e-mail help


It is not the intention of this page to answer questions about the technical aspects of e-mail programs; this page is intended to address the "way of using (and not-using) e-mail."


The greatest invention since sliced bread! If you are a "newby" and just starting to use e-mail, this is for YOU. If you have been using e-mail for a long time, this is for YOU also because you probably have seen a lot of e-mail from beginners who desperately need some good advice. Please send me your list of complaints about BAD E-MAIL and I'll probably add them here with your name. Thanks!

Whether you use Outlook, Outlook Express, Mozilla / Thunderbird and Netscape, or Eudora, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Incredimail, AOL Mail (hope not!) or AIM Mail, or any other e-mail program, this is for YOU.

My list of tips:

(Thanks to Don Pratt in Florida for much help!)

  1. Do not send e-mail with large attachments. Many of us still use slow "dial-up" internet connections. Don't simply scan a photograph and mail it; it may be a lot larger than you think. Check it out first and maybe ask the recipient if he/she wants you to send it at all, first. You could send a very tiny thumbnail first for them to decide. If the file or picture or whatever is on the WWW someplace, send your contacts the URL so they can go and see/get it. If you have to send photos, make sure that they are not in TIFF mode, but rather in JPEG mode; TIFF files are VERY large. The same goes for BMP files; they are usually FAR larger than a JPG file. Also, as a great number of people have their monitor set at 800 x 600, it probably is a good idea to never exceed that size for a picture.
  2. At the bottom of every e-mail you send, show your full, real name and also your URL (website address) if you have one. Set your program up to add your "signature" automatically to every e-mail. Sometimes I get an e-mail from, say, "Jack R." but as I have several fellows with that name in my contacts, it is difficult to know *which* Jack it is from.
  3. Remove the marks if you forward an e-mail. You can get freeware to do this or do it manually. One way to avoid adding more of these marks if you forward, is to simply copy/paste the message into a new e-mail. Microsoft Word, Windows Notepad and Windows Wordpad as well as WordPerfect all can delete these things too. Laura B. added "Don't add more carets that are added to so many people's e-mail on reply or forward. Here's how to keep from adding even more carets to any mail to which you reply or forward: If you want a very small, simple program to remove the >>>> marks from e-mails, try "E-mail Stripper" from http://www.mistered.us/stripper/index.shtml If you prefer, you can go to that website and clean up an e-mail there, online, by pasting an e-mail into that website.
  4. Forwarding e-mail can be a problem; the person who gets it from YOU might "reply" and the reply will go not to you, but to the person who sent it to you originally, causing problems. Many times it will be far better to copy the content of an email and paste it into a brand-new email rather than forwarding.
  5. Read over e-mails before you send them. Not doing so can cause incredible problems for you. One fellow (Tom) sent an e-mail to me by accident; he had intended to send it to a horrible monster of a person who was bothering him. I kept the e-mails and have showed them to a few people to prove how important it is to read them over. Furthermore, sometimes an e-mail program will do funny things; I happened to see where, several times, an e-mail that I had sent to someone had, attached to the bottom, an e-mail I had sent earlier to a different person. This could be VERY bad. Lastly, on this important point, reading it over might show you that your message was not 100% clear or had spelling and grammar errors, making you look stupid. Even a missing comma can change the entire meaning of a message.
  6. Avoid a lot of fancy stuff such as backgrounds, sound, pictures, etc. These slow down the system. PLUS, remember that not everyone can handle HTML enriched (that is, "fancy") e-mail and they might get a blank e-mail from you.
  7. If someone sends you a message warning you about a virus, check it out before you pass it along; it may be a hoax. Other hoaxes abound too. Remember the one where, allegedly, a little boy dies after being pricked by a heroin-filled syringe in a playground ball pit? When you get these e-mails, with the suggestion to pass it along to everyone you know, do yourself and all those you know a favor first. Go to the Urban Legends Reference Pages at http://www.snopes.com and check to see if it is listed there and whether it is true or false. If you prefer, use http://www.truthorfiction.com/ or use both
  8. If you get a "Nigerian Scam" e-mail, send it to this address: 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov and use a "subject" of "No Financial Loss - For Your Database." "Phishing" e-mail can be reported to reportphishing@antiphishing.org, Spam and scam e-mails should be reported to spam@uce.gov. When you report a bad email like this, forward the ENTIRE e-mail AND also send the "Header." In Outlook Express, to get the Header, right-click the email in the Inbox folder, choose "Properties" and then choose the "Details" tab. Select all that code, Press Ctrl-C on your keyboard to save that data in your Windows "clipboard" memory, then go back to the email you are forwarding and in the body of that email, click and use Ctrl-V to "Paste" the data into that e-mail. If you want to find out who is the actual sender of an email, you can go to http://www.ip-adress.com/trace_email/ and enter the entire e-mail header into the box provided there.

