Thursday, July 17, 2014

E-mail: Getting started on the right foot.

E-mail has been around since the earliest days of the Internet. I won't go into a history lesson but e-mail as we now it really took off in the early 90s. Despite being a rather old technology, e-mail still is considered a core technology for business users. E-mail is simple, portable and relatively easy to use. It's also very inexpensive to implement, anyone with a computer or smart phone can set up an account in a matter of minutes. You probably already have at least one e-mail account. Some sites such as Facebook, Google and Apple automatically set up one for you.

Here's a quick and easy way to set up an account with Google:

A few tips about log in names. Try to use something related to your name without making it too long. For the purposes of this class, use your first two initials and your last name. If its already taken, add the last two digits of the year you were born. Do not try to be cute by using a nickname or something unprofessional. Remember, your e-mail address represents you. Make a good first impression by keeping your address short and easy to remember. Also. Remember that you will have to be sharing your e-mail address with others over the phone. If your name is long, difficult to pronounce or spell, you might want to shorten it to just your initials. A difficult address can create a lot of work later on if you're not careful.

Now for a few tips on using e-mail properly:

1. The address line. You can enter one or more recipients in the main address line. Personally, I only do this when I'm needing to send a message out to a group. If someone wants to respond, they can reply to me only or reply to the group if they want everyone to see their response. Try not to reply to an entire group unless it's necessary since many responses can clog up you in box very quickly!

2. Carbon Copy. The carbon copy or CC: line gives you a space to list additional addresses. If you want to key someone in on a conversation, use the CC: line to enter their address. This is a great way to keep colleagues involved in a conversation. This is a very useful tool in business since you will want someone else to know what's been said. This way,  if you're out of the office, another colleague can pick up where you've left off. Keep in mind though that recipients of your e-mail will be able to see who else is receiving the message.

3. Blind Carbon Copy: If you do not want to recipient to know that you are sharing their message, use the bling carbon copy line to enter their address. But please be ethical about using this feature. Do not use this feature to share information that someone would want kept private.

4. Signature. Create a signature for your e-mails. Some e-mail providers allow you to have two or more. You might want to set up a primary that contains most of your contact information and a second one that contains just your name. You usually use the abbreviated one for replies. Set up your signature like this:

Phone number

You might also want to include social media that you frequent line your twitter handle. Also insert a few blank lines above your signature so it won't crowd the rest of your message.

5. Writing. most people receive many e-mails throughout the day. So keep your messages brief and to the point. Also, make it a habit of including at least one "please" and one "thank you" in each e-mail you send. It's easy to come across as rude or curt if you do not. Also, try to include useful information in each e-mail. Don't waste people's time. It's annoying.

6. Replying. Always try to use the reply feature when responding to e-mails. It's much easier to keep up with a conversation. Do not change the subject line. The only time you might change the line is if two unrelated conversations develop. Then you might split the one into two separate e-mails. Also, try to stay on topic. If you need to change the subject in the middle of a conversation, just start a new e-mail with a new subject line. It makes tracking things down later much easier.

7. Attachments. You can attach files to an e-mail. But please watch the size. Files over 500 mb are often rejected by some e-mail servers. For large files, you'll want to use an online dropbox. (more on that in another lesson.

8. Etiquette. Do not use slang, jargon, or emoticons when sending e-mail. Use complete sentences and keep your conversation professional and concise. Also, avoid sarcasm in an e-mail. People cannot hear your voice tone or see your body language. What you might think is a joke could be offensive.

Congratulations! You're now ready to get started using your e-mail. Here are two quick assignments:

1. Send an e-mail to your instructor introducing yourself. Don't forget to use a salutary line when you begin. Again, keep it short and conversational.

2. Send a thank you note. One of the best uses of e-mail is to express gratitude. Think of a teacher or other adult that helped you in some way last year. Send them an e-mail expressing your gratitude. It will lift their day and it will make you a better person as well. Live a life of perpetual thankfulness and you'll be a better person.

Finally, save your e-mails! You can create folders for specific people or organizations. Also, you can create an archive folder for older e-mails. I usually archive e-mails after 6 months. You will find that an e-mail archive can be an invaluable resource. Often people forget what they said in an e-mail and it's easier to settle disputes when you can produce a copy of an e-mail that they sent. E-mails take up very little space on a server so keep them all if you can.

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