sense and consideration will go a long way in making your netiquette top-notch!