What is spam?
Spam is the internet
equivalent of junk mail. The difference is that it arrives as email, so can be
a nuisance, and it downloads in your time, so wastes money. Wherever you go on
the internet, you are invited to leave your email address; many sites will sell
this information to dealers who sell it on to spammers. If you visit a news group,
chat room or bulletin board, your email address may be 'harvested' and used by
Spam is bad manners, breaks the rules of all reputable service
providers, and is often illegal.
How do I deal with
The simplest method is simply to delete it. Most harmless and will
not be repeated.
Never, ever, reply to spam. A reply simply confirms that
your email address is active, and therefore more likely to be reused. Dealing
with spammers is the fastest known method of being robbed. Spam offers usually
sound too good to be true, for the simple reason that they are too good to be
true. Many spammers use service providers in Eastern Europe, though the email
may be falsified to appear to come through a reputable source. Once you pass your
credit card details, your account will be drained very fast and efficiently, with
little chance of recompense.
If spam is persistent, threatening or simply
a nuisance you can set up mail filters through your browser to block it; this
has limited benefit because spam emanates from so many addresses - and often the
senders details are forged or otherwise falsified. If you do know the source,
you can forward the whole post to their service provider's abuse department -
usually abuse@[providername] . If you cannot trace the source, it can be useful
to forward the mail to your own provider's abuse department: if enough people
complain, most ISPs will trace the source and forward the complaint to the appropriate
What is ">>" down the left
Many browsers automatically add the 'greater than' symbol to the
left of each line of quoted text. It distinguishes quotations from different senders,
helping respondents to avoid errors in attribution.
So an email in reply
to a question might include the original question, with '>' indicating the
quoted text. It is rarely necessary to quote a message in its entirety - just
enough so that the recipient knows what you are referring to. A four part "conversation"
might appear as:
> > > Do I have to include all these ">>"
> > No, but it does show what you are
> > quoting and what is
> But I do have to?
No - you can change the settings on
How formal should business email
In general, email is quite informal, but a business posting would avoid
too many abbreviations and would exclude slang. Capitalization would follow written
rules. A formal endnote is often appreciated; such as:
Thank you in anticipation,
<Initials and Last Name>
<Any useful contact information>
If replying to business communication,
be guided by their style.
... And what about
responding to email?
The Netiquette of replying is quite straightforward:
Any personallly-addressed mail from a human being deserves a
response, even if only an acknowledgement.
A full reply required
should be sent within a few days, else a 'holding note' should go, to confirm
Unless constrained by 'official policy', the response
should of similar formality to the one received.
The reply should
include the note replied to for reference (but extended footnotes and all previous
matter should be excluded).
do I ensure a reply to my mail?
Failing to respond to email is, on the
face of it, bad manners - but it may involve several issues, such as unfamiliarity
with the web, fear of the whole system, or the error of thinking that time saving
is for one person only!
There's no 'right' answer', but these tips may be
Get in the habit of adding 'I look forward to hearing
from you', or a similar note, to all your mail to that person.
a little devious; try to not give all the information, so that they will need
to respond to to get the whole picture.
Try writing "I've
received some information you may find useful - I've not attached it, but I'll
forward it once I get your response to my note" - In other words, turn it
around; give an incentive to respond, to encourage the habit.
do be careful; not receiving a response may be a little frustrating, but you don't
want to damage the organisation over such an issue!
What are the rules about capitalization?
WRITING IN BLOCK CAPITALS IS UNNNECESSARY
AND IS INTERPRETED BY MANY AS SHOUTING. Expect a rude reply!
lower case is odd, especially if i do it all the time. it might look quaint but
some read it as laziness. Expect no reply!
Using the usual case is recommended;
The use of lower case and upper case evolved over many years; it is legible and
requires little effort of reader or writer.
Is email private?
Not completely. If you use email in an organisation (work
or college) then there are staff who have free access to what you send and receive.
In most cases, they have better things to do. But if you were (for example) under
suspicion of passing company secrets, then this access could become an issue.
Email from home passes though a server shared by millions of individual emails,
but the theoretical risk remains.
Even a deleted email probably still
exists on a server somewhere, and could be retrieved if required - such emails
have been used as evidence in court cases.
