Rules for responsible emailing

Len Robbins Guest Columnist

November 2, 2013

Rules for responsible e-mailing

A number of years ago, then-Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden was discussing with reporters how a news item because a controversy for his team.

“Because you all ignited it. You listen to eBay and e-mail and all that junk, and you all kept writing about it and that fans it and makes it grow and grow, and it becomes a cancer.”

Forgive the beloved coach for not knowing the difference between eBay, e-mail, the Internet, and, apparently, radio. When you’ve lived through 8-tracks, CB radios, party lines, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, all these newfangled fads in communication seem the same.

That said, e-mail is still relatively a new phenomenon. We’ve only been communicating via e-mail for about 20 years or so (eight here in Homerville).

Naturally, we’re still experiencing some growing pains in learning how to operate this method of exchange. And that’s perfectly fine. Remember – just 35 years ago (11 here in Homerville), we only had three or four TV channels to choose from.

But I don’t want to wait another 35 years for society to learn to perfect the art of e-mailing. My inbox couldn’t take it. So, in the interests of helping society, and my inbox, I have come up with four easy tips on effective e-mailing. If followed strictly, this should jump-start our e-mailing learning curve at least 10 years (two here in Homerville).

1. Use “Reply All” very rarely.

E-mail services are different, but most have two buttons in which you can use to reply to an e-mail sent to you: “Reply” and “Reply All.”

Oddly enough, many people I know have not noticed the “Reply” button yet. There’s a difference between the two. By hitting the “Reply” button, you reply to only the sender of the message. If you hit the “Reply All” button, you not only reply to the sender, but everyone else he/she sent the message to. The “Reply All” should only be used in certain circumstances, like if you are on a committee, and everyone on the committee needs to know when the next meeting is.

You don’t need to use the “Reply All” function for “LOL.”

While it’s indeed wonderful that you’re “Laughing Out Loud,” it’s not really pertinent information for the other 32 people that were also sent the same message.

2. Use “Forward” even more rarely.

Another very popular button in the e-mail universe is the “Forward” button. Some people take the forward button to another ridiculous extreme: They forward everything sent to them to everyone in their address book.

I don’t know what would possess someone to do this.

“Ooh, this is a picture of a cat making a funny face – I think I’ll forward this to my every acquaintance.”


3. If you insist on ignoring common courtesy and forwarding, do not forward anything political or religious.

This type of transmission is just asking for trouble and bad feelings. For instance, a friend of mine works in a big office and one of his colleagues kept forwarding these fabricated “Barack Obama is a Muslim” e-mails to everyone at their workplace. Their boss, who was Muslim, and a Democrat, wasn’t amused. Don’t be so presumptuous that you share the same political and religious beliefs as everyone in your address book, and also everyone who is in your address book’s address book.

4. Keep it short.

This is where I sometimes fail to be a responsible e-mailer. In an attempt to show how many words I know, I often get quite loquacious (see?) in my messages. Yet, I can’t stomach the e-mail ramblings of others, and neither should you. After 75 words or so (or 30 here in Homerville), most folks move on to the next message.

Of course, these rules, especially in relation to brevity, don’t apply to newspaper columns – only e-mail exchanges and when you’re listening to eBay.

Happy e-mailing!

© Len Robbins 2013