    I get my share of scam emails and I reported one to ScamReports@FraudAid.com and asked them if it was really worth their time and mine for me to send them this garbage. They replied:
    Absolutely! Our system is used by international law enforcement.
    Just send headers followed by scam text, with no comments or they will be automatically kicked out of the system and will have to be handled by hand.

    You can also find some help about tracing and reporting spam email at these websites: http://abuse.net/ and http://spam.abuse.net/.
  9. If you enjoy forwarding jokes to your friends, maybe check with them from time to time to see if they still want them. Some of us get so many that we would like to cut back but don't have the heart to ask you to stop. Don added: "Long ago I decided only to send jokes etc. that actually made me laugh aloud and/or had some quality. Even then I may not send it. And I never send any long lists of jokes at all. If they are good, I send only the best ones, individually."
  10. If you are bothered by too much "Spam" in your e-mail, see if your ISP has any filtering system which you can benefit from. BUT, be careful here. This sad situation can occur: a stranger e-mails you and you reply. Then, to your surprise, you get THIS back:

    I apologize for this automatic reply to your email. To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand. If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience. Click the link below to fill out the request: https://webmail.pas.earthlink.net/wam...................(etc)

    You NEVER want to do this to anyone. Never. One I.S.P. (Pacific ISP) is so bad that when I reply to an email from one of their customers, they send me an "Challenge/Response" email telling me to visit a certain website, wait an hour for an image to load, type the text from that image into a box and submit it to them. Well, you can imagine how that makes anyone react. My replies to their customer bounce back to me. Too bad; their customer wants to buy my Diamond Willow sticks and I want to sell them but we cannot communicate due to the awful I.S.P.
  11. Set up your e-mail in such a way that people receiving your messages can see your NAME instead of your e-mail address. It is much nicer for your contacts to know who an e-mail is from immediately and your messages are less likely to be discarded as probable spam. If you don't know how your name is being shown on your contacts' computers, e-mail and ask a few of them what software they use and how your name shows. If your name does not show properly, here is how to change it in Outlook Express (THANKS to Bob Uhlman at http://www.protonic.com): In Outlook Express, click "Tools" and then click "Accounts" and then select the account you most often use, as some people have more than one email account. Now hit the Properties button. In here, you will have to change the Name typed in under User Information. Test it by sending yourself an email. THANKS, Bob. Incidentally, at Protonic you can ask ALL kinds of questions; even those not related to computer stuff: FREE.
  12. It has been suggested, and from the problems that some of my contacts have told me about, that you stay far away from AOL. I used Netscape for many years and refused to change. Finally, after AOL had bought them out and really messed things up, I saw the light and joined the other 92% of the world which uses Outlook (Express).
  13. Use the BCC feature; that is, Blind Courtesy Copy. (In the olden days of typewriters - remember those - it was called a "Blind CARBON Copy") It is not appreciated by many if they get an e-mail showing all the addresses and names of the people who also got it. Spammers have a heyday with this. Use the CC field only if you want each recipient to know who else got that e-mail from you. Often, I'll address it to myself and send everyone else a BCC. I keep my name at the top of my address list; so I get a copy to view; and so only my name/address is revealed to others. Actually, there is one more "name" above my own in my e-mail address book and that is the fake person with the name of !0000. Some claim, but not all agree, that if a virus wants to e-mail everyone in your address book, it may get 'hung up' on this fake address.
  14. When you reply to someone, it is best to leave only part of their e-mail to you and delete most of it. Leave only enough so that (s)he can recall easily what (s)he told you first. NOTE that sometimes, in a business "thread" it is best to leave each e-mail in full and not delete any of your earlier or the recipient's earlier e-mails.
  15. Disregard all those silly e-mails urging you to "send this to all your friends." They may plead for you to save a sick child, end starvation in Africa or save the rain forest. Don't fall for these silly games.
