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Basics of Electronic Writing
Author: ADMIN (ukstudent at gmail dot com)
Published: Mon, 28-Mar-2005
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Basics of Electronic Writing. Article by Joe Essid, Writing Center Director

E-Mail: General Issues

Sign your e-mail or use a signature file. Never leave the audience guessing who you are.
Never leave a subject line blank. I like to delete such messages, unread. Always use subject lines that are specific, rather than general; I also delete, unread, most messages with the subject "help!" or "question." When you reply to a message, change the subject line if the subject of the message changes.
When replying to a message from a mailing list, double-check the "To:" line. Did you send it back to the original sender, or to the entire list? Sending a private message to a list can be very, very embarrassing.
Be very careful with the "reply all" feature of some mail programs! You can end up sending a reply to everyone who was sent a carbon-copy of the sender's message to you.
Never, never, never send or re-send chain letters. You can lose your computing account for this. Chain letters needlessly tie up computer resources (the headers on the letter get very long after a few replies).
Ask permission before quoting anyone on-line or forwarding e-mail from one person to another.
By the same token, remember that your words have a secondary audience--anyone to whom the message could be forwarded. Beware saying overly critical things if you think the message might be forwarded to a third party. Such e-mail may come back to haunt you!
Sadly, you cannot protect yourself if someone alters your mail and then forwards it. It is best to entrust the most sensitive matters to ink and paper--they are harder to forge!
Use gender-inclusive language in all writing. You can usually avoid "he, she, his, and her" by making nouns and pronouns plural.
AVOID TYPING IN ALL CAPS. Do you want to shout on-line? *Emphasis with asterisks* provides a better alternative.
Use punctuation and both lower and capital letters. Writing without these features tends, for academic audiences, to make the writer look hurried, even less intelligent.

E-mail Netiquette--Avoiding "Flames"

The term "flame" comes from the world of Unix computing, and it is as old as e-mail itself. It has come to refer to personal attacks sent to lists, newsgroups, or individuals.
Do not write anything that you would not want posted on a bulletin board.
Count to ten when you are angry about something written to you. Then count to ten again before you begin a reply.
Never send a reply to someone until you have read it carefully and considered the impact on your audience.
If another person flames you, don't fire back with more invective unless you are ready for a war of escalation. Like bullies, flamers tend to go away if ignored.
If friends write something offensive and send it to you, ask them why. The tone of the message in e-mail can get distorted. What sounds fine in speech, such as "I need some help with this!" can sound abrupt, even rude, in a mail message.

E-mail Netiquette--Avoiding "Spam"

Junk e-mail sent to many lists is called "spam." Broadly speaking, overly long messages, and those sent to people who really don't need to read them, are known as spam.
Do not overuse the "priority" and "high priority" tags permitted by some e-mail software. Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? If every message you send is marked "priority," pretty soon all of your messages will be ignored.
Most regular users of e-mail get dozens of messages each day. Some get hundreds. Keep your messages short and to-the-point unless a long message is appropriate.
Long e-mail messages are acceptable when sent to an individual you know well. On the other hand, long message may be ignored when you send them to multiple recipients, or to a mailing list.
Try to limit your messages to one topic. Asking about many things in the same message annoys most veteran e-mailers.

Citing E-mail and Other Electronic Sources

My favorite source remains Janice Walker's and Todd Taylor's Web page Walker, a professor at the University of South Florida, has provided this service for years. The page gives citations for sources in line with the style endorsed by the Modern Language Association.

Copyright for this article belongs to Writer's Web

This document was re-printed with the kind permission of Joe Essid. Original Source of the article is located here: http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/ewriting.html

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