Email can be encrypted, and
systems exist that have defied all attempts at decoding; but thse do involve extra
work and invite suspicion ("what is being hidden?"). For more on encryption, see
The International PGP Home Page
How can I limit unwanted mail?
Most internet users receive unwanted mail.
The amount depends on your job, your ISP (internet service provider), and your
internet activity. You might have to tolerate mail resulting from your job; you
might consider reviewing your ISP (particularly if a lot of the mail comes from
the ISP!), and you can monitor your internet activity.
Many sites ask
you for your email address, and may sell on the lsts they compile. Others may
scour newsgroups and mailing lists, scavenging all users. It is impossible to
defend against all these; but wise to think before volunteering such information.
Most mailing software can set up mail filters ("kill files") which can automatically
delete or file post from selected senders, on selected topics or containing selected
words. It is worth divertng such mail to a special folder, rather than deleting,
to allow for monitoring how the filters work and ensure that desired mail is not
being caught by an over-inclusive setup (filtering for "money" will catch most
get rich quick schemes - but will also catch some mail from friends or colleagues).
What is "Flaming"?
Flaming ('insulting criticism or remark meant to incite
anger') has come to refer to almost any mail insult. Originating in usenet, flames
were carefully honed responses to real or perceived insults; sarcastic, artistic,
often literary in allusion. The art has long since disappeared, and flame wars
can be abusive, aggressive and unpleasant exchanges in newsgroups, mailing lists
and email. They are a serious reminder that it is vital to think before mailing;
an insult cannot be withdrawn. Find
How can a polite reply hurt anyone?
easily. Pressing the reply button can vary in its effect, depending on the software
you use and how it is set up. Your reply may be automatically copied to all who
received the first post, not just the sender. The contents may include all of
the original post; if you choose to "quote original" but have been reading another
post since you read the one you are replying to, it is possible to quote from
the wrong mail.
And your reply, however polite, may be taken out of context
and might cause inadvertent pain - easily done when responding around the world,
with such variation among cultures (Never forget that England and America are
"divided by a common language").
Why are people
easily upset on the Internet?
The internet combines features of both the
written and the spoken word, but lacks what we all take for granted in speech;
visible and audible cues. Thus a 'smart' comment can become biting sarcasm, a
verbal tease can become a mortal insult.
Two solutions have evolved:
The vile and ubiquitous
The cumbersome but <witty> emotag </witty>
Emoticons are the work of seconds from any keyboard, and are widely understood.
On the other hand, some people find them trite, facile and irredeemably stupid
Emotags mimic the text tags used in HTML coding. They take
a little thought and might not be worth that effort - but, arguably, they could
not be worse than <DIRE> emoticons </DIRE>
Is it rude to request a receipt?
Some people consider a receipt request
to be a gross violation of privacy.
"why should anyone know when I read my
"they are checking up on me"
"it is putting unfair pressure on
me to reply."
Others really do not mind. There is an argument that you would
not send every item of "snail mail" by recorded delivery - an electronic receipt
is requested "because I can" rather than "because I need it".
be times when a receipt is entirely appropriate - if there has been a server problem,
for example, or if there is a time-limited discussion in progress.
mailing systems have an option of denying all receipt requests; many people use
Is it OK to answer an email
Sometimes a reply comes with the original message dissected
and answered piecemeal.
if someone is replying to a complex post - or one
making several separate points, then there is much to be said for responding to
each point separately - especially if they agree with some and not with others.
the problem may not be what they do - but how they do it.
If their reply
is intended to ridicule, bully or otherwise hurt, then they are wrong, whether
doing it bit by bit - or all in one go. Answering individual points of the email
by breaking it down could be seen as "high horsing" - and a little intimidating.
I rarely use the piecemeal approach, and on reflection, it's almost always in
response to very long posts - I just repeat the bits I intend to respond to -
but I always take at least a sentence - usually a whole paragraph - to be sure
I don't quote out of context.
If they do it in order to twist your words,
How this page works ...
page is to help anyone with an interest in Netiquette - or simply in the use of
the internet. If you want to ask a supplementary question, write to me
- I do not promise an answer - but I'll help if I can, and may add it to this
I welcome your views on the whole idea - did you find it useful?
to James Frizzell, Edward Rogers