  16. There is a reason for having the time and date at the top of this page. The time and date are as they are in YOUR system; if they are not accurate, you should probably reset them. Sometimes it is very helpful to know exactly when an e-mail was sent. There are other reasons for having your system time and date set correctly. If you want to go online and get a very precise time you can visit: http://www.worldtimeserver.com/atomic-clock/
  17. Get your own e-mail account; it is sometimes very frustrating when I get an e-mail from, say, James Black, when actually, it is Kent Wiebe who is e-mailing me, using an e-mail account of James Black. This can and does lead to confusion, a slowdown of business and general problems, mistakes, misunderstandings.
  18. Here is one that I've often been guilty of. I forget things. Like attaching the attachment to an email. I'll tell somebody, "Here is that file/picture/whatever" and then forget to attach it. OUCH!
  19. A virus can be a horrendous thing. Ask anyone who has been hit by one. My way of attempting to avoid this kind of disaster is:
  20. Avoid the electronic greeting "cards." They are fun but you may do more damage to your and your friends than you realize. Some of these outfits, I suspect, are simply out there to harvest e-mail addresses for their spamming programs. When you receive an email with a subject such as "You've received A Hallmark E-Card!" DELETE it without even opening it. If think I'm overstating the DANGER, check it out in the SNOPES.com website.
  21. DO NOT USE CAPITAL LETTERS in your e-mails except where you need to emphasize a word or several words. If you use upper case, it is assumed that you are SHOUTING.
  22. If at all possible, do not put your e-mail address at the bottom of your e-mail message. This causes confusion; the recipient will not know whether to "Reply" or to send a new e-mail to the address mentioned in the "body" of the e-mail. If you are sending your e-mail from a computer to which you do not want the replies to go, simply state that fact and make it clear.
  23. If you are subscribed to a "Listserv" and have your computer set to "auto-respond" to incoming e-mails, please turn off the auto-responder if you are going to be away from your computer for any number of days. I was on such a Listserve at one time and a high percentage of emails which every single subscriber on the list had to cope with were from auto-responders. This greatly upset some subscribers. In Fred Langa's newsletter of 2003-09-18 there is a "Horror Story" about people using the "auto-respond" feature of their e-mail. If you read that, you are likely to never use it again. Incidentally, if you don't know about Listserves, there is a directory of them at http://tile.net/lists/
  24. Some people have their e-mail set so that for every e-mail they send, the recipient is asked to confirm receipt of the e-mail. If possible, I suggest NOT doing that. It is just that much more clicking and stuff for the recipient to look at and that much more e-mail to be processed. There are times when it is critical to be informed that an e-mail has been received but most of the time, I suspect, it is not.
  25. Think "Confidentiality." If your friend is job-hunting, and you want to e-mail him/her to ask how it is going, do not e-mail him/her at *work!* Use common sense and e-mail him/her at HOME!
  26. I know of one senior executive in a very large company who will wish the rest of his life that he had read THIS tip before it was too late; here it is; maybe we all can learn from his tragic mistake: When you send an e-mail, tell yourself that a copy of it will go to the person(s) you *least* want to see that e-mail. What happened to this unfortunate executive was something like this: In order to stop the deluge of spam e-mail, he made changes to some of the settings in his e-mail client. Something was done wrong and ALL the e-mails in his "INBOX" folder were sent to ALL the people in his e-mail address book. No, it was not a virus. Can you imagine John Doe reading an e-mail where his boss is asking a superior for permission to fire John Doe?? Be CAREFUL! And in March 2005, we all heard how the CEO of Boeing got into very serious problems due to lack of common sense using e-mail.
  27. "Don" wrote with this excellent tip: "My brother wanted me to see this picture: "http://www.strangecos..(link went bad). He didn't send me the URL though, but used their "Email This to a Friend" feature. And they automatically put me on their mailing list. Today I got their unwanted newsletter. I un-subscribed and hope it works."
  28. A huge number of people in Cyberspace abuse this wonderful tool called e-mail. Many use it for spamming us in attempts to sell their product, filling our mailboxes with garbage. This is very bad because there is a high probability that their "product" is a complete scam. The experts suggest "NEVER click on any link in any spam e-mail; DELETE it immediately and if possible, report it to your ISP as "Spam." IGNORE any offer to be UNSUBSCRIBED from their email list. Worse, now we have "Phishing" which is very dangerous. You may get an email which appears 100% legitimate and seem to come from, for example, Ebay or your own bank or Paypal. BE VERY WARY of these!! These can wipe you out financially. DO NOT click a link in such an e-mail!! You might be able to find out where an e-mail comes from at http://www.ripe.net/ or at http://www.ip-adress.com/trace_email/ If you get an e-mail which looks like it might be "phishing" or if you want more information, visit http://www.antiphishing.org/
