Email Demystified

By Richard Churchill – First Published May 2010

Email pre-dates the internet. It developed to ‘aid’ communications in companies during the 70’s and 80’s. This business origin is still evident in the strange and opaque terms used in email.  Despite, possibly because of its age, no one ever really explains how email works. So here I’ll go over the basics that should be explained but often aren’t.

Email started as electronic memo systems.  The old paper memos were converted directly to an electronic equivalent including layout, and the names of all the boxes. Emails still start with the To box, then have a CC box (from the old “Carbon Copy” box), then the techs got clever and added a BCC or Blind Carbon Copy box, (recipients are hidden so only the sender knows they received the email). Finally you have Subject, followed by the message.

All very sensible if you work in an office but how do we use these boxes at home in 2010 rather than at work in 1980?
Well, To still does what  it says, it is the principal recipient. CC is the “people need to know”  traditionally managers and usually isn’t much use at home.  BCC is a box that most people can’t see a use for but is in fact quite handy at home.  The people in BCC receive the email without disclosing their email address to anyone else. It is considered good manners, that if you are sending an email to a large group of people, you put all the addresses in the BCC field, keeping the list of addresses private.  If you do this you should put your own email address in the To box otherwise some spam filters get upset.

I suggest you include a subject on every email you send, it is the first thing the reader will see.  If the recipient needs to find the email again, the subject is the easiest thing for them to look for.

This is just an introduction, I just don’t have room to fit in all the tricks and etiquette.  If you are interested I have put a ‘top ten’ email tips and hints on my website.

Going further

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