Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Email Etiquette

For most people who have access to personal computers, email has rapidly overtaken ‘snail mail’ as the preferred means of sending written communication, both business and personal. The near-immediate delivery and low cost of email are hard to beat, but the technology does have limitations when it comes to typographic finesse. Here are some dos and don’ts to ensure that your electronic communication is received with its message intact.

Fonts and Formatting
It’s tempting to format outgoing email with different fonts, point sizes and colors, and to punch up your text with the use of italics and boldface. Unfortunately, what you send is not necessarily what your recipient gets. Some email programs don’t read special formatting, including fonts that your reader’s computer doesn’t have. And many allow the user to set preferences for plain text instead of rich text, which includes styling. The result: your carefully formatted email is reduced to plain text, or worse, littered with ‘alien’ characters (more on that below).

What’s the solution? First, stick to system fonts, such as Arial, Times, Verdana, Trebuchet or Geneva, which virtually all users have. And, unless you’re certain that the recipient can read your formatting, keep it simple and use only keyboard characters and styling that won’t get lost in translation. For emphasis, try surrounding your important text with *asterisks*. ALL CAPS is another option, but one to be used sparingly. Remember that CAPS are considered SHOUTING in the cyberworld!


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