  29. If you like to use acronyms such as "IMHO" and you are not sure if your recipient knows what they mean, or if you are asked about one that you used, you might enjoy this database at http://www.acronyms.ch/searchResults?searchText=yw
  30. Security can cause problems. Let me try to explain. I got an email which was simply a picture with a note asking me to click a button indicating how many dolphins I saw on the picture. By so doing, I would be able to communicate with the sender; this was, allegedly to protect the sender whoever it was. Here is that email: e-mail helpI have no doubt but that this is some sort of scam. I did click the "3" but next day my Firefox bookmarks were completely gone. As were some other files. I never found out who the sender was supposed to be. Asking others what they thought of this way of "protecting oneself" I got this kind of comment: "I had seen a similar plan and I got it from only one character. We had discussed it then. I disliked that one and this Frontier Challenge seems much worse to me. I'd say 5 dolphins. A lot of better ways out there." This item nearly went straight into the garbage and the next one will for sure!
  31. If the person you are writing to needs to send you something via snail-mail, make it easy for them, and avoid possible problems. Give them your COMPLETE mailing address, WITH your full name, and up against the left margin of your email, NOT in one long line in your email. This way they can simply "select" it and "paste" it into whatever tool they are using to print it out.
  32. Always open email in plain text format (never html or even rtf format); spammers often use links to 1-pixel "pictures" you can't see, but "opening" that "picture" allows its owner (the spammer) to get your address or at least isp, location, etc.
  33. If you are sending a photo (JPG) to somebody, (assuming they are prepared to receive a LARGE file) and it is important that they receive the BEST possible quality of that picture, do NOT "insert" it into your email, but "attach" it instead. If it is inserted, they will have to open it and SAVE it and every time a JPG is saved, it loses a tiny bit more quality due to compression. If you "attach" it to the email, they can simply "drag and drop" it wherever they want to keep it.
  34. Put a relevant "Subject" on your emails. Do not leave the "subject" line blank and do not leave only "Re:" in that line. Spammers do that a lot so some people will simply delete such emails without reading them. I normally do.
  35. "Cute" subject emails with loads of pictures, PPS files etc. can take forever to download - and can fill my mailbox. If I'm away, important email gets bounced. Please Think Twice before forwarding to everyone. Many may NOT appreciate it and be too polite to tell you. They may delete it - wishing you'd be a bit more considerate next time. If you must share it, Google the "subject" (Dancing Dogs .pps, etc) to find a URL address to send instead of a big file. By sending Only a URL, those who want it will get it. Everyone wins.
  36. As for attachments, file attachments, NEVER open files with extensions .exe, .dll, or .bat (and I believe there may be others as well) NOT EVEN if they are from someone you know, until you verify with that person that they sent the file.
  37. If you have just set up your email program, be sure to TEST it. Send an email to a friend (or to yourself) and ask the friend to click REPLY in his/her email program, to be sure that the reply will get back to you. Sometimes I click "Reply" and the email bounces back to me undeliverable with my ISP telling me that the address I sent it to was not correct. Clearly, the sender did not TEST his/her email.
  38. When you have composed an e-mail and are ready to hit the "Send" button, take a quick look at the address you are sending it to. I had two people named "Mike" in my address book; one right below the other; "Mike Anderson" and "Mike Wilson." By accident, I had clicked on the wrong Mike so the e-mail went to the wrong person with VERY unexpected results. This could have had very serious and unfortunate results.
  39. Early in 2011, on the news, we all saw/heard reports about the Telcoms wanting to raise users' internet access fees by basing them on usage. One of the reasons was due to bandwidth (find definition on Google) wastage. Maybe it is time we all became a bit more educated in that regard, me included. Ways that we, collectively, can help stop bandwidth waste include:

    1. stop spammers and find ways to identify and stop them
    2. educate email users:
    a. to not pass along every joke and PPS file that they get, to everyone in their address books
    b. when replying to an email, DELETE most of the “old” text and leave ONLY enough to remind the recipient of what was being discussed
    c. when emailing images, reduce the image physically in size and also in quality first
    d. avoid fancy backgrounds etc when emailing
    e. avoid fancy electronic greeting cards; they have serious downsides anyway
    f. try to avoid setting up your email so it asks recipients to confirm they received it
    g. if there is a really good movie or similar that your friends MUST view, send them the online URL for it rather than sending the whole file
    h. stop hours of useless chatter on Skype and "QUIT" Skype when not using it; use less video

"Frank and Sue" wrote me with their gripes about bad e-mail:

Appreciate your pointers, but I do have some gripes. Frequently I will ask specific questions in my e-mail, and the replier never answers them. I have a couple of friends who send at least one sentence to acknowledge my e-mail. This is greatly appreciated. Some people ignore the e-mail even dinner invitations. A relative never responded to an invite or a chatty e-mail. A sentence would have been enough.

"Richard O. Johnson" wrote:

A gripe of mine has to do with emails I receive with a series of questions that are not numbered. Sometimes I may receive ten or twelve questions. For me to answer intelligently with OE I have to either (1) painstakingly insert my replies after the respective questions--and the result still is not always clear--or (2) restate or summarize the question in each answer, which can easily double the time involved (as well as the length of my reply). (Actually, I've taken to a third solution, that is somewhat less irksome: I insert numbers in front of my correspondent's questions, in my reply.)

"Ken Conklin" had this point to make (actually TWO points in there.......)

my cousin (a lawyer) received one of the cute things that people forwarded him. He got very mad, and his email said something immature like "I am so mad, that I feel like my head is about to explode. Don't you ever send me that again!" (and so on) My cousin pressed the Reply to All button, and everyone that the email was sent to (about 30 in all) got a copy of his raving email.

And thanks to John Perrachione for his comments.


If, like everybody else, you are swamped by spam and want to fight your own little war against the miserable spammers, do as I do; see the notes at my page at http://www.sticksite.com/spam/index.html.

You probably know some people who would benefit from reading this..... If somebody you know is just starting to use a computer and/or e-mail, you could help start him/her on the right track by steering them to this site: http://www.sticksite.com/email.html

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